LOS ANGELES - The influence of musicians such as Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Carlos Santana, Ritchie Valens, Selena, Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D'Rivera is explored in a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institute that will visit 12 cities in the United States, with dancing music included.
American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music is presented in both Spanish and English and opened recently in Sacramento, Calif.
The show highlights the contribu-tions of Latin music in many genres, from the 1940s to the present. It covers pioneers in rumba, such as Tito Puente and Johnny Pacheco, to contemporary artists like los Tigres del Norte.
"This is a selection of very important music that reflects the effect, the influence Latinos have had on pop music," said Evelyn Figueroa, exhibition project director. "The music from these artists crossed ethnic and racial barriers and helped to form pop music in this country."
The exhibit also highlights jazz, rhythm and blues, hip-hop and artists such as Alex Acuña and Celia Cruz.
"All of the artists in the exhibit have had a profound influence in the music of the United States," said Figueroa, who is a specialist in Latino art and culture. "Their legacy can be heard clearly in today's music."
For example, the Beatles included in their repertoire rhythms from the ballad "Donna" by Mexican-American Valens, Figueroa said. Emilio Estefan founded the Latin Grammys, and Santana popularized afro-latino rhythms in songs like "Oye como va," which was done originally by del timpanist Puente.
"When the great migrations from Latin America began, everybody that came to the United States brought with them their rhythms and traditions," Figueroa said.
"The Puerto Ricans arrived in the '20s, to Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, and they brought their bomba and plena (types of drums). The Cubans brought their sones (traditional songs) to Miami, and all that afrocuban influence, when it was integrated, brought with it those traditions and cultures. The rhythms were integrated because the value of those traditional rhythms came to be recognized with their use."
The show also celebrates the contributions of Latino artists born in the U.S., like Tex-Mex singer Selena.
The exhibition concentrates on five centers of Latin music: New York, Miami, San Antonio, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These cities were the principal producers of Latin rhythms since World War II, according to the Smithsonian.
"There are five centers of creation and development of Latin music that experienced the greatest migrations of musicians and Hispanics, where they settled and began to create music," Figueroa said.
The 2,500-square-foot bilingual exhibition includes interactive materials, photos and graphics, music stations and videos.
"American Sabor" will visit 12 cities across the country before the tour ends in 2015. The exhibit will be presented in museums and cultural centers where visitors can dance to their favorite rhythms.
"Of course we want people to dance. The basic function of music is the preservation of human culture, and part of that is dance," Figueroa said.