La Familia Valera Miranda, six musicians from the Oriente region of Cuba, will perform at University of Puget Sound on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m., just before National Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close. The concert will be in Kilworth Memorial Chapel. Ticket information is below.
Oriente, near Haiti and Jamaica, is a region where the dominant musical form, son cubano, differs from that of the capital Havana. Son reflects Cuba’s Hispanic culture through its instruments: the guitar, double bass, and the tres, a guitar with three double strings. The music also reflects Cuba’s African heritage through the call and response style of the songs.
Although it includes a mixture of influences, son is unquestionably a Cuban style that is not replicated anywhere else. Its light, infectious rhythms are well suited to an English summer festival, as anyone who saw the band Sierra Maestra at Puget Sound three years ago will tell you.
At the heart of son rhythms are the wooden claves, which play a repeated syncopated beat. The bongos (also known as requinto) provide a counter-rhythm, and the maracas cover the gaps. The bass provides harmony as well as rhythm, the tres fills in counter-melodies, and the cuatro (a lower-pitched tres) provides harmonic fills with the vocals. It is a style that seeks a balance through lightness, rather than providing a heavy beat at the center.
Son began as the rural music of Oriente, although a hybrid of it eventually became popular in New York and returned to Cuba as salsa. Son’s lyrics reflect its creators’ roots: love, food, dance, and drink remain the staple topics, though there are often satirical undertones and sexual wordplay.
Felix Valera Miranda, a tres and percussion player who now runs the Department of Traditional Music in Santiago, the capital of Oriente, is the lead singer of La Familia Valera Miranda. His wife, Carmen Rosa Alarcon Gamba, and the rest of the group, including the couple’s three sons, also sing. The family has Hispanic, African, and Indian roots, so they are an embodiment of the cosmopolitan beginnings of son.
The event is sponsored by University of Puget Sound Cultural Events as part of Homecoming and Family Weekend 2013.
FOR TICKETS: order online at tickets.pugetsound.edu , or call Wheelock Information Center to purchase with a credit card at 253.879.6013. Admission is $12 for the general public. There are discounts for Puget Sound campus members.