* Inglewood, CA- The Inglewood Cultural Arts (ICA), a non-profit organization provided a surge of energy to shine the spotlight on the City of Inglewood.
The occasion was the inaugural Afro Latin Music and Dance Festival, held on Saturday, July 26, from 12PM-6:00PM. The event took place at the Amphitheater in Edward Vincent, Jr. Park (formerly known as Centinela Park.
Everybody is feeling, Hot! Hot! Hot! The weather forecasters mentioned that we were in for a hot weekend. Edward Vincent, Jr. Park served as a perfect and pleasant venue, with its abundance of trees, similar to any tropical island represented at the festival. The shade that the trees provided contributed to a comfortable environment for a simmering afternoon of hot Latin rhythms at this family friendly festival.
Beto Gonzalez, a Board member of Inglewood Cultural Arts served as Master of Ceremonies. Throughout the day, DJ Glenn Red provided a Global soundtrack of Afro Funke, samba disco, Batucada, Afro-Latin House rhythms to add to the festivities.
The festival celebrated the cultural heritage of African American and Latin Culture through a journey of music and dance as well as the influence of Africans throughout the Diaspora. Attendees were able to witness the similarities of each vibrant culture and leave with a better understanding of each with this exciting educational cultural event.
Batuque People led by Dana Maman kicked off the program with an enlightening voyage through Brazil with a set of Samba music and capoeira and various dancers. Their set list consisted of “Orixa” (with dancers throughout her set), “Samba,” “Capoeira,” and closed out their set with “Samba Reggae.”
After a quick stage change, our journey ventured to Cuba with the always delightful and entertaining set with dancer Kathy Hernandez and drumming of Lazaro Gallaraga and Sitara Son. The crowd and I noticed the similarities (dances) of this group and the previous performers during their set on the tunes “Elegua,” “Bata for Chango,” “Bembe,” “Guiro,” “Rumba,” and “Comparsa.”
The crowd and I jumped over to the Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico for a great set of music and dance performed by Atabey (Bomba). The crowd was not only thoroughly entertained during the set by Atabey; we were also educated about the different rhythms performed for each song. Their set featured “Mayoral” (Holande rhythm), “Cimarrona” (Yoruba rhythm), “Van Buleadores” (Calinda rhythm), “Se Vre” (Sica rhythm), and “Zoila” (Cuembe/corve rhythm) to name a few.
Our next cultural exploration took the crowd and me to Mexico for a set of Son Jarocho music, performed superbly by Conjunto Jardin. Their set consisted of “El Colas,” “El Pajaro Carpintero,” “El Chuchumbe,” “El Balaju,” “El Torito/El Toro” and closed out their set with “La Bamba” spiced up nicely with plenty of salsa rhythms.
Los Angeles chapter of Batala drummers were a surprise addition to the festival. They thrilled the audience with some additional pulsating, samba rhythms from Brazil that resulted in an impromptu Samba dances throughout the park.
Batala Los Angeles served as a perfect segue for Mexico68. This is a popular band from East Los Angeles with a fondness for Afrobeat popularized by the late great Fela Kuti from Nigeria. They closed out the festival on a high note with an energetic set of Afrobeat on the tunes “Kingdom Orators,” “Money Masters,” “Almighty G.O.D.,” “Quench” and Pay-triot.”
The Afro Latin Music and Dance Festival was an ambitious enterprising project by Inglewood Cultural Arts which was a success by all accounts. Many people would agree with me that this could easily become an exciting signature event for the City of Inglewood, similar to the Market Street Festival and the short lived 4th Friday’s Food Truck Festival in the past. The Afro Latin Music and Dance Festival would also be a welcome additional to the thriving Afro-Latin music scene is Greater Los Angeles.
The festival was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the City of Inglewood, and the generosity of individual supporters.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected].