Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Hispanic Caribbean Ensemble captivates audiences alongside Yasiel Garcia Valera, Karolina Arocho, Daymé Arocena

Courtesy of Kimia Rafieian

The 38-member Hispanic Caribbean Ensemble took Bates’ stage last Wednesday with constant rhythmic stimulation accompanied by dancers interlacing with musicians creating both an enriching auditory and visual display for their audience, as well as an enhancing environment for its members.

For the ensemble’s recent concert, they played 14 charts, welcoming guest artists Yasiel Garcia Valera, Karolina Arocho and Daymé Arocena. In addition to playing some of the guests’ original work, the group played famed pieces “Cartagenera” and “Toro Mata.” Robin Moore, director of Hispanic Caribbean Ensemble and Professor of Ethnomusicology, said he has selected and arranged most of the pieces in the past. However, students are steadily becoming more involved in that process.

“When I started leading groups like this back in the 90s, there wasn’t a lot of repertoire commercially available, so I spent a long time transcribing and arranging tunes from recordings,” Moore said, “We, more recently, have had folks join the group who have contributed a lot to repertoire.”

Although dabbling with carnival comparsa and political song traditions from the Caribbean, the group’s usual repertoire draws from international salsa, cumbia, boleros, cha-cha-cha, merengue and rumba. The ensemble provides opportunities with a band open to all students, and the group consists of a mixture of performance, ethnomusicology and non-music majors.

“For music majors, it has to do with professional training,” Moore said. “For those studying ethnomusicology, it’s a chance to get practical experience arranging (and) directing pieces in an ensemble… For others, it’s a chance to connect with music they grew up with… or that they have a special interest in and don’t have another outlet.”

Gabriel Araújo, a composition doctoral student, said his experience with the ensemble proves culturally, communally and musically enriching. Additionally, the ensemble’s environment granted him the opportunity to arrange the piece “Mar de Minha Mae” by Thiago Amud for this past concert cycle.

“Even though I am from South America myself, I knew some of the music that we were dealing with on the surface,” Araúujo said. “Being in the ensemble gave me the opportunity to go deeper in and to feel it more than just conceiving it on the surface.” 

Andy Normann, ethnomusicology graduate student, said despite his academic work in South African music, the ensemble has allowed him to pursue his love and appreciation for Cuban music, while in turn allowing him to grow as an overall musician.

“As a music scholar, performing is not the main thing that I do. But being in this group and learning the way rhythm and harmony work in Cuban music and getting to play with amazing artists like Daymé Arocena has really made me grow as a musician,” Normann said. “As I’ve gotten better at the bass, that’s something that I’ve been able to share with people during my fieldwork and it’s (helped) me build stronger connections with other musicians as well.”

Regarding his past concert and upcoming performance on April 26 alongside the Tex-Mex Conjunto and Bereket Middle Eastern Ensemble at Central Market North, Normann said in addition to his excitement playing alongside Arocena he was built up with emotions regarding his final performances with the ensemble.

“I’m graduating and I finished my Ph.D. (so) that was the last time I’ll play with the group in Bates,” Normann said. “We have another show at Central Market, a more public-facing gig… and it’s always a really great, fun opportunity for us to celebrate the semester and the progress we’ve made as an ensemble.”

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