America's Music: Session 6 ~ Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop

Monday, June 24, 2013

6:00 PM-8:15 PM

Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Providence Public Library
150 Empire Street
Providence, RI 02903

Meeting Room (3rd Floor)

Mon, 2013-06-24 18:00 - 20:15

America's Music is a six-week series of public programs created by the Tribeca Film Institute® in partnership with the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in consultation with the Society for American Music.

The programs feature documentary screenings and scholar-led discussions of 20th century American popular music. The six sessions focus on uniquely American musical genres: blues and gospel, Broadway, jazz, bluegrass and country, rock 'n' roll, and mambo and hip hop.


Overview: Mambo, a musical form that originated in Cuba, descended from European social dances and was flavored with rhythms from African folk music. Mambo migrated to America in the 1930s and rose to prominence in postwar New York City, where it picked up jazz influences and in turn influenced the 1950s jazz scene. Younger-generation musicians— departing from the traditions of mambo—blended it with rhythm and blues and rock and created salsa, which swept the country in the 1970s. Like mambo, hip hop—which was created by blacks and Puerto Ricans in the New York City slums of the 1970s—both reflected and defied ghetto status. Both styles have African roots, refracted through the Caribbean and the city.

A discussion of the film will take place after the screening led by Micah Salkind, a Providence Rhode Island-based writer, DJ and sound designer. As Director of Public Programs at The Providence Black Repertory Company between 2005 and 2008, he worked with representatives from Providence’s Department of Art, Culture and Tourism to establish Providence Sound Session, a flagship free/low-cost summer music festival for the City.

Salkind is pursuing a Ph.D in American Studies at Brown University. His scholarly work on Afro-Diasporic cultural production, which has recently included articles South African popular music and global House dance culture, complements his work towards establishing innovative models for sustaining community art institutions and art-makers with local and state funders.


Latin Music, USA: Episode One, directed by Pamela Aguilar and Daniel McCabe (2009)

The first episode of this series on the history of Latin music in America explores the origins of mambo. This Cuban hybrid of traditional danzón fused with Afro-Caribbean rhythms migrated to New York City in the 1940s, where it was further developed by the great barrio-born Latin band leaders of the time, including Perez Prado and Tito Puente. Mambo became a music and dance craze that swept the country and was eventually mainstreamed by television and the music industry. The film humorously explores how its popularity loosened some of the stiff social rules of the time, as its appeal across classes and ethnic groups integrated the dance floor and helped prepare the way for less restrictive social interaction between the sexes.

From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale, directed by Henry Chalfant, Elena Martinez, and Steve Zeitlin (2006)

This exuberant documentary celebrates the emergence of hip hop. In the ruins of the South Bronx, where the mambo had its heyday a generation earlier, hip hop was created and practiced first by Jamaican and African American youngsters, and then by Latinos, in abandoned parks and burned-out buildings. Break dance competitions and battles of songs and words redirected gang fighting into creative expression and brought a measure of fame to the most successful artists. Candid interviews with hip hop’s founding artists demonstrate how hip hop, like mambo before it, both reflected and defied the economic deprivation of its creators.

Link to Essay 

Additional Documentary Films



Online Resources

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