P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2003
March 22, 2004
Landmark Film Explores Music of the Cuban Religion Santeria
(North Adams, Mass.) -- When the Spirits Dance Mambo is a landmark film exploring the religion of Santeria in contemporary Cuban culture. The film -- which sold out Harlem’s Aaron Davis Hall at its premiere -- investigates the vibrant legacy of West and Central African religions that survived the Caribbean slave trade, fused with western tradition, and is preserved in contemporary Cuban sound, ritual, and movement. Featuring filmmaker Marta Moreno Vega for a Q&A session after the showing, MASS MoCA will screen When the Spirits Dance Mambo in co-presentation with the Williamstown Jazz Festival at 8pm on Thursday April 22, at the Club B-10 as part of MASS MoCA’s Thursday night Cinema Lounge series.
Vega’s documentary moves from New York City to Cuba to Africa to create a complete portrait of the roots and impact of the religion Santeria which means “the worship of saints”. Historically misunderstood by Europeans as a pagan worship of spirits and superstition, When the Spirits Dance Mambo demystifies and closely examines the Caribbean religion and its relation to modern Cuban society. Bought to the New World via the slave trade, the Yoruba and Bantu people of West and Central Africa preserved their religious and musical customs by cunningly disguising their ceremonies as the worship of corresponding Catholic saints. Though oppressed during various points of Cuban history – such as during the Communist regime – the ritual music of Santeria leaves an enduring influence on contemporary music scenes such as jazz, rumba, mambo, and hip-hop. Featuring street rumbas, religious rites, dance performances and live footage from New York City’s Latin Jazz/Big Band 1950s glory days, Vega’s film choreographs history and culture into a story of movement and pulse.
The author of Altar of My Soul – The Living Traditions of Santeria, Vega was inspired largely by the powerful connection she feels to her African-Latino heritage. In 1976 she founded the Caribbean Cultural Center -- an organization dedicated to promoting the cultural legacy of African descendants in the Americas. “After writing my book, I received so many inquiries about the importance of African belief systems in our lives,” Vega explains, “that the need for a more visual project started emerging.”
When Spirits Dance the Mambo is currently on tour, being screened nationwide to raise further awareness of Afro-Latino identity and culture. More information about the film can be obtained by visiting http://www.whenthespiritsdancemambo.org.
Tickets are $5.50, and MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can be charged by phone or by calling 413-662-2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line any time at www.massmoca.org.
The Williamstown Jazz Festival, from April 20th to April 29th, is a co-presentation of the Williams College departments of Music and Dance, MASS MoCA, and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce. The Festival will feature live performance, film, lectures, and dance lessons for kids and adults to both educate and entertain. Performers will include the Avery Sharpe Trio, gospel singers James Williams and the Intensive Care Unit, a Friday night Cuban Dance Party with Alfredo de la Fé at MASS MoCA and a Saturday night performance by the Benny Green/Russell Malone duo at Chapin Hall. For more information, visit www.williamstownjazz.com. Funding for the Williamstown Jazz Festival is provided in part by the Massachusetts Arts Council, the Berkshire Bank, Jazz Appreciation Month, the New England Jazz Alliance, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall St. in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release