Photos and Story by Alix Le Touzé
Whatcom Community College’s World Languages Department, with the help of Humanities Washington, invited a percussion expert, Antonio Davidson-Gómez, to give a free presentation at Whatcom on May 21 about the migration of Latin music into the U.S.
This presentation was part of the Global Awareness Project, a project created by Whatcom’s World Language Department. “The purpose of this [project] is to deeply understand about other cultures with the college students, the staff and everybody here at Whatcom,” said Courtenay Chadwell-Gatz, the chair of Whatcom’s World Languages Department.
Humanities Washington is a non-profit organization that sends experts to different places in the U.S. to talk about a specific cultural subject, Chadwell-Gatz said.
Davidson-Gómez gave an interactive presentation to help the audience understand who Latinos are as a people, and how Latin music has migrated to the U.S. “I brought all my toys with me,” he said as he unpacked his instruments.
Davidson-Gómez, who has a master’s degree in percussion performance, works as the educational service manager at KCTS 9 public television. The Humanities Washington website also said that he developed bilingual programming for V-me which is the Spanish-language sister network of Public Broadcasting Services (PBS).
The presentation started with music. Davidson-Gómez asked the audience “to jump right into the rhythm” by clapping and playing a Mexican beat called “Son clave,” with instruments that he provided.
While Davidson-Gómez took other instruments out of his bag such as maracas and tambourines, he asked them to think about what they knew about Latinos and Latin music as well as what they would normally expect to be a Latin song.
After exchanging different names of Latin singers like Los Lobos, Shakira and Enrique Iglesias, as well as locations with Latin culture, Davidson-Gómez explained who Latinos are. “To be Latino can be a really complex kind of thing,” he said. “It’s more than what we expect.”
Davidson-Gómez showed some pictures of members of his family, and the audience could see that Latinos are not just brown haired, tanned-skin people. He said, “Latinos are a mosaic.” He said that anyone related to someone from Central America, South America or Mexico is considered Latino.
Then, Davidson-Gómez asked for the “cultural clues [that] are part of a song.” The audience and he noticed that the instrumentation, the rhythm, the beats, and the languages were part of the clues that help to define if a song is Latin.
“[Beats] allow us to use music as something that we can play with,” Davidson-Gómez said. “Language doesn’t define culture but it’s a part of it.” He pointed out that Latin music is not necessarily in Spanish.
Latin music is influenced by a lot of different types of music, he said. He added that the Latin music in the U.S. is a fusion of original Latin music, jazz, reggae and rock music. He explained that Latin music in the U.S. has been influenced by the rock and roll of the 1950s because they were both popular at this time.
“It was really interesting to talk about the relationship between music from different regions of the world that combine in [a more] contemporary music,” said Serena Milam, 16, a Whatcom student that attended the event.
To illustrate his thought, Davidson-Gómez took an example of a song created by La Plaga and The Black Eyed Peas, played it, and listed more than seven places that influence the song.
Students from the Spanish class taught by Angela Enderberg and the world music class attended the event. “Presentations such as this provide an interesting and informative cultural experience for the students and can even help break down stereotypes,” Enderberg said.
Ben Kohn, who teaches the world music class at Whatcom, said that he took his class there because it emphasized even more what he said in his class about music from all over the world combining to form new music.
Alexa Bello Mora, a Whatcom exchange student from Mexico, said, “this event gave me another perspective of Latin music, I really enjoyed it.”
As Davidson-Gómez ended his presentation by giving his last advice to analyze songs, he said, “I hope you will reflect on the music that you listen to.”
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