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From Jazz To Salsa: A Cross-Cultural Celebration Of Shared Musical Roots

courtesy Gitana Productions

Latin and jazz musicians will share the stage at Union Avenue Christian Church Saturday, June14 in a concert organized by Gitana Productions. The concert, called “Karamu: Fiesta of Latin and African American Music,” will explore the shared musical heritage of Latinos and African Americans.

“Most people are familiar with the fact that when there was slavery, there were slaves sent to North America as much as Central and South America,” said Cecilia Nadal, the founder and executive director of Gitana Productions. “What that means is that as music developed both in the Caribbean as well as in Central and South America, the influence of Africa was very strong. And, of course, the story of African Americans is the same. The beats that came from West Africa were very much incorporated in both gospel and later on into jazz.”

Credit courtesy Gitana Productions
The Latin Fire Ensemble

The West African tradition of polyrhythm is a key element of both Latin and jazz music, pointed out Dwayne Bosman of the Bosman Twins. He and his brother Dwight Bosman plan on bringing 5 or 6 instruments to play at the concert on Saturday, where they will perform with the Latin Fire Ensemble, vocalist Denise Thimes and other musicians.

Locating the concert at Union Avenue Christian Church was a deliberate choice meant to break down some of the barriers of the Delmar Divide, said Nadal.

“It is a statement that we are not necessarily divided, we just need to be invited. And we need to be invited and engage in a real way,” said Nadal. “The energy that we put into this is not just to get people on stage side-by-side. That’s the same thing we do with the word diversity. We say that just because there is a mixture in a room it’s diverse. But it can be diverse without engagement. And we’re past that. We’re going towards inclusion in a very active way.”

Credit courtesy Gitana Productions
Vocalist Denise Thimes

Before the concert there will be an opportunity to learn to salsa dance and participate in a salsa-tasting contest. The Salsa con Salsa event is an annual tradition with the Hispanic Leadership Group of St. Louis, but this is the first time it is being combined with a Gitana program.

That combination of cultures is what makes the event so unique in St. Louis, said Hispanic Leadership Group member Mario Santander.  

“Personally, growing up in St. Louis I think there are still buried lines throughout the city. You may grow up in south St. Louis but never really mingle or share events with people of different backgrounds, different cultures,” he said.

Related Event

Gitana Productions Presents "Karamu: Fiesta of Latin and African American Music"
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Pre-festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. Concert begins at 7:30 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd.
For more information, call 314-721-6556 or visit the Gitana Productions website.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.