Gustavo Dudamel (Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 42) says he learned everything from his mentor, the now deceased José Antonio Abreu. Passion for music, how it changes people’s lives, and how it is a universal language. Also wear sneakers during exercises. He remembers never seeing Abreu without a tie, but he also never stepped out of his black Reebok shoes. He, dressed in dark clothes, arrives from training with his new white balance. It was tiring, yes, but comforting, uniting six great Latin American voices with the musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a four-day cycle with protest song as its goal. Singing in the resistance. A novelty that, like much of what he brought during his 14 years at the helm of LAPhil, as it is popularly known in the city, was received first with surprise and then with delight among his loyal listeners.
This time Gustavo Dudamel almost brought about a revolution. For content and form. The method is to bring six women of different nationalities, styles and generations to the stage, so they can sing along with diverse philharmonic genres such as rap, cumbia and even reggaeton. The content goes further: presenting the protest song as a musical genre on the high-end orchestra stage, attracting different young audiences, and opening ears to the classics. On his first night, Thursday, Dudamel performed the evening with Mexican Eli Guerra, continued with Chilean Ana Tijox, continued with Oaxacan Lila Downs (who a few hours later received a Grammy nomination), and finished with two Colombians, first Catalina Garcia, for Mr. Pyrenees, And finally, Goyo. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it will feature Mexican Silvana Estrada, now alone.
“This took some time,” Dudamel said in an interview with El Pais and EFE about how he decided to implement such a course, which is certainly groundbreaking. “When I arrived in 2009, I had already done a course, America and AmericansThat planted the first seed to search for that space, for an identity that owns that space. “These were not radical parties, radical musicians who were all that different,” he explains. “In these almost fifteen years, everyone has been imbued with the desire to expand boundaries, beyond breaking barriers,” he asserts, explaining that this is “not just another concert” and that it already carries a personal charge, and in the present that works, even revanchist and political.
This was demonstrated on stage by the first five guests, all of whom were full of emotions and received a round of applause. “Thank you to this land for bringing me here and being able to tell these verses to the entire American continent. “This is what unites us,” Leila Downs said excitedly, remembering the many workers from all over Latin America who work “in restaurants, in the lands of California.” Sometimes we forget its existence because every morning we have fresh strawberries on our table.” Catalina Garcia spoke of music as “the path to healing”: “Protest is a right that all human beings have.” Ana Tijo, who was more political in her gestures and words, brought a clapping Palestinian scarf. To the stage. “The word resistance… it is impossible to talk about it without talking about Palestine. Do not be afraid to say: Stop the genocide in Gaza!” He shouted with a raised fist. “For free Palestine!” to bear! “Gaza ceasefire!” He shouted to cheers and to no one, in a country with strong support for Israel, and they rose from their seats.
Dudamel intended, as he said in his lecture, to gradually integrate “culturally representative groups” into the ranks of this Los Angeles institution. Until now, gospel or hip-hop music has been allowed to be played in LAPhil’s secondary, outdoor, more summery and popular venues, like the Hollywood Bowl or Ford’s Theater, but now it’s taken another step forward by taking the protest song to the stage. From the Walt Disney Concert Hall itself, home to the orchestra designed by Frank Gehry. “It is time to evolve, to demand and to put things in their right place. The Latin American protest song is a very rich music, both in terms of message and musically, because this music is made with local styles, with the rhythms of the people, and this makes it become a cycle of songs with a message.” Very powerful, but one that feels natural, and doesn’t feel forced. It’s not like we’re bringing up a protest song here and it’s like, “Cool!” No, it’s the natural thing that should happen, and it should have its own space. Especially in institutions like this, which represent… “Classical music is, let’s say, academic music. It’s important that we expand that scope and give it that space.”
The director admitted that during rehearsals, there was sometimes a large portion of the musicians who did not understand the lyrics of the song, but they were “happy” with this meeting. “I explained to them a little bit about what the protest song was about, and of course they identified that, and they saw that that music had power,” he explained.
For the famous director, an important cultural figure in the city, in these difficult and dark times, music is essential. “It is a universal language. I believe that cultural spaces provide a space for thinking, contemplation and encounter, which is essential in these very divisive and complex times. I am very optimistic, optimism comes from music, from the same projects, from the same encounters. They are bridges that are built in times that are collapsing.” It’s practically bridges, and I think it’s important that culture be seen as a very important tool in building bridges and building meeting places. “All of this music carries a very strong identity and protest message.” Knowing that many listeners have no connection to this type of music, it Not part of their cultural norms, he believes that knowing and learning about it can help “create a broad future of what art and music should encompass.” Institutions.
It was the director himself who decided which women would accompany him that night, but they would suggest a selection of songs that were clarified between the two parties (on the first night, they each sang a song, generally one to the other) and a musician, from Silvio Rodriguez to Don Omar, And another of his own.) For him, who grew up listening to music like salsa at home, rediscovering such genres has been a gift, and part of his personal and professional development. He was looking for new spaces when he decided on this course Singing in the resistanceAnd also when it was clear that he wanted six women on stage. This was no coincidence.
“We are in a moment of development and proof and all these great artists represent this development through their art. In the end, art is an expression of spirit and soul,” he said, noting that the process of selecting them was “very natural.” “When things are done in good faith and at the highest level, things work out.” Speak naturally. “The music group made us take a wonderful musical journey through protest and Latin American songs,” he says. “I find it amazing that these amazing artists are part of this moment of protest, against so many things that are not where they should be.”
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