From Puerto Rico – Balún
February 22 – 27, 2021
Brooklyn-based electronic indie band Balún self-identify as transnational. The quartet that broke out of the San Juan indie scene a decade ago has since undergone a formational odyssey through the industry, academia, and the stateside Puerto Rican experience. Balún’s long-awaited sophomore album Prisma Tropical focuses an incredibly wide field of genres and influences into a revelatory sound that evokes both of the band’s homes and the distance between them. Heavy doses of tiple, bomba barrel drum, and dembow work alongside loops and layers of shimmering synths to accomplish something explicitly of the island, yet fluent in the language of global pop. Tied together around the magical realism of singer Angélica Negrón’s lyrics, Balún’s deep understanding of reggaeton's Jamaican dancehall roots has transformed their shoegaze pop into “dreambow.”
Balún's LP 'Prisma Tropical' was released July 20th 2018 via Goodchild Music and premiered on NPR’s First Listen. Their single 'La Nueva Ciudad' Premiered on Remezcla and was Spotify Latino's Song of the Day, breaking into the Viral Charts globally and in 8 countries including Spain, Mexico, Chile, & Argentina. 'Prisma Tropical' was one of NPR’s Top 50 Albums of 2018, placed #4 in Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Latin Albums of 2018, and The New York Times named the single “Años Atrás” one of the "Best 65 Songs of 2018".
See them in action:
2 - 3:30 p.m.
LALS 152A: Race and Nation in the Caribbean | Isar Godreau
MUS 192A: Topics in Analysis of Early Twentieth-Century Music | Erin Gee
6 - 7:30 p.m.
MUS 103B: Theory and Musicianship II: Part 2 | Erin Gee
10 - 11:30 a.m. (artists arrive at 11)
HISP 111: Introduction to Latin American Literature and Culture | Kristen Turpin
2 - 3:30 p.m.
MUS 3B: Global Soundscapes | Judith Eissenberg
6:30 - 9:30 p.m.
MUS 86B: Improv Collective | Thomas Hall
Informal Presentation | Music at Mandel (Public Zoom Webinar)
2 - 3:30 p.m.
HISP 160A: Culture/Media and Social Change in Latin America | Fernando J. Rosenberg
2 - 3:30 p.m.
IGS 130A: Global Migration | Kristen Lucken
MUS 3B: Global Soundscapes | Judith Eissenberg
8:45 - 10:15 a.m.
Waltham Public Schools Program
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
CA 125A: Provocative Art: Outside the Comfort Zone | William Chalmus, Gannit Ankori, Mark Brimhall-Vargas
Global Currents Concert
Balún's album Prisma Tropical focuses an incredibly wide field of genres and influences into a revelatory sound that evokes both of the band's homes and the distance between them. In this new concert film–created for the Brandeis MusicUnitesUS residency– under the direction of renowned Puerto Rican filmmaker and performance artist Gisela Rosario Ramos, Balún will explore the physical, emotional, metaphorical and illusory distance between these spaces and how these notions relate to their band dynamic, creative process and transnational experience in both Puerto Rico and New York.
For this special concert film, the band met in Puerto Rico to record a live show that showcases and brings to the forefront the inspiration behind Prisma Tropical. The band will be joined by guests musicians (bomba duo, string trio and small conjunto jíbaro) as well as local artists and collaborators such as dancers, physical theater performers and mask builders. These collaborations will showcase the band’s Puerto Rican cultural influence, their connection to folk, classical and popular musical traditions, and the vivid arts community that are actively making art on the island and have influenced, shaped and inspired the band since their inception. Through musical performances, creative movement and a suggestive narrative thread that brings these elements together Balún considers how Puerto Rico is the meeting point for them not only musically but also in their shared lived experiences and in their collective quest for home.
At a time when many artists have been forced into a sudden pause due to the pandemic, it’s really important to us that for this project we engage local artists from different art disciplines in a creative process that pushes us all to reimagine what making something together means at a time of distance and isolation. We are very grateful to Brandeis University and MusicUnitesUS for making possible this creative opportunity during this historic moment. Since its inception, Balún has been nurtured from this type of interdisciplinary collaborations and for our residency and concert film, we want to highlight this and celebrate the incredible work that many local artists are doing on the island.
At the core of this project is the distance between spaces, those emotional and those physical, and it feels particularly meaningful that through this project we’re all able to come together in the same space to record this film. We're beyond excited because through this project for MusicUnitesUS we’re able to come closer to those that were far away from us and to build new bridges that connect not only to our shared past histories but to the present reality of the island while pushing forward to the new possibilities of tomorrow.
Read more from the artists and check out behind the scenes exclusives at The Meeting Point: Reflections on Punto de Encuentro.
