Review: American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music Displays Musical Contributions of U.S. Latinos from 1940s-Present

The American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music exhibit at Cal State Los Angeles features several musical contributions of U.S. Latinos, such as this Desi Arnaz piece.

The American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music exhibit at Cal State Los Angeles features several musical contributions of U.S. Latinos, such as this Desi Arnaz piece.

EMP Museum and the University of Washington created American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music,” the Smithsonian Institution organized it for travel and on their visit to Los Angeles, they are being hosted at California State University of Los Angeles.

The exhibit showcases the immense influence Latino/a musicians have had on the mainstream genres of music in the U.S since the 1940s. Ford Motors Company Fund makes the American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music exhibition national tour and related programs possible.

American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music consists of a visual, oral and musical projection of the evolving artistry within the Latino/a entertainment community. From Desi Arnaz in 1937 bringing the conga line to Miami Beach to Selena in 1995 fusing Spanish and English into popular culture in the 1990s, the exhibit portrays their colorful backgrounds in different parts of the U.S. As well as acknowledging their cultural roots as deep as Cuba and as close as Mexico, the artists that have made up the Latino/a social and musical molcajeta are on national display in this illustration of “Pan America,” what professor Victor Hugo Viesca referred to as all encompassing of Latino/a cultures.

The exhibit was set up in the university’s Fine Arts Gallery, the walls were white expectant canvases embracing in them 2 dimensional set ups in scrapbook style of artists like Carlos Santana, Los Lobos, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, Lydia Mendoza and Desi Arnaz. They included shots of the artists in concert, album covers and background facts about their cultural backgrounds. Accompanying all the information were representatives from Cal State University of LA, as well as the Smithsonian. I had the pleasure of speaking to Shannon Dudley, a guest curator of the traveling exhibition, originally from the University of Washington.

Dudley explained that the exhibition covered 5 top cities from where they had pulled these artists and their histories as focal points; Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, Miami and New York City.

She also mentioned that at every location, they add a local’s work to the exhibition, in this case it was Viesca. Viesca had a very elaborate and overlooked addition to the musical legends already propped up. He brought Rage Against the Machine into the mix with photographs of the members and their involvement with their communities.

Briefly I spoke to him, and he passed on a very passionate knowledge of the Greater East Los Angeles area as he explained that he used the term “Greater East Los Angeles” academically because the term East LA implied that the Latino/a community has remained in that area. However, this being the melting pot we all adore we know that the Latino/a community has indeed expanded beyond the East LA area.

This was a very powerful lesson, as the entire exhibit revolved around the expansion of Latino/a culture and its influence on the mainstream music within the U.S popular culture.

The American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music grand opening will take place on November 16 in the Fine Arts Gallery building 9A in Cal State LA, starting at 10 a.m. through 5:30 p.m. The opening will have a drumming workshop, Cha Cha dance workshop, salsa dance, Latin jazz, and an Afro-Latin ensemble. There will be an open dance floor and a jukebox available for the enjoyment of the guests as well as listening areas with headphones for different selections of genres covered in the exhibit.

American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music runs until Februay 9, 2014.

The exhibit provided insight on the models and legends of the culturally rich Latino/a rhythms. American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music aims to educate the country about the value of the Pan American vision of the Latino/a Musical Movement.

Jacqueline Martinez is a Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering lifestyle and entertainment. Follow her on Twitter: @Jaymar0824

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