From Tito Puente's mambo dance rhythms to the Spanglish rap of Mellow Man Ace, American Sabor focuses on musical styles that have developed largely in the United States-including jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, punk, hip hop, country, Tejano, and salsa-but also shows the many ways in which Latin@ musicians and styles connect US culture to the culture of the broader Americas.
A long-running exploration of the contributions of Latinas and Latinos to US pop music has taken the form of a new bilingual book from the University of Washington Press. American Sabor: Latinos and Latinas in US Popular Music (2018) marks the latest product of a collaboration led by Marisol Berríos-Miranda (Music), Shannon Dudley (Music), and Michelle Habell-Pallán (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies).
The authors also prepared a Spotify playlist of music celebrated in the book, from Tito Puente and Richie Valens to Selena, Santana, and Susana Baca. The project has already taken the form of a 2007-2008 museum exhibit at the Experience Music Project (now MoPOP), a traveling Smithsonian exhibition, and a multimedia website.
The collaboration has extensive Simpson Center connections, beginning with a funding award in 2011. Former Simpson Center Associate Director Miriam Bartha consulted with the project leaders on bridging the worlds of academic scholarship, museum exhibitions, and community partners such as KEXP. Habell-Pallán received the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public last year for her contributions to the field, including American Sabor. Habell-Pallán is also Director of the Certificate in Public Scholarship, a joint program of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Bothell, the Graduate School, and the Simpson Center.
The book builds on the exhibition’s work of challenging the white-and-black racial framework that dominates many narratives of US musical history. But the sabor in the title is significant, showing role of pleasure, delight, and movement that infuses the intellectual critique. From the publisher:
Evoking the pleasures of music as well as food, the word sabor signifies a rich essence that makes our mouths water or makes our bodies want to move. American Sabor traces the substantial musical contributions of Latinas and Latinos in American popular music between World War II and the present in five vibrant centers of Latin@ musical production: New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Miami. From Tito Puente's mambo dance rhythms to the Spanglish rap of Mellow Man Ace, American Sabor focuses on musical styles that have developed largely in the United States-including jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, punk, hip hop, country, Tejano, and salsa-but also shows the many ways in which Latin@ musicians and styles connect US culture to the culture of the broader Americas.
Update: The School of Music hosts a book launch for American Sabor at 4:30 pm on Thursday, May 17, featuring the authors along with musician Juan Barco, EMP Curatorial Director Jasen Emmons, and Miriam Bartha, co-founder of the UW Certificate in Public Scholarship.