Rhythmic: Antonio García explains how culture and language strongly influence Latin music – VCU News



Antonio García believes that the key to appreciating the music of another culture is to learn the culture and language that influences the music.

“All music comes from people and all people have a culture and a language,” said García, director of jazz studies and trombone instructor, small jazz ensemble, jazz theory and the music industry at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts.

García, who has worked as a freelance trombonist, bass trombonist or pianist with more than 70 nationally renowned artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Doc Severinsen and Phil Collins, bases his philosophy in part on his own experiences growing up with different cultural influences. . The son of a mother from Iowa and a father from Puerto Rico, García and his family lived in New Orleans, where the sound of jazz and Latin-inspired music permeated every corner of the city.

Antonio Garcia

“I didn’t grow up knowing music. But by studying it formally and performing it professionally, I learned the language and culture through music, which gave me more respect for the heritage, ”García said.

García is a longtime student of jazz and Latin music, a genre that represents diverse styles, cultures and geographic influences. It includes music from Latin America, Spain and the United States.

“It’s hard to define jazz now after more than 100 years,” he said. “It’s like a vacuum cleaner. It sucks the influences of all music.

“There are the Afro-Cuban street rhythms of New Orleans,” he said. “Brazilian music is influenced by French and Afro-Cuban. In Brazil, besides the indigenous population, the country had more enslaved individuals than the United States at the height of slavery. It’s just a way the music of a country is influenced.

Listen to the beat

The rhythms of Latin music are equally varied and influence dance music such as salsa.

“Brazilian music has countless rhythmic variations,” García said. “You have bossa nova and samba. There are easily eight varieties in these two categories. You have Colombian jazz or the rhythms of Venezuela or the Salvadorian rhythms.

Puerto Rican bomba rhythms, which are rooted in Puerto Rican history of the African slave trade and the plena, a dance that originated in Puerto Rico, are very popular in New York City, García said.

Latin rhythms are also found in the music of many singers such as Shakira, Santana and Beyonce.

“You can’t listen to 20 minutes of pop radio that isn’t hugely influenced by the grooves of Latin music or Latin jazz, which is increasingly becoming world music,” García said. “You will find great Afro-Cuban music performed in Japan. “

García, a research faculty member at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa), likes to involve his students and familiarize them with different cultures.

It has hosted guest artists in class like musician Tito Puente and has occasionally taken students to South Africa, which is “the musical heart of everything,” he said.

“We visit people in their homes and cities. We go on safari. You can stand in the great plains of Africa and hear percussion instruments through birds and animals. Everything from the food to the architecture to the rhythm of the language emerges in the music. It helps the music to have more meaning, ”he said.

Understanding how culture influences music is different from just learning music, he said.

“Music is rarely written just to be beautiful. It’s written to express something and promote language and culture, ”García said.

Music, he added, is a “trip of a lifetime”.


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