American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, the UW-curated exhibit that ran at the Experience Music Project in 2007-08, is heading to the Smithsonian Institution, and its three curators — Michelle Habell-Pallán, Shannon Dudley and Marisol Berrios-Miranda — could not be more proud.
The exhibit shows the powerful influence of Latino music and culture on the pop mainstream in the years since World War II, and will be on display at the Smithsonians Ripley Center (International Gallery) from July 11 to October 9, 2011.
Sabor in Spanish means taste, or flavor. In American Sabor the curators ask, “What makes the music of the United States tasty? What flavors distinguish it, and where have they come from?” The interactive exhibit includes record sleeves, lyrics, posters, musical instruments, films and listening kiosks where visitors can hear the music for themselves. It focuses on five cities representing the diversity of Latino popular music: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio and San Francisco.
“American Sabor has generated more attention, more relationships, and more spinoff projects than anything I’ve ever done,” said Dudley, an associate professor of ethnomusicology. “It has been a vehicle for sharing our research in many ways — in museums, classrooms, conferences, and publications.”
Dudley said the exhibit is also “great timing, given the tensions surrounding immigration and the growing Latino population in the U.S.,” because the exhibit is about exposing people to “a more inclusive narrative of American society and culture.”
When the exhibit was new, Habell-Pallán, associate professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies with an adjunct appointment in the School of Music, described it saying, “Everybody knows the story of how rock emerged — country and western got together with the blues and had a baby named rock and roll. But there was a third party there, too: The rhythms and musical sounds of the Latino community. You can’t have rock and roll in the U.S. without that third element.”
Berrios-Miranda, who has taught UW classes in ethnomusicology, music education and Latin American studies, said at the time, “Without Latino music there wouldn’t be any pop music in the United States as we know it. And what is exciting about this exhibit is the amount of creativity and enthusiasm and love that Latino musicians have given to the U.S. that has never been acknowledged.”
The EMP project also was supported by the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities and the College of Arts & Sciences. The Smithsonian touring exhibition is supported by a grant from the Ford Motor Company.
After the EMP and the Smithsonian, American Sabor will next be found in bookstores, Dudley said.
“It’s only now, with support from the Simpson Center for the Humanities, that we are getting around to writing a book, and we’re looking forward to doing that. But to have the exhibit showing at the Smithsonian is a great validation for our efforts to work outside the traditional forms of research and publication.