A Little Taste of My Cuba
Yasel Mendoza Patterson, singer/composer & 2015 TMY Fellow
Through dance moves, melodic narrative and vibrant percussion — TMY featured artist Yasel Patterson (along with musical director/pianist Liudvik Luis Cutiño Cruz, guitarist Alejandro de Miguel, master dancers Jairo Cruz and Lorena Ochoa and several well-known Tucson musicians) intends to create a welcoming space for Cuban music, play and tradition on the TMY performance stage.
Featuring a combination of classic and contemporary movements with Afro-European and Latin influences, A Little Taste of My Cuba will take TMY attendees on a musical journey that looks at where Cuban music came from, as well as where it is going.
“As a TMY featured artist we are eager to bring every part of who we are to our community’s festival,” says Yasel, “and to celebrate Cuba’s rich regional styles.”
The popularity of Cuban music grows strong as the US and Cuba embark on new diplomatic relations — and the influence of free flowing Cuban rhythms will be celebrated in A Little Taste of My Cuba’s performance. “Countries are made by people, not government… and our love of musical culture is something bigger than government or politics,” says Yasel, a Cuban immigrant who sought asylum in the US in 2007.
As artistic director for his TMY program, Yasel intends to help TMY attendees feel the rhythm of Afro Cuban Santeria, Bolero, Son, Cha Cha Cha and more, through dance, instruments and song – blurring the boundaries between the folkloric and the contemporary in an experience of entertaining cultural expression.
“I can’t live without music…”
Yasel’s first steps into music came when he was young, living with grandparents after his mother had died. “I was singing in church, going to festivals and discovering my own walk into the world of music. Someone said I had a beautiful voice after hearing a church solo,” he remembers. This led to being asked to be part of a professional chorus in the state, participating in Cuban musical theater, founding a Cuban a cappella vocal quartet and graduating from the University Art Institute of Cuba. He has since performed with a variety of Cuban masters of the Afro-Cuban musical identity.
The Artistic Performance
Cuban music and its many popular genres blend Spanish guitar and harmonies with a West African solid groove on drums, and A Little Taste of My Cuba brings a full ensemble of all-star Cuban musicians to explore Cuban music’s influence on the TMY stage. The dance and the music in the Cuban show will be represented by award-wining Cuban singers and dancers and locals well known musicians. “Most of the performers come from the same state in Cuba, Holguin,” Yasel explains, “and we have been performing together for several years on and off in Cuba, Mexico and the USA.”
Yasel’s TMY program is being crafted as a musical experience that travels across Cuban heritage — beginning with an intro acknowledging African origins. The tempo will progressively quicken as the musical travelogue moves from past to modern styles. Drums, bass, piano, congas, trumpets and guitar will blend with musicians, dancers and singers in multidimensional entertainment.
Yasel says TMY opens important opportunities to him every year. “Once a year, a door that I wait all year long for, opens,” he exclaims. “I love in this place of so many different languages… foods… people. TMY has helped us get to know each other, at the same time respecting our own heritage. It helps define us as a community, but also show our differences, like a living world map.”
Yasel says that music is a negotiation between the classic beauty of the tradition with the contemporary. Music bridges diverse cultures, while celebrating the unique beauty and genius of each, as well as what we have in common.
And A Little Taste of My Cuba is a force that will raise the roof in making this celebratory bridge of diverse cultures happen at TMY.
Don’t miss A Little Taste of My Cuba performance at Tucson Meet Yourself: Saturday, October 10, 8-10 PM, Church Street Stage. Full program may be downloaded here, and is available on the TMY website under the HOW TO FESTIVAL section.
- Cuban music in political and cultural context, by R. James Ferguson, 2003, The Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, The School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Bond University, Queensland, Australia http://www.international-relations.com/wbcm6-1/WBCubanMusic.htm
- Washington Resource Library Consortium, research on Cuban Music: http://aladinrc.wrlc.org/search?query=Cuban+music&submit=Go
- Afro-Cuban musical roots here http://www.worldmusic.net/guide/music-of-cuba/ and here: http://www.boogalu.com/cuba-travel/resources/history-cuban-music