After launching our Were You Listening? series, with two emotionally heavy songs, “Raza” which was inspired by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, and “Bemba Colorá” which contains a joyfully packaged exposition of racist attitudes, we wanted something a little more uplifting.
Let's talk today about the song Bemba Colorá, composed by the Cuban musician and composer José Claro Fúmero. José Claro was born in Matanzas in 1906 and was the arranger of most of the Afro-Cuban music in the repertoire of the famous Cuban orchestra La Sonora Matancera. However, it is likely that you recognize this song, not because of its composer, but because of the most famous singer who performed it: the great Afro-Cuban artist Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa, who in her long career performed a great number of songs that honor Afro-Cuban culture and its various religious practices.
In our previous article, we shared about our work in the Were You Listening? series in which we translate and contextualize songs that talk about blackness in the Americas, both the beauty and the pride but also the perils. We will be devoting the following few columns to share about the work we have done in this area. We start this journey with the song Raza by Alexander Abreu and Havana D’Primera.
Do you like music? What does it mean to you? Represents? What feelings does it evoke?
In the answers lie the reasons why the series Were You Listening? of the Mix(ed)tape Podcast was created. In this series we explore blackness in the songs we love. We translate and contextualize mainly Afro-Latin songs that talk about blackness in the Americas, beauty and pride, but also pain and hardship.
In a song by Jennifer Lopez (JLo) and Maluma, released in 2020, JLo refers to herself as “tu negrita del Bronx.” "Little black girl from the Bronx". In fact, the initial title of the song, which turned out to be titled “Lonely”, was going to be “Tu Negrita Del Bronx.” As a result of this, Lonely created a mixed reaction after being released. JLo expressed on Twitter that it is well known that she is a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, and that she has never tried to hide that to take advantage. While some critics considered what was said in the song as cultural appropriation and an offense against black women, others claimed that the term "negrita" is not only translated as an association with skin color, but also as a term of endearment that all the world uses.
(Title inspired by the song La Negra Tiene Tumbao, by Celia Cruz)
When people think about racism, they often associate it with microaggressions, police brutality, name calling. The list goes on. While these are very real ways racism is manifested...
Sin Negro No Hay Guaguancó / Without Black There’s No Guaguancó
(Title inspired by the song Sin Negro No Hay Guaguancó, by Lebrón Brothers)
Many things can draw someone to participate in the Afro-Latin dance scene: seeing a dancer’s talent and wanting to emulate it yourself, the desire to move more fluidly to the intoxicating rhythms, the mental and physical health benefits of a fun exercise.
We will never forget the year 2020. The arrival of the coronavirus to all corners of the globe highlighted a series of issues that needed confrontation. Here in the United States, one of the most resource-rich countries in the world, large health and economic disparities that already existed were grossly magnified. Although the coronavirus itself did not discriminate by race or socio-economic status, its effects disproportionately ravaged socioeconomically disadvantaged communities of color. We were once more reminded of the immense need to confront the powers that drive systemic racism and bring so much suffering to our communities of color.
Recognizing the power of music, dance, and community as a representation of our culture, our monthly column seeks to investigate the Afro-diasporic roots of the rhythms and dances many of us grew up with, underscoring the experiences of the Black members and participants of the culture. We seek to build an understanding about how Afro-descendant people largely created and sustained these rhythms and dances that have exploded and have been commercialized over time. We aim to highlight the Blackness in the music and dance we love.