Idea: A live presentation & archival recording of folkloric music, to preserve these cultural practices.
Primary artistic medium: music
I am a percussionist and educator focused on folklore and popular music from Latin America and the Caribbean. I am the co-founder of the percussion ensemble TIMBALONA. Through TIMBALONA, we have been part of this collective effort to feature elders at performances and archive folkloric elements. I am also a drummaking apprentice and co-founder of the newly created Acheré Percussion. Acheré Percussion is a small artisan handmade drum and repair shop based in Philadelphia, led by Latino drummers.
My overarching artistic practice consists of centering folkloric traditions from Latin America, whether through music, artisan craft, and archival preservation. As a Latino immigrant artist, it is important for me to create opportunities that highlight our cultural elements in a community-based approach.
​I have been part of the wider folkloric community as a musician and educator over many years both in the U.S. and internationally. For example, I was invited to perform at the Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble’s 50th anniversary theater celebration, which also preserves these traditions through music and dance. I am deeply immersed in the local arts network, and continue this necessary work forward through performing, educating, and crafting artisan drums. I am interested in producing this live presentation and archival recording in order to add to the collective work of cultural preservation in Philadelphia.
There is a rich Latin American folkloric music community in Philadelphia that can be seen in niche spaces such as parks, cultural centers, and galleries. Folkloric arts have a history of portraying historical hardships, as well as emphasizing joy. It is necessary to archive these traditions as a way to preserve these cultural practices.
The idea is to do a live presentation and archival recording of folkloric Lukumi music specifically. Lukumi music comes from the Yoruba practice, existing in Cuba and the Americas. Lukumi music is an art form consisting of a combination of songs, rhythms, and dance. The instruments that can be seen and heard in this tradition are the batá drums and the shekeres.
These instruments are underrepresented within the arts, and it takes years to understand the intricacies of playing this set of three drums. Thus those artists who play these instruments have a unique skill. The repertoire consists of 22 “toques” called the Oro Seco, utilizing the batá drums. I will serve as one of the performers of this presentation, in addition to a combination of established and emerging percussionists and artists from the city.
Philadelphia has a long history of utilizing this art form in Latino and African American communities in the region. The elders are passing these traditions onto the younger generations, and we are preserving this lifestyle and culture. By hosting this live presentation and recording, we will be able to engage the wider folkloric community of Philadelphia. This tradition encourages collaboration in song and dance, so it is necessary for community members to actively participate. I will host the presentation at an arts space that ties cultural expression into its mission, such as iMPeRFeCT Gallery and Taller Puertorriqueño. I will work with members of this folkloric practice in particular to create a presentation that will be celebratory and participatory, in collaboration with a team of artists.
Folkloric forms like these are at risk of being lost, especially in today’s rapidly changing modern times, so it is necessary to keep this tradition going and archive these practices for all generations. The archival recording will be available digitally, so that it will be accessible for a wide audience to be able to access both locally and internationally.