"This music has gone underground," Sanabria laments later, between sets. "But I remember when there were 30 different clubs in this city where you could go and hear some mixture of Afro-Cuban tradition and New York jazz." Sanabria, who grew up in the Fort Apache section of the South Bronx, found inspiration back then from such standard-bearing first-generation players as Tito Puente and trumpeter Mario Bauzá. Sanabria teaches at both the Manhattan School of Music and the New School, and he treats the stage as one more classroom: He pauses halfway through one set to acknowledge the name chosen by Bauzá and his brother-in-law, singer and frontman Frank "Machito" Grillo, for their legendary orchestra: Afro-Cubans. "That was an early nod to Africa," he notes, "before it was in fashion." Tonight, Sanabria's own nod is overt and visible: In place of his usual jacket and tie, he wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with, in red, a Kongo cross and the phrase Abre/Kuta/Güiri/Mambo—Kikongo for, very liberally interpreted, "Word up."By the way, for those in the know, they have noticed that HBO's Treme is Postmamboist, totally!
The whole band wears the shirts. So does Ned Sublette, the musician and writer holding court at a table nearby, as is his custom nearly every Wednesday night, surrounded by stacks of the T-shirts he designed and copies of his authoritative book, Cuba and Its Music. Both are expressions of what Sublette calls "postmamboism"—"a portable theory that places music at the center of understanding" and "begins with the study of African diaspora musics," as he has explained in a post on BoingBoing.net. "Not deconstruction, not postcolonialism, not subaltern studies, not semiotics itself can boast of a triumph to rival the Postmamboism T-shirt," Sublette writes me in an e-mail.
For Sanabria, the fashion statement just fits: "It means what we say musically: This has deep roots, and it calls for an open mind."
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Harlem's Afro-Cuban Renaissance PLUS Postmamboism!
From Larry Blumenfeld, and the Village Voice: