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America's Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway: Latin Rhythms From Mambo to Hip Hop

Your Project Scholar

 Richard Mook, Ph.D.

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Arizona State University
Herberger Institute
for Design and the Arts
School of Music

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Printable Essay: Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop

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Session 1

Wednesday, October 9, 5:30 p.m.
The Monarch Theatre
 122 E. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Featured Films

Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop

How mambo—the Cuban hybrid of traditional danson fused with syncopated Afro-Caribbean rhythms—migrated to New York City from Havana in the 1940s and broke social and muscial rules.

Film 1: Latin Music USA: Episode 1: Bridges
Pamela A. Aguilar and Daniel McCabe, 2009
Film 2: From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale
Henry Chalfant, Elena Martinez and Steve Zeitlin, 2006

Film Discussion Points

1. 1950s New York City began to publish articles on an emerging "mambo revolution" in music and dance. Recording companies began to use mambo to label their records and local newspapers advertised mambo dance lessons. The mambo dominated the music scene for 20 years through the mid-1960s. What was it about mambo that appealed to so many and across cultures? Why was there a mania? How did the mambo compare to other popular cultural forms of the 1950’s and 60’s?
2. From I Love Lucy to West Side Story, how did American films and television portray Latin music and musicians? Has that portrayal changed in contemporary television and film? Give examples.
3. The popularity of Latin music in America has been closely connected with dance trends. Why do you think this is true? What characteristics are shared by all the Latin music and dance crazes that swept America, from mambo to the rumba to the conga to the cha cha and salsa?
4. Why are the mainstream music industry and many in the hip hop community slow to acknowledge the Latin influence in hip hop’s history? Is that changing? Who were the significant Latino musicians and DJs who were playing hip hop at its beginnings in the Bronx?
5. It has been said that hip hop arose out of the most desperate days of the South Bronx. How was the music a reflection and expression of the times? How did it answer the needs of the generation coming of age in the 1970’s and 80’s in urban America? How were these musicians influenced by the ‘mambo’ and salsa generations of musicians before them?
6. In exploring the impact of Latin Music in American culture, filmmakers, musicians and cultural commentators note that cities like New York set the stage for cross-cultural pollination as well as competition in many musical forms. What are some of the social and political issues revealed by the evolution of Latin music in the American scene?

Your Librarian

Christopher Mehrens's picture
Christopher Mehrens
Music Library



Printable Film Discussion Points: Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop

America's Music

“America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway” 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.

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