Rhythm is the heartbeat of music as well as poetry, and in our city, two renowned artistic collectives are joining forces to explore the relationship between rhymes and rhythms and along the way, illustrate the diversity of Mexico as a land. On the one hand, Sones de Mexico Ensemble created the program “Beyond the Music: A Musical Geography” to promote a greater understanding of Mexico’s immense diversity, part and parcel of its thirty distinct cultural regions and their unique mixes of European, African and indigenous influences. The program evolved organically over time from a series of very successful pre-concert lectures that Sones de Mexico Ensemble began to offer in 2009. Juan Dies, co-founder and Executive Director of Sones de Mexico Ensemble, considered carefully how to select a limited number regions that would give a rich picture of the variety of musical styles in Mexican folk music. These regions had to be located all over Mexico and also provide contrast with each other in rhythm, instrumentation, playing technique, and even language to accentuate the land’s great diversity. Sharing the rich diversity of Mexico’s rhythms has always been at the core of Sones de Mexico Ensemble’s artistic and educational mission. And sharing the richness of Latin rhymes has always been at the heart of literary organization contratiempo‘s mission. Recently, the idea of presenting poems read in conjunction with each of the geographical areas and styles presented in “Beyond the Music: A Musical Geography” emerged to celebrate the grand finale of literary organization contratiempo’s Spring residency at the Chicago Cultural Center. Contratiempo chose poems to accompany each region, carefully considering the musicality of the words and the themes. Two extraordinary Chicago authors, playwrights and actors who hail from Mexico, Gerardo Cardenas and Laura Crotte Occelli, were invited to read a selection of poems from authors native to each of the regions that Sones de Mexico Ensemble will illustrate. One of the readings selected is a wonderful poem by writer-activist Mardonio Carballo titled “Mitote”, which is a Mexican Spanish word that comes from the Nahuatl word for “dance”. In conjoined artistic efforts such as “Rhymes and Rhythms”, we experience the power of Chicago artists to transform our perspectives and deepen our understanding of the sources of our Latinidad, much in ways like Carballo’s “Mitote” poem invites us to do: “How about we start to dance? How about we draw a map without borders with our feet?
Sones de Mexico Ensemble and Contratiempo will present Rhymes and Rhythms: Beyond the Music, a Musical Geography of Mexico” at the Chicago Cultural Center on May 27. Free and open to the public! This program is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).