The Afro Cuban Jazz Ensemble performed in Knuth Hall at SF State on last Wednesday using rare instruments and vocals to serenate an audience of students and Parkmerced locals.
Director John Calloway has been part of this program for 18 years and learned that music will constantly evolve through his students. He believes a genre that’s so old, but so impactful, should be shared among all musicians, who should use this knowledge to enhance their own style of music.
Also known as Latin Jazz, this type of music combines South American rhythms with a “tinge” of Spanish influence, which explains why most of the vocals were sung in Spanish.
“From what I have seen today in our performance, we have come along way since the start of the semester,” Calloway said. “These bright students have exceeded my expectations on what they are capable of doing on stage.”
When brass instruments like the trombone, saxophone, flute and trumpet follow alongside artists who play the piano, base guitar and normal guitar, the sound the audience hears is as diverse as the people who play beside each other.
“Overall, I had a great time,” music major Kai Longa said. “ I think some parts were better than others, we had a good time, but it’s just such a good time playing this music which has been so influential throughout so many years.”
Switching off between songs that had a more instrumental sound and songs based off a more vocal sound gave the crowd a sense that each aspect of this music is just as important as the other.
“It looks like it’s fun, but it’s probably the most difficult ensemble you can be a part of,” said Jason Seei, a vocals major. “I like to dance and have a good time while I sing, but that doesn’t really mean that it’s easy, and in the end I think me and my singers did a really good job.”
According to Calloway, Afro Cuban Jazz first emerged in the early 20th century with rapid-paced beats and intense singing.
“I feel very proud that we are able to preserve a very sacred art form,” Longa said. “We want people to see what’s out there, it’s not just old beats with musicians behind it, the whole entire culture envelopes us while we perform and helps us appreciate the world of music even more.”
The artists part of this ensemble aren’t limiting themselves to the school grounds of SF State, but are also spreading their musical talent in other ways across the Bay Area.
‘This was a lot of fun for me,” Ahkbel Mestayer, fourth year music major said. “I love to play this music and to have it shared and to see my peers. This gives us an opportunity to show what we have been practicing and how our art form isn’t just modern. This show we just played, though it is short, trails back hundreds and hundreds of years.”