Arts & Culture

CLACS, music department host Pa’lo Monte workshop, concert

Pa’lo Monte features Afro-Dominican, Haitian influences, blends saxophone, keyboard

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Last Thursday, the ensemble Pa’lo Monte performed an hour and a half long concert in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. The concert included guitar, saxophone and keyboard.

The nippy air last Thursday night marked the arrival of autumn in Providence, yet audience members in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts’ Martinos Auditorium didn’t seem to care as they soaked in the warm sounds of the music group Pa’lo Monte. The 11-person ensemble demonstrated their performative prowess during the 90-minute concert, incorporating pieces heavily influenced by Afro-Dominican and Haitian rhythm and drums  and the sounds of the electrical guitar, saxophone and keyboard for a distinctive fusion of styles.

The audience loosened up throughout the course of the night. People started by swaying in their seats before a growing number rose to dance on the sides of the auditorium in clusters.

“This is something that I grew up listening to,” said Ana Marx ’18.5, who lived in Cuba for several years. “It’s difficult to not move. …  (The music) compels you out of your seat.”

Most of the group’s members hail from the Dominican Republic or Haiti, but now live and work in New York or Los Angeles, said Marlene Mercedes, a producer, vocalist and percussionist in the group. Beginning as a production society and later developing into a teaching and performance group, Pa’lo Monte has championed social activism since its inception, Mercedes said. During the performance, the performers were also in flux, constantly exchanging instruments and entering and exiting the stage.

The concert had been accompanied by a workshop earlier that day, in which Osvaldo Sánchez, Pa’lo Monte’s founder and director, taught attendees about the history of the Dominican Republic before inviting them on stage to dance to the Palo and Congo genres of music, said Assistant Professor of Music Joshua Tucker, co-organizer of the event. The group is the first of three Latin American musical groups invited this year by the Department of Music and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies to stage performances, workshops and public talks, said Jessaca Leinaweaver, director of CLACS, professor of anthropology and a co-organizer of the event.

“We’ve had a number of Latin American musical events in the last few years, but they seemed kind of confined to a narrow slice of Latin American music,” Tucker added. “We wanted to broaden that … and get people exposed to the incredible variety of music that there is in Latin America.”

Leinaweaver also cited the CLACS’ desire to provide an inclusive cultural outlet, which meant consciously selecting performers that represent local Colombian and Dominican communities, two of the largest Latin American groups in Rhode Island, she said. The organizers promoted the Pa’lo Monte events by hanging up posters on Broad Street and in various spaces at Brown, she added.