When Eugene Rodriguez started the band Los Cenzontles, in 1989, he had no idea how far-reaching his efforts to bring Mexican culture to light would become. Even though he was born in Los Angeles, in playing the music of his heritage, along with other musicians who valued its richness, Rodriguez felt an immediate joy.
However, as he continued to learn more about his ancestral culture, his natural inclination was to share his newfound knowledge with others. Thus, in 1994, he established Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center, so that young people especially, would have the opportunity to investigate and learn about the culture of Mexico.
Located in San Pablo, California, the non-profit organization not only trains young musicians and dancers, it fosters a connection between the generations, as youngsters are given the opportunity to perform before audiences and further herald the abundance of Mexican traditions.
Exploring the depth of Mexican culture for more than fifteen years has made Rodriguez an expert on the subject. Bringing it to life on the stage is his forte. Thus, when World City at the Music Center begins its ninth season on Saturday, Los Cenzontles (Nahuatl for “The Mockingbirds”) will be at the helm.
The band, which includes Fabiola Trujillo, Lucina Rodriguez, and Hugo Arroyo, along with Rodriguez, as well as his seventeen-year-old son Emiliano, will be performing a variety of music styles, including jarocho, the style of music from Veracruz, Mexico, and ranchera, a form of rural, traditional folk music. In addition, Rodriguez said the band will be performing their own original music with a distinctive tropical flavor.
Besides a mainstay of musical instruments including traditional guitars and percussions, others like the quijada, a percussive instrument made from the jawbone of a donkey, will add a unique element to the performance.
This will be the first time that Los Cenzontles will be performing as part of the World City series. Rodriguez said he is particularly excited about the opportunity to be in this concert, which is geared toward children and their families, because much of the work he does on a daily basis is about teaching and empowering youngsters.
“It is through the creative process that children become more confident and more communicative,” he explained.
Yet even though the music that is central to Los Cenzontles’ repertoire is seeped in tradition, Rodriguez says it is presented in a format that is thoroughly appealing to young people. The band strives to keep the music alive and current, so that it can be adapted to a modern world.
Rather than leave their heritage behind, Rodriguez hopes people will come to cherish the multiplicity of their past.
“It’s interesting to see how easily people abandon their own culture,” he said. “Not that they should always maintain the core elements of their culture, but that they can integrate those elements and create new combinations…and allow the traditions to keep moving.”
More about World City Performances:
- Also appearing with Los Cenzontles is Facto Teatro’s Toy Theatre production of Panteón de Fiesta, featuring stylized rod puppets on a miniature stage.
- The Walt Disney Concert Hall includes two outdoor amphitheaters. World City Performances are held at William M. Keck Children’s Amphitheatre, which has a seating capacity of 300
- Performances on Saturday, October 22, 2011 are as follows: 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
- FREE tickets are distributed on Grand Avenue at 2nd Street. (Tickets for 11:00 a.m. performance are distributed beginning at 10:00 a.m.; Tickets for 12:30 p.m. performance are distributed beginning at 11:00 a.m.; Tickets for the 2:00 p.m. performance are distributed beginning at 12:30 p.m.)
- Walt Disney Concert Hall – W.M. Keck Foundation Children’s Amphitheatre is located at 111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, 90012.
- Parking is $9.00 at the Concert Hall. Click here for directions and detailed parking info.
- The World City series continues through June 16, 2012, concluding with Kùlú Mèlé, an African dance performance.