Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

Aratani World Series: Bringing Cultures Together

Support Provided By
From Alejandro Araujo and Jose Luis Carballo's performance | Photo: Jorge Vismara

The Aratani World Series is a layer cake of dance, music and culture. On a recent night, Angolan guitarist Waldemar Bastos was lit by the glow of a taco truck parked outside the L.A. Cumbia Festival, hosted in Little Tokyo. The overlaps in culture were abundant, spilling over a spectrum of Latin flavors, complimented with Japanese hospitality and Bastos' enthusiasm for music in general.

Inside the theater was a kinetic scene of passion and friction, the sensuality of Cumbia mades many rising out of their seats to dance in the aisles. Local bands Viento Callejero and La Chamba represented two forms of Cumbia -- Viento with its urban tropical blends and Chamba with its Peruvian Chica, which evokes a style of psychedelic and 1970's overtones. La Chamba was accompanied by Peruvian guitarist Jose Luis Carballo.

As a 15 year old in Peru, Carballo was wowed by Eric Clapton and American rock guitarists, and the classic rock sound interweaves with indigenous rhythms his distinctive brand of chicha cumbia.

Alejandro Araujo and Jose Luis Carballo | Photo: Jorge Vismara
Alejandro Araujo and Jose Luis Carballo | Photo: Jorge Vismara

"Many groups here in Los Angeles embody all that Cumbia represents, as it is a mix. It is not exact. This is a music style with heart, sentiment and joy. You can't put your finger on the fusion of it all. It's simply there," said Carballo.

Colombian musician Eduardo Martinez began the night with a blend of Afro-Colombian drumming, the armature of Cumbia most present in this performance. Buyepongo blended merengue, punta (a celebratory dance) and cumbia. For the artists in La Chamba Cumbia's day on the theatre stage was long overdue.

Waldemar Bastos | Photo: Jorge Vismara
Waldemar Bastos | Photo: Jorge Vismara

Alejandro Araujo, lead guitarist of La Chamba, phrases it like this: "This new sort of movement started in small bars, in backyards. We started out playing weddings, birthday parties, Quinceañeras. Cumbia has been around since before I was born and I'm just humbled to be part of this renaissance in L.A."

Back stage before the show Aratani curator Judy Mitoma heaves a sigh and smiles.

"We've had a bit of culture shock these last few months," she said, surrounded by musicians practicing, dancing and eating before the show.

"But it's wonderful to embrace this curiosity -- to cross pollinate different cultures. We're creating an artist community and we want everyone to feel connected."

Kayamanan Ng Lahi| Photo: Jorge Vismara
Kayamanan Ng Lahi | Photo: Jorge Vismara

Aratani has showcased several different genres that would normally fall into the category of 'World Music' at your local record store. Acts have included Bastos with his African and Brazilian pop; Gamelan music and dance from Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Kaoru Watanabe & Sumie Kaneko's Japanese Taiko. Most recently there was Kayamanan Ng Lahi, a blend of Filipino and Hawaiian cultures -- think ukulele and Pacific Islander dancing.

The dance company behind Kayamanan Ng Lahi named their performance Mana, which encompasses several different ideals represented in both the Filipino and Hawaiian cultures. Dance company co-cofounder Joel Jacinto sees mana as a foundation; something inherited from past generations, and not necessarily homogenous in nature. Jacinto points to Southeast Asia, places like Vietnam, or the West, that are incorporated into the company's Filipino style.

"Our dance form is really world dance at its best, interpreted by the Filipino manner," he said, "and that's a way of internalizing external influences and restating them in a Filipino manner. We made them our own."

Kayamanan Ng Lahi| Photo: Jorge Vismara
Kayamanan Ng Lahi | Photo: Jorge Vismara

The Aratani World Series makes something foreign familiar. Choreographer Linda Yudin of Viver Brasil Dance Company, who perform at Aratani May 30, said they want to raise awareness of issues facing the world. She wants to address issues affecting their group -- kidnappings of young girls in Africa, violence in Brazil and one incident of police brutality in Salvador, Bahia last September. New initiates of the Viver Brasil are painted by Dona Cici, the group's spiritual advisor, and the 14 dancers will perform under the white cloth of Obatalá, the sky father.

"There will be dance movements and awareness," says Yudin, "This is a symbol of peace. Certainly there will be joy, that is part of the physical vocabulary, but this is our responsibility to start this conversation of peace."

THEY'RE RED HOT (excerpt) - by Robert Johnson, arr

The next installments of the series include:

Sat April 18, 7 pm
Moira Smiley & VOCO / Varimezov Family Band
Aratani Theatre

Sat May 2, 7 pm
Navarasa Dance Theatre / Mamak Khadem
Aratani Theatre

Sat, May 30, 7 pm
Viver Brasil / Katia Moraes
Aratani Theatre

Dig this story? Sign up for our newsletter to get unique arts & culture stories and videos from across Southern California in your inbox. Also, follow Artbound on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Support Provided By
Read More
A woman wearing a headscarf holds up a picture book and reads to a group of children sat down in front of her. The reading is taking place in an outdoor area. Behind the woman and group of children is a black iron fence. Beyond that is an open area of green grass and tall trees.

Welcome to Little Arabia: A Monthlong Celebration Makes This Community Feel Seen

The Ahlan Wa Sahlan Pan-Arabic Celebration at the Anaheim Public Library highlights the contributions, history and culture of Arab Americans and pays tribute to the unofficial Little Arabia neighborhood on Brookhurst Street, a 10-minute drive from the library.
The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, photo by Joshua White

A Disney Hall-Caliber Venue in Inglewood? Free Youth Music Program Finds a Forever Home

Gustavo Dudamel's Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) found its permanent home in the lavish Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center in Inglewood. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the center is designed to serve as a space for underserved youth musicians to learn.
An illustrated logo that says "Ozz Steaks & Seafood"

Like Queer Church on Sundays: Ozz Supper Club Gave Young LGBTQ a Place to Belong

If you remember Ozz Supper Club — popularly known as Ozz — in Buena Park, California, you remember a magical time of budding queerness and mutual bonding at the gay club near Knotts.