The 2015 AfroLatino festival came at a pivotal point, following the UN’s recent declaration naming 2015 to 2024 the International Decade of African Descent. Most of colonial history recounts the stories of enslaved Africans taken to the United States and Europe, but the African diaspora of Latin America is too often overlooked. The clashing of cultures that erupted during this time inspired entire genres of music and dance – some of which the festival sought to include by featuring 13 different representative countries in its performances. For those who were unable to attend this weekend, here are just a few highlights to entice you for next year.
Opening Gala and Art Exhibition
Dressed in colorful garb, Conjunto Nuevo Milenio showcased the Panamanian people’s dance and folklore traditions in an eye-opening way. Adding to the evening’s roster was a mixed media installation and exhibits by artists Esteban Morales, Mariona Lloreta, and Kadine Anckle. Both showcased unique aspects of AfroLatino culture that very few people have been exposed to before.
Madiba/MIST Harlem, 46 West 116th Street, New York, NY USA +1 646 688 5886
AfroLatinos TV: The Untaught Story
Directed and produced by Renzo Devia and Alicia Anabel Santos, The Untaught Story explores issues of identity and belonging within communities living in Latin America’s early African settlements. The film goes on to explain the importance of creating a dialogue so that contemporaries – especially the younger generations – can learn about their heritage. You can support the project’s ongoing film series here.
Williamsburg Music Center, 367 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY USA +1 718 384 1654
Que Bajo?! And Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto
The Gaiteros of San Jacinto blessed the Afrolatino Festival stage at the Wick in a cross-generational performance of traditional Colombian Cumbia and folk dance. Actively performing and composing since the 1940s, Los Gaiteros preserves the traditional rhythms and sounds of Colombia’s countryside, a result of their indigenous roots within the borders of one of Latin America’s most heavily African populations. Alongside Uproot Andy and Geko Jones, the show brought out an unusual mix of young and old. For those who haven’t attended, the duo hosts monthly Que Bajo?! shows that draw a dedicated fan base from every venue they perform in.
To check out upcoming tour dates for Los Gaiteros summer tour, click here.
The Wick, 260 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, NY USA +1 347 338 3612
Sunday Series, Musical Performances by Los Hacheros, Les Nubians, Kafu Banton and Cultura Profética
Day three brought out fans for crowd favorite Cultura Profética from Puerto Rico. Before sunset, Bed-Stuy Plaza housed an array of creative expressions of Afrolatinidad with acts that included NYC’s very own salsa band Los Hacheros, as well as local eats and street vendors. Representing women of the diaspora, sister duo Hélène and Célia Faussart of Les Nubians put on a sultry set that fused neo-soul, R&B, and hints of reggae, while Kafu Baton lit the stage with his own styling of Panama city dancehall.
Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY USA +1 718 636 6900
Although it will be difficult to top the energy of this year’s crowd, we can expect that with support for AfroLatino culture on the rise, the festival will continue to whet our appetite for the acts we know and love here in New York, but also attract artists from different corners of the global, AfroLatino community. </p>
Co-founder and frontwoman of Delsonido, Mai-Elka Prado promises “bigger and better for next year.” Alongside director Amilcar Priestley, the two organizers set out to create an outlet that gives more visibility to the African roots of many members of New York’s Latino community.
This year, the festival covered events in all boroughs except Staten Island, which may be included in the festival’s future. In order to create a more inclusive experience, organizers are seeking out the public’s feedback for countries and artists they want to see represented in the future.
Another idea hinted at for next year is expansion. According to Mai, they are looking to expand the festival from one weekend to perhaps several weekends in the month; this way, festival goers will have a chance to catch more of their favorite artists.
For more information about next year’s festival, visit their website.
By Joan de Jesus