Wayne Marshall is an assistant professor of music history at Berklee College of Music. An ethnomusicologist by training and an Americanist in the broadest sense, his research focuses on histories of sound media, popular dance music, and cultural politics. Marshall has published extensively in academic and journalistic venues, from Small Axe to Pitchfork to New York Magazine, as well as on his acclaimed blog, Wayne & Wax. He co-edited Reggaeton (Duke 2009), the first book on the genre, and complements his written work with online mixes, mashups, and other audible "technomusicological" objects.
Noraliz Ruiz holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology-Musicology from Kent State University. Her research focuses on the Puerto Rican lutes: cuatro, tiple and bordonúa; particularly in the continuity and change of the instruments’ tradition and performance practice. She has also conducted research about underground music scenes in Puerto Rico and the production of indie pop, electronic and new music on the island. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the popular music program of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. Noraliz is a member of the electronic indie band Balún and has performed in music festivals in the US, Mexico and Puerto Rico. She is also a co-founder of the children’s music group Acopladitos.
Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys and electronics as well as for chamber ensembles, orchestras and choir. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise.” Negrón has been commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, A Far Cry, MATA Festival, loadbang, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Sō Percussion and the American Composers Orchestra, among others. As the first composer-in-residence at the New York Botanical Garden, she composed an immersive work for electronic soundscape and 100 voice chorus performed in the Thain Family Forest. Upcoming premieres include works for Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic (Project 19), Dallas Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra (co-commissioned work for orchestra and organ), and San Francisco Girls Chorus. Negrón continues to perform and compose for film.
José Olivares is a musician, visual artist, and educator with over ten years of experience in composing/recording/working for film, TV, web, interactive installations, and physical media. As a visual artist and performer with his musical projects, dreambow ensemble Balún (co-founder along with wife and composer Angélica Negrón) and tropiglitch solo act Amigos Poderosos, José Olivares has presented his work internationally at venues such as Issue Project Room, Rough Trade NYC, Hermoso Ruido (Colombia), SXSW (music & education), Pop Montreal (Canada), Nuevo Fest, Santurce es Ley (Puerto Rico), among others. He holds a BA in film from the University of Puerto Rico and an MPS from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, where he specialized in interactive cinema and sound. As an educator, Olivares has taught classes and workshops in creative computing, digital literacy and music production for various organizations such as DreamYard Arts Center, El Museo del Barrio, and New York Philharmonic. Currently Jose works as a Director of High School Computer Science Academics with the NYCDOE Computer Science for All initiative developing curriculum, coaching and training public school teachers on various computer science topics
Born and raised in San Juan, PR, Raúl Reymundi trained from an early age at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and went on to obtain a BA in popular music with a concentration in guitar performance from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. During this time, he was active in the island’s independent music scene, performing with many acts across a variety of genres including Cellar Door, Odradek, and Ardillas. Upon moving stateside in 2011, he completed a degree in audio engineering from SAE Institute and has since toured across Mexico, Europe, and the United States. He currently works with the community team at Kickstarter, in Brooklyn, NY.
E. Bayoán Ríos Escribano is a Puerto Rican-Mexican film composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, folklorist, arranger, orchestrator, concert composer, and educator. Bayoán received the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album with singer-songwriter iLe, and was nominated at the 2005 Latin Grammy Awards for Best Folkloric Album with Tepeu, a Latin-American music group founded in 1973. He has recorded guitar, zampoña (pan flute), charango and bombo legüero (drum from the Andes) with renowned artists such as Eduardo Cabra (Visitante/Trending Tropics), Jorge Drexler, and Chambao. He has written and performed music scores for films such as “15 Lighthouses of Puerto Rico” and “¿Quién eres tú?”. Bayoán also works as an orchestra conductor, teacher and mentor for “Programa Música 100x35” and “Despertar Musical” at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.
Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and interdisciplinary artist Darian Donovan Thomas was born in San Antonio, Texas and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He is interested in combining genres and mediums into a singular vocabulary that can express ideas about intersectionality (of medium and identity). Necessarily, he is interested in redacting all barriers to entry that have existed at the gates of any genre - this vocabulary of multiplicity will be intersectional, and therefore all-inclusive.
Shayna Dunkelman is a musician and percussionist based in Brooklyn, NY. Dunkelman is known for her versatile and unique techniques, and use of electronics to access a sonic pallet not found in acoustic percussion. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan to an Indonesian mother and an American father, Dunkelman became a multi-instrumentalist performing alongside her mother. In addition to solo performances, Dunkelman tours with Du Yun, Balún, Emily Wells, Peptalk, Ali Sethi, and her percussion duo Nomon with her sister Nava Dunkelman. She has also performed with pioneers of avant-garde experimental musicians such as Yuka C. Honda, John Zorn, Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore, and Xiu Xiu.
