The Music of the Americas Project is a 15-member ensemble at Adams State University.
Click here for our Colorado Music Educators Association Conference (CMEA) program
Music of the Americas Project Performances, January 20-25, 2020:
January 20th Adams State University, Alamosa, CO
January 21st Buena Vista High School, Buena Vista, CO
January 22nd Denver School of the Arts, Denver, CO
Littleton High School, Littleton, CO
January 23rd Fountain-Fort Carson High School, Fountain, CO
January 24th Palmer High School, Colorado Springs, CO
January 25th CMEA, Colorado Springs, CO
It’s widely known the popular music of today has its roots in the African diaspora resulting from the slave trade to the Americas. We often think of the melding of musics from a variety of regions of Africa with musics of the European colonial powers as the roots of American jazz, but there’s much more to the story. Musically speaking, the Atlantic slave trade to colonies in South America, the Caribbean, and North America had at times similar and also divergent paths.
Much of this music developed from the musical expression of those who worked, toiled, were oppressed. Their collective experience ultimately created new genres that continue to evolve and speak to generations of music lovers today.
The Music of the Americas Project seeks to explore these musics, find commonalities and differences, and search for the mostly lost indeginous musics of the Americas. For the Fall 2019/Spring 2020 academic year, we draw upon our understanding of American blues and jazz, touch upon examples of music from West Africa, explore the music of Brazil, a few distinct musical traditions of the Caribbean, and the early roots of blues and New Orleans parade music of the American South. This concert is but a sample of our work and the musical explorations we’re undertaking as we draw parallels to the elements.
These fifteen student musicians bring a variety of skill sets, creativity, and individuality to the Music of the Americas Project and they represent what we do best at Adams State University. We strive to match opportunity, project-based learning, critical thinking, and musical inclusivity with student career goals.
Special thanks to Valerie Naranjo, Carl Dixon, Dave Gerhart, Elizabeth DeLamater, Chris Wabich, Dr. Beth Robison, Dr. Nick Saenz, Kara VanGieson, and Adams State University President Dr. Cheryl Lovell.
The infectious rhythms of Samba Batucada are immediately identified with the urban Carnival street parties and competitions of Rio de Janeiro and other major cities throughout Brazil. The roots of the samba bateria date back hundreds of years to the customs, traditions, dance, and music of African slaves, first developed in Bahia, Brazil. From the late 19th century to the present, samba and its related musical styles grew in popularity world-wide and iconic representations of Brazilian culture. The rhythm heard on the tamborim (small frame drum) and agogo (bells) is an organizational timeline sometimes referred to as a “samba clave.”
The steel pan ensemble developed in the southernmost Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. With combined roots of Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers, Trinidad and Tobago’s early economy was plantation-based, thus relying on slaves and indentured servants throughout its early history and bringing numerous religious and cultural connections (it was later discovered the islands were rich in oil and natural gas reserves).
The season between Christmas and Lent was celebrated in the style of a French Masquerade, later known as Carnival. These celebrations, originally for the elite classes, eventually made their way to the lower classes and emancipated slaves. Instruments used in these festivities included drums and found instruments and the celebrations were increasingly raucous and threatening to the upper class. Also during this time, the musical style known as calypso developed as a form of political expression with deep roots to West Africa and French culture.
Losing access to the drums and found instruments after a riot during the 1881 Carnival, Trinidadians resorted to cutting bamboo to different lengths and stomping the ground and striking the bamboo together, transferring rhythmic ideas from the drumming and continuing the musical traditions known as tamboo bamboo. As the 20th century emerged, Trinidadians began experimenting with found metal containers of various sizes to play rhythmic patterns. Likely through chance, performers discovered dented metal biscuit tins, soda barrels, and other industrial containers, created different pitches. In the 1940’s 55-gallon drums became the standard raw material of choice and tuners began fashioning more and more pitch options.
