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Canto en resistencia

The Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered works by Columbian composer Victor Agudelo and Puerto Rican composer Angélica Negrón on June 2 and 4, along with presentations of iconic protest music from Latin America and the U.S.

The evening was headlined “Canto en resistencia” and it began with Agudelo’s startling “Ecos de la Memoria” (Echoes of Memory). Agudelo dedicated the work to “all social leaders and human rights defenders who are now memory.”

The evening was part of the LA Phil’s “Power to the People” series celebrating the role artists play in furthering social change, civil rights, and humanitarian causes.

Singer Edna Vasquez of Canto en resistencia looks at the camera with her hand on her heart

Singer Edna Vazquez, courtesy of LA Phil

Agudelo’s eclectic work weaves in songs of mourners from Colombian indigenous communities (voiced by strings and vocal interjections). The work is also influenced by hip-hop music––its foundations having exposed injustice and inequality. The rhythmic anchor for “Ecos de la Memoria” includes beatbox (performed by Paige Zilba), backed by more than 50 percussion musicians. At one point, the entire orchestra stands to express a musical cacerolazo––a form of protest in which people bang pots and pans to gain attention (LA Phil musicians used their bows, feet and voices).

Singer Rodrigo Amarante of Canto en resistencia sits on a chair looking at the camera

Singer Rodrigo Amarante, courtesy of LA Phil

A composition based on a Puerto Rican plant

Angélica Negrón’s “Moriviví” is inspired by the Mimosa pudica plant, commonly found in Puerto Rico where it is known as moriviví (literally: died-lived). The shrub’s fern-like leaves rapidly contract when touched.

“As a young girl, I loved playing with this plant, marveling at the magical effect of a gentle touch,” writes Negrón whose music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative.” “I would brush my fingertips against every leaf I could, watching them transform over and over again before my eyes.”

Singer iLe shown in profile wearing a white dress

Singer iLe, courtesy of LA Phil

Negrón’s work mimics her childhood memories while also exploring the essence of the very word morvivi––in terms of Puerto Rican culture, specifically “how sentimentalism and melodrama play into” that culture, she writes. The wind section optimally out-pictures the plant world in “Moriviví,” the delicate phrasings seemingly mimicking the process of photosynthesis itself.

“As an adult, I find myself just as fascinated by the different translations of the word moriviví: shameful, fragile, humble, lazy, and resilient,” writes Negrón whose work has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and the New York Botanical Garden, among others. “Each conveys a very different narrative, all with a deep connection to the Puerto Rican experience.”

Singer Devendra Banhart shown in his studio holding a guitar

Singer Devendra Banhart, courtesy LA Phil

The evening ended with songs of protest from Puerto Rican singer iLe, Edna Vazquez (born in Jalisco, Mexico), Devendra Banhart (born in Houston, Texas and raised in Caracas, Venezuela), Rodrigo Amarante, born in Rio de Janeiro, and Silvana Estrada––called “one of Mexico’s greatest young talents and vocalists” by KCRW’s José Galvan.

The songs ranged from pro-democracy and workers’ rights songs, Spanish tonada folk songs, nueva canción (a Latin American left-wing social movement and musical genre, and tropicalismo, a Brazilian arts and music movement that flourished from 1967-1969.

Singer Silvana Estrada shown holding her guitar

Singer Silvana Estrada, courtesy LA Phil

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