Toronto summer time gets a blast of Latin culture this weekend during the ninth edition of Ritmo y Color, one of the Harbourfront Centre weekend-long festivals that feels most like a community or neighbourhood event. This is due in part to the smartly booked mix of local and international acts, all with that irresistible Latin flavour.The weekend features a wide variety of dance and music workshops, Latin food demos and sessions, the amazing Raspao mobile sound sculpture cart (and a special Lido Pimienta jam therein), film screenings, artist talks hosted by journalist Kelli Korducki, and of course, no shortage of music.Featured acts we are excited to check out include a range of international as well as local talent. On the special visitor end of things are Chico Trujillo, a 10-piece Chilean band bringing “a never before heard fusion of punk rock energy, classic Latin grooves, South American folklore, Balkan brass madness, and a touch of ska.”Two of the other international acts, both Mexican, are about as diverse as they come: Los Vega are a family that will perform their Son Jarocho music and hold a workshop in the stomping dance known as zapateado. And on the less traditional side, 3Ball MTY bring their tribal guarachero beats (known also as “pointy boots” music) to the Saturday night headliner slot; the young trio recently won a Latin Grammy. Their electronic music fuses Mexican cumbia and African influences; this will be their Canadian debut.Previous Uma Nota Festival performer, Montreal-based hombre and all-around Canadian Latin hip-hop star Boogat will also perform on Saturday evening, including tracks from his acclaimed El Dorado Sunset album. (Previous related article here.)On the local side, many stellar artists from the Uma Nota and overlapping Latin communities (aluCine, Dos Mundos, Brazil Dance World, Capoeira Camara and others) will be representing.A New Tradition, fusing hip-hop, spoken word and traditional Afro-Colombian percussion and gaita (flute) music, take the stage Saturday, and from that group, the hard-working educator and musician Ruben Esguerra leads a workshop on Afro-Colombian percussion earlier in the day.Maracatu Mar Aberto weaves a colourful procession through the grounds on Saturday; the troupe participates with both a stage show and a drumming workshop that afternoon.Among the various film screenings and food programs, drumming and dancing workshops (both Zouk and Samba de Gafiera styles are covered by Brazil Dance World over the weekend), the Sunday program closes things out with performances by locals like Amanda Martinez and both a workshop and a presentation by Afro-Cuban performance group Iyá Iré, featuring some of the best Cuban percussionists in the city in a high-energy show including dance performance.And for that grand finale in Brazilian style, performance company The Dance Migration, led by Adrianna Yanuziello, brings a remounted version of her Lulaworld 2013 show, Faces of Samba, to the Harbourfront stage. The show traces the roots and influences of samba from its African and indigenous origins to the spectacle we now know as a modern samba show. The performance is backed up by live percussion from Bloco Bracatum, led by Contra-Mestre Bola of Capoeira Camara (they blew everyone away at the recent Block Party 2013). Afro-Brazilian dance, percussion and Capoeira workshops also take place Sunday via members of the same performing groups.Ritmo y Color runs July 5-7 weekend at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
For as long as I’ve know him, Ruben "Beny" Esguerra has been working tirelessly to complete a musical project that is the result of many years of studying, researching and performing Colombian traditional music, spoken word and hip-hop music.Last December, while in Cartagena, Colombia, Beny’s producer and collaborator Luis Orbegozo handed me a CDR entitled A New Tradition. I listened to it on my flight home and was totally immersed in a world of tambores and poetry. I picked out elements of the album that I had heard Beny perform in Cuba and in Toronto many years prior, and I realized this whole album was a labour of love that Beny had been working on since I met him.
On A New Tradition, tambores and gaitas meet DJ scratches and beatboxes, the past and the present collide on the dancefloor creating perfect harmony between traditional and modern. A salsa will blend with dancehall, a cumbia rhythm becomes a break beat and it all brings the community, young and old, to the dance floor.And it’s obvious that Beny’s sense of community helped create this album. From the 18 year old kid he has playing tambor and beatboxing, to his own brother DJing and designing the cover art – Beny brings together peoples of all walks of life to create and collaborate. A New Tradition is just as the title states, it’s the beginning of a new wave of Latino talent in Canada. All artists and performers, young Latinos who are creating new roots in Canada and developing new traditions to express their generation.This Sunday, "A New Tradition" will perform as part of the FREE Cultural Community Fair on Day Two of the Uma Nota Festival. As always, the Uma Nota crew has gone out of their way to program a lineup full of inspirational, educational and motivational art, dance and music that will make you happy to be living in a city as rich in culture as Toronto.