Diversity, tradition and innovation – ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! announces its 13th season of free family performances and community outreach by top-notch Latino artists from the U.S. and Central America. The season line-up features the tropical cumbia rhythms of Buyepongo, Latin-Grammy winner Gaby Moreno, La Cuneta Son Machin from Managua, Nicaragua, and Mariachi Aztlán from the Rio Grande Valley; as well as local favorites, Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet from Los Angeles.
The name Buyepongo means “to cause a ruckus” – which certainly describes the scene whenever this band launches into its dizzyingly energetic, instantly infectious rhythms with congas, guacharaca, accordion, bass, guitar, sax and fantastic vocals. But it also describes Buyepongo’s riotous mash-up of influences: hip-hop, punk, funk, and jazz, which form a delirious tropical blend of styles from across the Latin American diaspora. Founded by Ernesto Modesto and his brother Randy in 2011, Buyepongo is well-known on Los Angeles club and festival stages and has played Levitt Pavilion’s Summer Music Series and Hollywood Forever’s Día De Los Muertos, with regular tours throughout the U.S.. Buyepongo’s cumbia dance party opens Viva’s 13th season with free events September 28 – October 1.
One of Los Angeles’ most popular folk dance companies, Grandeza Mexicana was founded in 2003 by Jose Vences, an accomplished choreographer and dancer who spent his formative years as a member of Amalia Hernandez’ Ballet Folklórico de México. Whether depicting celebrations, ceremonies or daily rituals, Grandeza’s choreographic work is based on careful research and reflects a commitment to preserving the traditions of Mexico’s history into the future. The company regularly appears on Los Angeles stages, and last August they paired with iconic Mexican-American vocalist Lila Downs for two nights at the Ford Amphitheater. Grandeza appeared in Santa Barbara with Viva in 2008, and 2012, and returns January 18 – 21, 2018.
Nicaragua’s first artists to be nominated for a Grammy, La Cuneta Son Machin has created a unique style based on popular Nicaraguan folkórico, infused with rock, marimba, cumbia and ska. Friends and cousins, La Cuneta came together in 2009 when the musicians were inspired to join Managua’s annual Santo Domingo Festival parade as it passed by in the street, leading to the name – “la Cuneta,” meaning “the sidewalk,” and “son machin,” a play on the English words “sound machine.” Their fourth album, Cañambuco, was released electronically in May 2017. La Cuneta performs in Santa Barbara County venues February 8 – 11, 2018.
Born and raised in Guatemala, Los Angeles-based Gaby Moreno learned to speak English by immersing herself in the songs of jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin. Named Best New Artist at the Latin Grammies in 2013, Gaby is co-composer of the theme song from TV comedy Parks and Recreation, and made the iconic recording of the classic song Smile, by Charlie Chaplin, for the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. On her latest album, Ilusión, released in September 2016, Gaby looks back to her past and the spirit of the aspiring immigrant artist who made her way in a new country with just her guitar, her velvet voice, and a pocketful of songs she was eager to share. Gaby Moreno performs with a quartet in free performances March 8 – 11, 2018.
The Rio Grande Valley is the proud home of Mariachi Aztlán, a sixteen-member group of students and professionals based at the University of Texas, Edinburg. Selected numerous times as the “Outstanding College or University Mariachi” in nationwide competition throughout the past twenty years, Mariachi Aztlán has performed at the White House, the Hollywood Bowl, the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Mariachi Aztlán premiered the stage production of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, the world’s first mariachi opera in collaboration with the Houston Grand Opera in 2010 and premiered El Pasado Nunca Se Termina with the Chicago Lyric Opera in 2015. Mariachi Aztlán released their first CD, Mi Nombre Es Mexico in 2015. Mariachi Aztlán perform with Viva April 26 – 29, 2018.
¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! was founded in 2006 on the belief that everyone deserves access to the inspiration and joy of live performance. A leader in community outreach in Santa Barbara County, Viva is a collaboration between Isla Vista School, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, The Marjorie Luke Theatre and UCSB Arts & Lectures. Each Viva weekend starts with cultural programming in schools and afterschool programs, and culminates in free performances of music and dance that distinguish our Latino heritage at neighborhood venues in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara and Guadalupe.