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Meet the Authors / Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York City

Sounding Salsa:
Performing Latin Music in New York City
By Christopher Washburne
Philadelphia: Temple university Press
272 pages; $26.95 [paper]

Book presentation: October 01, 2009

by Christopher Washburne
Location: Centro Library East Bldg. 3rd Floor,
Main Library Entrance

Meet the Authors: Christopher Washburne

Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York City
By Amanda Bermudez

He grew up in Ohio with few to no Latino influences. He decided to move to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a rock star, and he found salsa – music he could play like one.

Chris Washburne, an associate professor of ethnomusicology at Columbia University, and the founder and director of Columbia’s Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, spoke about his unlikely career path Thurs, Oct.1, at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies’ first “Meet the Authors” event of the fall. He recalled hisadventures playing salsa throughout the mid-1980’s with some of the salsa greats,such as Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades, Gloria Estefan, and Marc Anthony, to name a few. Chris also spoke about playing with “La India” and how she was one of the leading females to break through the maledominated salsa scene. He went on to say her first hit, “Ese Hombre” became an anthem of female empowerment. As Chris continued to play salsa, he said, he was affected by the culture and the influences that formed salsa music.

Chris’s Sounding Salsa captures how culture directly affected and formed salsa music in New York. Salsa had a history that had not been written, and he tells the story about how culture, violence and drugs affected the way the music was formed and played.

Sounding Salsa addresses a range of issues, musical and social. Musically, Washburne examines sound structure, salsa aesthetics, and performance practice, along with the influences of Puerto Rican music. Socially, he considers the roles of the illicit drug trade, gender, and violence in shaping the salsa experience. Highly readable, Sounding Salsa offers a behind-the-scenes perspective on a musical movement that became a social phenomenon.

"Christopher Washburne has drawn a fascinating portrait of salsa’s musical and business practices. As a professional trombonist for top salsa bands, he combines the intimate knowledge of an observing participant with the critical distance of scholarly analysis. I was impressed with his deft interpretation of controversial issues in studying salsa."

—Jorge Duany, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, author of The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States.

The complete video recording of the book presentation is available for viewing at Centro Library.

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