By Ahmed Abukwaik || Contributing Writer
This article will make you want to dance!
Sike. I wish I could write that well.
There aren’t many email subjects that can get college students’ attention and that’s because it’s not unusual for the subjects of the emails to be pretty lame. Meaning, most emails sent out to students are ignored. However, this email subject, “[Students] This video will make you get up and dance!” was simple, to the point, and exciting. No, I did not end up dancing, but I ended up attending the event on Saturday night at 8pm on February 8th. It was presented by Sound Horizons, and was for “Folklore Urbano NYC Orchestra ‘El Barrio’ Project.” In all honesty, I made the decision to go based on the link attached, and not because I knew anything about Folklore Urbano music. The email read:
“Pablo Mayor, whose powerhouse orchestra has redefined modern Colombian music in the last decade is premiering his new album “El Barrio Project – SALSA”! … Pablo Mayor’s Folklore Urbano into the historic birthplace of salsa: Spanish Harlem and the Bronx, featuring his renowned arrangements and collaborative work with songwriters Nick Chavarria, Cruz “Chino” Melao, and Ricardo Gautreau.”
There I was on Saturday night, slightly nervous because of my lack of knowledge about this genre of music. Oh – I also don’t speak any Spanish. I figured I couldn’t be the only one, so I forged on. I arrived at Barshinger Hall very surprised at the vastness of the theater. Flashbacks of me falling off the stage during orientation kicked it. Ah, just a nervous freshman finding ways to make new friends! Interestingly, the event was not fully packed, and the crowds were in pockets; some were even on the balcony, making the venue feel too big. I had a feeling the combination of the lack of general knowledge of the topic, and the dispersed crowd would be a challenge for the performers. However, Mr. Mayor and his crew worked the crowd like pros! What they did so well was make their performance an interactive experience. One of the first to do so was the orchestra’s drummer, Jonathan Gómez. He popped up from his drum with a big ol’ goofy smile and encouraged the crowd to clap to a beat that matched the song. And slowly you could feel them bringing their energy to the crowd. Barshinger started to feel a little smaller.
A few songs in, Mr. Mayor invited people to dance. No verbal response from the crowd, but a small pack of professors gathered to the left, and a group of students to the right. The temperature in Barshinger went up just a little more. Although I did not understand the music, the orchestra took us up and down. They explained the meaning of their songs prior to performing, and it covered a variety of beautiful topics like love, community, movement, dancing, and more. Although understanding was a major obstacle, the feelings were there. And as the night and interactive aspect of the performance continued, my jacket had to come off. Song by song the orchestra had completely chipped away at the crowd’s stiffness, and roughly six songs, in they were able to bring students down from the balcony.
The dancing at the end was the cherry on top. By the last two songs, twenty plus people were behind the orchestra dancing, led by a guy who knew how to dance, but thought he could coordinate spin moves with only hand signals. I, along with many others, stuck to our two step moves. Side note – major shoutout to President Altman who was there dancing along. However, the highlight for me was the kid standing next to me. I’m not sure if he understood the context, but clearly the music had got to him, and he was jumping up and down like it was an EDM concert.
Thank you so much to everyone who put the event together, and I wish the project the best of luck. Their music will be available on Spotify, Applemusic, and other platforms soon! Check them out.
Sophomore Ahmed Abukwaik is a Contributing Writer. His email is email@example.com.