A new work by master percussionist Pablo Batista uses changing rhythms, music, and dance to tell the story of how people forced from their homeland, survived and thrived by creating a new home. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more about El Viaje, a music and dance narrative in eight scenes, featuring 22 performers in a mix of authentic Afro-Cuban bata drumming, chant and dance, with elements of classical music, jazz and blues, rhythm & blues, funk and salsa.
Created in collaboration with co-writer/arrangers Dennis Guevara and Victor Pablo Garcia Gaetan, and Cuban choreographer Gilset Mora, Pablo Batista’s El Viaje will premiere at Temple Performing Arts Center on June 25th at 8 pm and June 26th at 3 pm.
Music: Pablo Batista demonstrating four-note motif and call and response.
Susan Lewis: El Viaje – (The Journey) – uses a four-note motif with a call and response.
Pablo Batista: It starts in Africa, with basic bata rhythms.
SL: Composer Pablo Batista wanted to combine these rhythms with strings.
Music: El Viaje, Part One
PB: The African drumming and the orchestral classical influences that were going on in the world was a beautiful combination.
SL: It also speaks to the more global nature of the story.
PB: It's really about my parents, grandparents, your parents, it's about people who have had to leave the comfort of their life or their country because they had to, whether it's economic slavery, forced slavery, or just wanting a better way.
SL: Batista is a percussionist of Puerto Rican heritage. He grew up in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, listening to salsa, jazz, R&B, rock, and more. He went on to work with Grover Washington, Jr, Alicia Keys, and others, while also studying folkloric rhythms from Africa, Cuba, the Caribbean, and Brazil.
PB: I always wanted to combine these rhythms, and I always wanted to combine these experiences I’ve had.
SL: And so the story moves, across the ocean, to new homelands, including New Orleans and Bethlehem, where the factories closed, but performance center emerged.
PB: They opened up the steel stacks, and it’s a beautiful venue... they revitalized the whole city.
SL: El Viaje, a work of music, sound, and light, is written for percussion, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, string quartet, voice, and dancers.