Thursday, July 18, 2019

Seduced By the Sounds of Cuba

The Mamboniks and Martin Cohen: Have you been celebrating the Jewish experience through cinema at the 6th Annual ABQ Jewish Film Festival 2019 presented by the Jewish Community Center of Greater ABQ?

An entire, complete plethora of good films is (not are; Abq Jew checked) being presented this year. But the one that, in easier* times, Abq Jew would most be looking forward to is

The Mamboniks
Film Festival Finale
Sunday July 28 @ 2:00 pm
NHCC - Bank of America Theater
Bagels meet bongos in this surprising story of Jewish dancers
who fell in love with the Cuban mambo in the 1950s,
sparking a dance craze that swept the nation and the world.
Only a revolution could stop it.

Lox and bagels meet salsa and congos in Peabody Award winner Lex Gillespie’s joyous and singular celebration of the Jewish love affair with Latin music and dance, set in New York, Havana, Miami Beach, and the Catskill Mountains. 
During the 1950s, free-spirited, mostly Jewish dancers from New York City fell head over heels for the mambo, the hot dance from Cuba that became a worldwide sensation. 
Their love for Latin rhythms earned them a nickname: the “mamboniks.” Now retired, yet still dancing in Florida, a lovable, somewhat zany collection of dancers from the ‘50s share a passion that age has not cooled. 
With colorful first-person accounts and an infectious Afro-Cuban soundtrack including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and “mambo king” Pérez Prado, The Mamboniks explores a largely unexamined and exhilarating aspect of Jewish life and culture, and a time when Jews, Latinos, and African-Americans met on the dance floor, although America was racially segregated and anti-Semitism was commonplace.

And as long as we're talking Jews & Cuban music -
here is Martin Cohen's bongo story.

How a "poor, Jewish guy, who can't speak Spanish"
succeeded in making his mark on the Latin music industry

From NPR and
How I Made It: King Of The Bongo Makers
by Jeanne Montalvo Lucar 
In the late 1950s, a young mechanical engineer from the Bronx named Martin Cohen stumbled into Birdland, the famous jazz club in New York City. He discovered the rhythms of Latin music and thus began a lifelong love affair with percussion. 
In the 1960s, when Cohen wanted to get his own set of bongos to learn how to play, he found he was unable to get a high-quality instrument, due to a trade embargo with Cuba. 
He decided to start his own company, Latin Percussion (LP for short). If you’ve ever seen a band play percussion instruments—like congas, a set of bongos, or a cowbell, chances are you’ve seen an LP branded instrument. 
Cohen started by making drums, something he says he knew nothing about, and decades later, some of the greatest percussionists in the Latin music scene have played with LP instruments. 
Though, as of 2015, he no longer runs the company, he remains enmeshed in the world of Latin music. In the early 2000s, he created, a site dedicated to Latin music and percussion, with articles, photos, and live performances of bands from all over the globe. 

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew have not felt much like dancing or singing since the November passing (see In Memory of Sheila Kronrot) of our beloved Mother, Mother-in-Law, Grandmother, and Great Grand Mama - who would have turned 95 this past June. We are still mourning, and in some ways will always be.

And then - this Sunday (actually, Shabbat) is the fast of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, which begins (see The Three Weeks 2016) a traditional period of mourning during which singing and dancing are ... discouraged.

Nevertheless, when the Holy One, Blessed Be He, grants us the strength ...

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