Concert Film Director:
Gisela Rosario Ramos is an un-disciplinarian artist currently based in Puerto Rico. She studied Black and Puerto Rican Studies and Film and Media Studies at Hunter College, NYC, where she also worked as a documentary editor and was part of Eduardo Alegria’s performance shows in PS 122. Upon returning to Puerto Rico, she worked as Artistic and Programming Director at Casa de Cultura Ruth Hernández, organizing cultural events while continuing to edit and direct films. Her award-winning short documentary El Hijo de Ruby has been shown in international festivals. Her artistic persona, Macha Colón, performs rock/pop music with her band Macha Colón y Los Okapi in alternative venues since 2008. They released their first album Tanquecito de amor (Little Tank of Love) in 2016 and performed in NYC at the Loisaida Festival, La Marqueta Retoña in El Barrio, and the New New Museum. Recently, she won an international documentary competition to film Love Letters to an Iconess, a documentary about a Puerto Rican queer diva who’s now in her seventies. She’s an Art Matters Foundation and NALAC grantee and received the first Resiliency Award through the Arts from the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture in Chicago. She’s in post-production of her first feature film, Perfume de Gardenias to be released in 2021.
Concert Guest Artists:
Jimena Lloreda Droz is a freelance artist who specializes in costumes, puppetry, comics, and political art. Jimena holds a bachelor's degree in visual arts from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. From 2012-2017 Jimena led artistic workshops in the U.S., Taiwan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. She attended an internship program at Bread and Puppet Theater (Vermont) and traveled to Taiwan in 2015 as part of an artistic residency with Dream Community (Taipei) where she built floats, costumes, and masks for different communities. She fell in love with that island and decided to stay and work as an English teacher. In 2016 Jimena came back to her "nest" in Puerto Rico to give birth. She also reconnected with her life routine in San Juan– sharing with her mother, father, and brother, to whom she owes what she is now. In November 2017, after hurricane María hit Puerto Rico, her son Orion was born, and with him Jimena's interest in parenting and psychology. Jimena continues working on her exhibitions and theatrical presentations, however, she decided to focus on the series "disfraz del doble" (costume of the double), a series of full-body works that are a reflection of each other and symbolize emotions, and La Arruga: a comic art project founded in 2017 where the biographical is mixed with themes of psychology, intimate relationships, and self-help. Jimena is currently pursuing a master's degree in Psychological Counseling at the Carlos Albizu University in San Juan.
Lighting Designer Israel Franco-Müller (San Juan, Puerto Rico) is a designer of scenic arts (scenography, costumes and lighting for theater, film and television). Franco-Müller has developed an international career, and has participated in prestigious festivals and theatrical houses, among them: Teatro Círculo in New York and Escena Latina in Puerto Rico, serving as resident designer in both. He is an active member of the Association of Academics of the Spanish performing arts. He currently teaches in the Drama Department of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Puerto Rico. Among his publications are «El Catálogo Escenográfico», (“The Scenographic Catalog") and several articles available in the Repository of the University of Puerto Rico. He is an avid believer and practitioner of "light playwriting,” a concept that he develops and puts into practice both in his designs and in the collective "Watts". His designs have been presented in New York, Georgia, Washington D.C., Almagro, Madrid, Murcia, Santiago de Compostela, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Medellín, Calí, Juárez, Chihuahua, among other cities.
Camila M. Pérez Vázquez (Lighting Assistant) graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras with a Bachelor's degree in drama. She was part of the Watts collective, The Luminescence of Art and the RGBWhite collective. Camila is a member (dancer) of Areyto National Folkloric Ballet Company in Puerto Rico, where she also collaborates with lighting and set designs. She has traveled to New York along with lighting designer Israel Franco Müller to work at Teatro Círculo company and to Miami with the Areyto ballet company. She currently works as an assistant and technician with the Creative Scenic Design Company.
Pati Cruz (Camera) was born queer and raised Catholic in Puerto Rico. The Catholic aspect slowly disappeared, the queer remained. They spent some years in New York, then other years in Cuba; and have learned to live with these opposite realities. A professional nomad until they find a piece of mountain to settle down. Pati is now back in Puerto Rico trying to live, writing and making movies.
Edrimael Delgado Reyes (Mover / Choreographer for Balún’s song La nueva ciudad) is the founding leader of the La Laboratoria Boricua de Vogue (Boricua Vogue Laboratory). Edrimael creates cultural events and rehearsal spaces for the LGBTQ+ community based mainly on the exploration of vogue as a discipline and other contemporary and Afro-Caribbean movement techniques.
