America's Music Film & Discussion: Latin Rhythms From Mambo To Hip Hop

Wednesday May 1, 2013: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Experience the history of American popular music when AADL presents America's Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway. This eight-week series features documentary film screenings and discussions at the Downtown Library focusing on twentieth-century American popular music. Throughout the series, related concerts performed by some of the area's most prominent musicians will be presented both at the Library and at Kerrytown Concert House.

Mark Clague, Associate Professor of Musicology and Director of Research at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, leads a screening and discussion focusing on the films "Latin Music USA, Episode One: Bridges" and "From Mambo To Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale."

Narrated by Jimmy Smits, 2009's "Latin Music USA" presents the story of Afro Cuban jazz and mambo as they developed in the dance halls and nightclubs of New York City. This excerpt from Episode One explores mambo, the Cuban hybrid of traditional danson fused with syncopated Afro-Caribbean rhythms that migrated to New York City from Havana in the 1940s. Further innovated by the great barrio-born Latin band leaders of the time, including Perez Prado and Tito Puente, mambo became a huge music and dance craze that swept the country. The film explores how mambo loosened the stiff social and musical rules of the "country club culture" of the time. Especially in New York, mambo's popularity across classes and ethnic groups integrated the dance floor and helped prepare the way for a more open and less restrictive social interaction between the sexes.

This exuberant 2006 documentary "From Mambo To Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale" celebrates the cultural life of one of America's worst urban slums in the 1970s, New York's South Bronx. It was here, home to many Latin performers from mambo's heyday, that hip hop originated. Hip hop was created and performed first by Jamaican and African American youth, and then Latinos, in abandoned parks, razed neighborhoods and burned-out buildings, as an alternative to gang violence This film excerpt to be shown for this discussion begins in 1973, when gang leaders held a peace conference to decry the inhuman conditions they lived under. Break dance competitions and battles of songs and words redirected gang fighting into creative expression and brought a measure of fame to its most successful artists.

The Ann Arbor District Library is one of fifty sites nationwide to host this program series, which is a project by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint, and the Society for American Music. America's Music has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. The AADL series is also co-sponsored by The Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, Kerrytown Concert House, UMS and WCBN 88.3 FM.

A related concert featuring Los Gatos will be held the evening before this event, at 7:00 pm in the Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room on Tuesday, April 30.