In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Edgar Paiewonsky-Conde is hosting a three-part radio series on selected popular music of the Hispanic Caribbean. The programs air on Oct. 3, Oct. 17, and Oct. 24 from 10 to 11 a.m. on WHWS-FM. The show will be rebroadcast on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 10 a.m.
“The programs are oral histories of Hispanic Caribbean music and culture dating back to the 1930s and ranging through the late 1990s,” says Paiewonsky-Conde. “Most importantly, I am trying to present a form of rediscovery. I’m presenting music that the older generations will relate to, but I also want to help the younger Hispanic generations uncover the cultural treasure in that music.”
The programs will be aired in English and are loosely based on a three-part series that Paiewonsky-Conde recorded in Spanish for The Spanish Action League of Syracuse. The first in the series has already been broadcast, but the remaining two programs will be aired in Spanish on 620 AM from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 and Oct. 10.
The first program airing on WHWS, on Oct. 3, will present a panoramic view of the music of Puerto Rico. Paiewonsky-Conde will focus on the Bomba and the Plena, and cover some of the main exponents of this music from the 1930s through the 1990s, including Canario y su Grupo, Cortijo y su Combo, Ismael Rivera and El Gran Combo.
On Oct. 17, Paiewonsky-Conde will trace the explosive development of Salsa among the Latino population of New York City in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. He will explore the roots of the movement as well as its subsequent impact on music. Some of the main figures of the period will be featured, including Willie Colón, Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, Rubén Blades and Eddie Palmieri.
The final installment of the series, on Oct. 24, will feature some of the great composers of popular music in the Hispanic Caribbean, moving from some of the early classic pieces through the Salsa boom to later compositions. It will feature such composers as Benny Moré, Miguel Matamoros and Arsenio Rodríguez, from Cuba; Rafael Alberti, Luis Kalaff and Juan Luis Guerra, from the Dominican Republic; as well as Rafael Hernández, Bobby Capó, and Tite Curet Alonso, from Puerto Rico.
Paiewonsky-Conde, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, says that his passion for popular Hispanic music goes back to his childhood listening and dancing to this music. As a graduate student at New York University – where Paiewonsky-Conde received his Ph.D., M.S. and B.A. – he also remembers the vibrant salsa boom in the 70s: “I’m very much involved with that in an experiential manner,” he reflects.
At HWS, Paiewonsky-Conde fosters his musical passions through his teaching, in particular with his course, “Literature and Music of the Hispanic Caribbean.” He explains that the course began as a Caribbean literature course, but he restructured the course so that both the music and literature are given equal focus.
“I realized that the actual artistry, the talent and the craftsmanship of popular music was superior or at least equal to the actual high culture product of literature, so I restructured the course” he says.
Paiewonsky-Conde was this year’s recipient of the faculty prize for teaching. His scholarship includes critical articles of lasting influence on the Spanish Renaissance and the narrative of contemporary Latin America. More recently, he has been at work on a book featuring six short story writers, to be published by Verbum (Madrid) under the title El Caribe cuenta (the Caribbean counts/narrates). His verbal poetry, both the traditional and a minimalist mode he calls “icons/iconos,” has appeared in North American anthologies and Latin American publications. One of his poems in Spanish was recently published in an issue of La Revista Áurea, an eminent poetry magazine in Madrid. Much of Paiewonsky-Conde’s recent attention has focused on a project of visual poetry (“eye poems/poemas videntes”), which he has begun to circulate for future publication.