Giovanna Sosa Santos (Mover) obtained a bachelor’s degree in performing arts with a concentration in dance at the University of the Sacred Heart, Puerto Rico. She is an experimental dance artist who focuses her dance making in rhythmical, improvisational and traditional dances from Puerto Rico, specifically Bomba Puertorriqueña. Currently developing several interdisciplinary projects, the artist questions are invested in the process of knowledge production by afro-Caribbean ontologies of the body. Her actual research is motivated by the sound perceptions that the body can grasp from the musical instruments, songs, corporeal relationships, and the eventual reminiscences left in the space where the bodies performed. Giovanna’s aim is to create cultural appreciation and navigate possibilities in the making of culture and its practice.
Aneek Uhuru (Mover) is a Caribbean artist, educator and communicator. Certified Yoga Teacher at the School of Mystic Arts, Holistic Coach, Coordinator of the community project Puerto Rico Reverdece en Bienestar y Salud, and collaborator in the artistic platform PISO Proyecto. She is dedicated to researching and facilitating comprehensive holistic health practices, working primarily with meditation techniques and dance-movement therapy.
Rosalyn Iannelli (Guest musician, cello), a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been a cellist with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra since 1980. Iannelli obtained the position of Principal Assistant Cellist in 1984 and served as Interim Principal Cellist sporadically for a total of 6 years. Throughout her career, she has participated in many chamber music ensembles. She has recorded in many albums of Puerto Rican popular singers, including artists from the past and contemporary stars.
Nubia Marina García- Meléndez (Mover, güiro player) began her music formation learning Puerto Rican bomba at an early age. Nubia holds a bachelor's degree in Music and Modern Languages from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She is currently studying classical vocal performance with the Puerto Rican soprano Zulimar López. She has worked as a bomba dancer in the folkloric group Cimiento de Puerto Rico and as a teacher of bomba dance at the Escuela de Bomba and Plena Rafael Cepeda, both directed by Dr. Modesto Cepeda Brenes. Nubia has participated as a percussionist in various projects such as: Open Music by ProArte de Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Opera Theater and the San Juan Children's Choir. As a singer she has performed in the Lyric Opera Studio of Weimar, the Coralia Concert Choir, the San Juan Philharmonic Choir and the Puerto Rico Opera Choir. She is the founder of the Bomba group Son de la Peronía, a group dedicated to interdisciplinary projects and community workshops. Nubia is currently a music professor in the San Juan Children’s Choir where she teaches Puerto Rican music, percussion and Puerto Rican cuatro. In her music career, she is committed to cultural projects that serve communities at risk.
Luis Santiago-Bartolomei (Guest musician, tiple) was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and has been involved in music since he was six years old. Luis holds a Bachelor of Arts with a major in music from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master of Composition for Audiovisual Media from the Conservatori Liceu in Barcelona, Spain. He is a Puerto Rican cuatro and tiple player, violist and composer. Although his professional life has taken him to other paths, he has never separated himself from music making.
Miguel J. Muñoz (Guest musician, cuatro and bomba barrel drum) is a Puerto Rican composer and percussionist. He completed a master’s at the Liceu Conservatory in Barcelona, Spain. Miguel is based in Puerto Rico and works as a percussionist and freelance composer. His latest works include sound design and original score for Lisa Loomer’s Living Out (Casa Ajena) and Emilio Rodriguiezes Gentefrikation, premiered at Teatro Prometeo in Miami. He also worked in the award winning short film “La Ráfaga'' (The Gust) which received various awards such as, Best LGBTQ short, Best Actor, both at the Rincón International Film Festival and best Sound and Music at FEEDBACK LGBTQ+ Toronto Film Festival. Miguel also collaborated as Audio Supervisor in the short film “Letra” and is currently working as sound designer and composer on the 2021 premiere short film “Magda” and the theatrical play “El Huevo del Gallo”.
Inspired by her travels and artisan work, Daniela Fabrizi (Costume Design & Maker/ Wardrobe Consultant) is a lover of clothing and textiles. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, and of Argentine paternal descent, she has cultivated a particular interest in Latin American textile techniques. Daniela began her career in Puerto Rico, she later moved to New York where she continues to grow and develop as a freelance artist in this field, taking her to work in other places such as New Orleans, Hong Kong, London and France. Her work experience ranges from film, styling, theater and television to textile projects with the community which led her to create her own independent projects. These initiatives are inspired by sustainability and zero waste awareness, being her main intention to recycle different materials, objects and fabrics, reusing and redecorating them to give them a new life. Projects: Feria Calle, an event that supports artists who use recycling and recovery of materials as the main action in their practice; Tejedorxs de Magias, workshops that seek to rescue textile traditions from the reuse of materials; Garbagia is a project that celebrates the authentic life of upcycling and, finally, her brand as a designer and textile artist, Le Chat Costumier.
A native of Patillas, Puerto Rico, Dama Estrada (Set Stylist/ Wardrobe Consultant) is Elisa and Roque's 13th child, a true daughter of Yemayá and street celebrity. She loves to swim and ride her bike. Music and art are her passions; in short, she's too busy enjoying life.