Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with a concert and interview featuring Nani Noam Vazana. Vazana is one of the few artists in the world who writes and composes new songs in the endangered Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish) language, a form of Spanish derived from Old Castilian which is spoken by Sephardic Jews living mostly in Israel, the Balkans, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey. Ladino, which traveled to these areas with Jewish communities expelled from Spain in 1492, is very nearly extinct in many places. Nani says her work seeks to capture the spirit of this ancient, matriarchal language and culture and propel it into the 21st century with socially pertinent lyrics addressing themes such as migration, gender, and female empowerment. Nani's goal is to create a bridge between tradition and modern life, capturing the sounds and smells of the marketplace and fusing them with surprising instrumentation and vibrant singing. As usual with Homegrown Plus blogs, you'll find the concert video, an interview video, and a wealth of links to related collections and concerts, all right here in this blog post.
In this post, AFC Folklife Specialist Douglas D. Peach spotlights a recent concert and oral history interview with masters of chamamé music, the Alejandro Brittes Quartet, held at the Library of Congress in September 2023. The interview and oral history interview are now available for online viewing.
On Thursday, September 14, at Noon Eastern Time, in LJ-119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building (10 First Street SE, Washington DC), we will host a special concert with Nani Noam Vazana. Vazana is one of the only artists in the world who writes and composes new songs in the endangered Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish) language, a form of Spanish derived from Old Castilian which is spoken by Sephardic Jews living mostly in Israel, the Balkans, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey. We held our usual interview with Nani in advance, through the magic of internet communications, which means you can watch it now! In case you're still deciding whether to come to her concert, you should hear her tell her story and see if she can convince you! As she revealed to me, she was born in Israel to parents who had emigrated from Morocco. Her father, wishing to leave the past behind, forbade the Ladino language in the house--but her grandmother didn't have to obey. She learned some Ladino from her grandmother, and, more importantly, heard her singing Ladino songs. Years later, on a trip to play at a jazz festival, she heard a Judeo-Spanish singer in Morocco, which set her on a new path of researching Ladino songs and eventually composing her own. Of course, that's only the bare bones of the story, and Nani tells it much more fully, as well as discussing her music, her career, and her plans for the future. Watch the interview in this blog post!
Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with Cambalache, who perform son jarocho music, one of the regional Mexican styles that has become very important to the Chicano community in California. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performer, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections. Cambalache, named for a Spanish word that means "exchange," is a Chicano-Jarocho group based in East Los Angeles. Founded in 2007 and led by Cesar Castro (sonero, maestro and luthier from Veracruz, Mexico), Cambalache plays and promotes traditional son jarocho through performance, music workshops, and educational demonstrations. Son jarocho comes from Veracruz, Mexico, on the gulf coast, a cultural region shaped by Indigenous, African, and Spanish culture. In the spirit of the fandango, a traditional celebration of music and dance, Cambalache engages its audience through participatory performances.
Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! Since it's Women's History Month, we thought we'd feature another fantastic woman musician, Mamselle Ruiz! Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performer, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections. Since the interview was conducted in French, this blog also features an English language translation of the interview. Mamselle Ruiz is a Mexican-born singer and guitarist living in French-speaking Montréal. She was raised on all kinds of Mexican music, and she includes traditional Mexican folksongs such as “La Bruja” and “La Llorona” in a diverse repertoire that also includes Son Huasteco classics along with Latin cover songs and her own compositions. This concert features mostly traditional Mexican songs.
During her internship here at the American Folklife Center, Elisa Alfonso had the opportunity to explore many wonderful digital collections here at the Library of Congress. In particular she found many versions of a Spanish-language lullaby, “Señora Santana,” and noted fascination variations among versions, suggesting that a version collected primarily from Cuban Americans has become a vessel through which migrants talk about the sensations of trauma and loss that come with childhood forced migration. Read her observations, and hear several versions of the song, in her guest post.
Get ready for two upcoming holidays with the expanded and updated research guide on Halloween and Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) from the Library of Congress! "Halloween & Dia de Muertos Resources" highlights collections from across the Library, including the American Folklife Center, Prints and Photographs, the Hispanic section, Rare Books, Manuscripts, and the National Audio Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC). Items we've added for this year's Halloween season include a player where you can listen to Jack Santino's classic Halloween lecture discussing the deep history of the holiday as well as folktales and other Halloween lore. We've also added: links to notable books to get you started in your Halloween reading; a player to watch the first film version of Frankenstein from 1910; a gallery of classic Dia de Los Muertos posters from the Mission Grafica/La Raza Graphics collection; and links to lots of new content like the witch tales from Aunt Molly Jackson that I blogged about just last week. Find it all at the link in this blog post!
The research guides from the American Folklife Center help researchers navigate the AFC collections by geographic region or by topic. One of our most recent guides, Latinx and Latin American Collections: Resources in the American Folklife Center, provides quick access to our Latinx and Latin American resources during National Hispanic Heritage Month.
We're continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Tlacuatzin Son Huasteco, a trio playing one of the traditional music styles of eastern Mexico, known as son huasteco or huapango music; As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!
Son huasteco music is built around two variants of the guitar, the jarana and the quinta huapanguera, as well as the violin and the voice. Son huasteco singing employs a distinctive falsetto style. Improvisation plays a strong role in this music, with each group adding their own lyrics and arrangements to a standard repertoire of songs. The result is acoustic string-band music that is both traditional and contemporary, with direct emotional appeal.