Throughout the 20th century, these developments, led exclusively by the marginalized communities, led to the development of the modern steel band, known as the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and the annual international festival and competition known as Panorama. The musical style, soca developed in the later part of the 20th century as a fusion of calypso, funk, and other Afro-Caribbean musical styles. “Panyards,” neighborhood bands of pan builders, tuners, and performers proliferated and compete to this day with increasingly complex arrangements learned by rote in ensembles numbering 100+ performers.
Jumbie is an arrangement of a popular soca by Trinidadian soca singer, songwriter, producer, and actor Machel Montano and references the Moko Jumbie, a “spirit-being” thought to originate in West Africa and seen in Carnival parades as a giant character in masks and costumes walking on stilts. Sunset and Steelband Paradise, written by Boogsie Sharpe and Ray Holman respectively, are considered standards in the ever-growing steel band repertoire and composed by Trinidadian legends in the history of pan.
Kpanlogo is a dance from the Accra region of Ghana, West Africa and performed on specific drums known as Kpanlogo drums. Additionally, Kpanlogo combines song and dance to the drumming and is often performed on the gyil (pronounced JEE-lee), a traditional 14-note balafon and the national instrument of the Lobi and Dagara people of Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire. We combined the drumming, gyil, and traditional dance choreography to provide context of the elements of West African music, including the timeline heard on the gankogui (bell) frequently referred to in the Americas as “son clave.”
One of the great foundations of American popular music is undoubtedly the Blues. With origins in the American Deep South, the Blues are a synthesis of African-American spirituals, narrative ballads, work songs, call and response, steady rhythms, and other elements connected to West Africa. Lost Your Head Blues was recorded by the “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith and
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong in 1926 and follows the standard AAB 12-bar form.
The popular dance music known today as Salsa developed in the mid-20th century in New York City with roots in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the Hispanic Caribbean. In particular, Afro-Cuban music combined the son montuno, mambo, and a variety of other rhythms and forms associated with the African diaspora to the Caribbean. The term “Salsa” was coined as a means of advertising this style of music propagating in dance halls and the airwaves throughout the United States and abroad. A common element of Salsa music is the clave rhythm serving as a timeline and unifying factor heard directly performed on a percussion instrument and/or throughout the arrangement by all instruments and singers.
American-born Puerto Rican salsa singer and songwriter Frankie Ruiz’s La Cura is an example of typical Salsa form, rhythm, and harmony. Ican is a “latin-jazz” chart from the Grammy-winning album by conguero and band leader, Poncho Sanchez, “Latin Soul.” The legendary Cuban-born Celia Cruz and Domincan-born Johnny Pacheco recorded Quimbara in 1974. Quimbara typifies the high energy, rhythmically-complex, instrumental and vocal improvisation, and call and response techniques at the core of Salsa.
Ozomatli is a Los Angeles-based latin, hip hop, funk, and rock band known for fusing the music of the Americas, their social and political activism, and their efforts towards global unity through music. Chango combines the merengue from the Dominican Republic, reggae from Jamaica, and hip hop from the United States and is an example of fusion of styles traced back to the Transatlantic slave in a contemporary setting. Ozomatli serves as a core inspiration to the Music of the Americas Project.
Bourbon Street Parade, written in 1955, has become a traditional New Orleans Second Line parade tune and a standard in the Jazz and Dixieland repertoire. The “second line” refers to the individuals following, dancing, and enjoying the music of the “main line” or “first line” of a parade. Nothing is more quintessential New Orleans than a band leading a parade. The roots of this activity is likely related to the fusion of West African circle dances, stylized dancing of Congo Square, and the European military brass band traditions.
The Adams State University Music of the Americas Project (MAP) Podcast with Dr. James W. Doyle and Dr. Nick Saenz. The podcast discusses colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and the resulting music in the Western Hemisphere. The MAP performs the music of West Africa, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, the Hispanic Caribbean, and blues and jazz of the United States. Questions to consider from the podcast: 1. How has the history of empire and colonialism contributed to the development of the music of the Americas? 2. How have African musical traditions influenced the development of American music throughout the Western Hemisphere? 3. What are some of the elements of American music that appear to reflect in all of the styles discussed?