Thunderous Latin Rhythms Reverberated thru UCLA & Westwood
Los Angeles-I’m still feeling the infectious rhythms of charanga, salsa, Latin jazz and Brazilian music in my pulse several days after my recent visit to UCLA and the Hammer Museum in Westwood.
The purpose for my visit was to attend the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the campus of UCLA as well as The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Ethnomusicology and the Hammer Museum joint presentation of Spring Festival of World Music.
Both of these events, held on Saturday, April 25, 2009 were free to the public.
My first stop upon arriving at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was the Etc. Stage. Susie Hansen Latin Band was holding court on this outdoor stage. Violinist Susie Hansen Latin Band is a popular group here in Los Angeles. The salseros on the West coast are sure to catch this hot band on many occasions between now and the end of the year at various events throughout California. This tight ensemble consist of Susie Hansen-violin; Joe Rotundi-keyboards;Rene Camacho-bass; George Balmaseda-vocals;Kaspar Abbo-vocals;Tiki Pasillas-drums;Victor Baez-bongos; and Jose “Papo” Rodriguez on congas. They played material from previous CD’s Solo Flight and The Salsa Never Ends, and an upcoming CD to be released soon. The group contributed to Global Warming on this chilly Saturday afternoon. Sitting wasn’t an option if you wanted to keep warm while grooving to the hot sounds of charanga, salsa and Latin jazz. The band served up some cha, cha, cha on a medley of Frank Sinatra tunes “Fly Me To The Moon,” “It Could Happen To You,” “It Had To Be You,” and “All of Me.” The group concluded their crowd pleasing set with a tune that is becoming an anthem for salseros all over the world “La Salsa Nunca Se Acaba”- The Salsa Never Ends.
My musical journey continues to the Hoy Cultural Stage located in Wilson Plaza. I witnessed the tremendously talented group of third- fourth- and fifth graders from Middleton Elementary School. The name of the group is Cielo Nuevo. They performed some tracks of well known Mariachi tunes for the captivated audience consisting of proud parents, teachers and passerby’s who were in awe of the well trained group. Each member was given an opportunity to be in the spotlight.
I didn’t have to travel far to the listen to the next group. The group led by Ruben Ortiz on zampona, goes by the name Sajama. The band originally consists of seven members; however a smaller version of the group (a trio) bass and guitar and zampona player performed at this gig. The audience traveled on a musical journey thru Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Paraguay. The band played tracks from their current CD’s – Karma, Sin Fronteras-Without Borders and The New Sound-Vol. III.
I had to make quick steps down the hill from the UCLA campus to the UCLA Hammer Museum. My musical journey continued thru Brazil thanks to the Music of Brazil Ensemble directed by Kirk Brundage. This event was part of the Spring Festival of World Music. The festival consists of performances by UCLA students and faculty, this lively series of international rhythms, sounds and dance were free to the public. The group performed a three part program. The first part consisted of the sacred music of Brazil-Candomble. The selections performed were “Afoxe,” “Bata,” “Ogum,” “Oxossi,” “Oxum,” and “Avania.” The ensemble led the crowd out of the temple to the streets of Brazil for the second part of the program with Samba De Roda. The pulsating rhythms of Carnaval were featured in the final segment of the program. The tunes performed were “Alegria Geral,” “Protesto Olodum,” “Farao, Divinidade Do Egito,” “Orixa Medley,” and concluded their program with Frevo Medley a tune that was cooking on high steam on all burners.
My day in Westwood came to an end on a musical note. I traveled a couple of block east of the UCLA Hammer Museum to see the movie The Soloist with Academy Award consideration performances by Robert Downey Jr., and Jamie Foxx. This is a must see movie.