The Canadian premiere of “We Like it Like That” took place at the AGO’s Jackman Hall on a warm Saturday evening. The documentary, part of this year’s aluCine Latin Film + Media Arts festival, has already received plenty of accolades since its world premiere at SXSW in 2015. “We Like It Like That” recounts the events leading up to the creation of a new genre of Latin music.
After the largest migration of Puerto Ricans arrived in New York in the 1950’s, the children of these immigrants found themselves growing up in a world different from that of their predecessors. However, they did not see themselves reflected in popular American culture either. Harlem quickly became the epicenter for Latino and African American communities in New York, and the cultural exchange that happened because of this is reflected in music like the Boogaloo, and the genres that came after it. At this cultural crossroads, traditional Latin music was not something young New York Latinos could relate to, instead finding themselves more drawn to popular African American music. Searching for a way to resolve the contradictions of their identity they found similarities between beats like the Cha-cha, Mambo or Guajira and the Blues, Soul and Jazz. The sound created during this short-lived period created a ripple effect that is felt to this day.
As a Latina woman who grew up consuming North American culture it was heartening to know that people before me have struggled with the same questions of identity as it relates to growing up with several, at times very different, cultural backgrounds. I’m reminded of contemporary genres that bridge the gap between what has been and will be, A Tribe Called Red being the most prominent Canadian example. What began as a series of Electric Pow Wows in Ottawa makes a perfect marriage between traditional Pow Wow vocals and drums with electronic music. The musicians behind ATCR are heavily invested in improving the lives of their communities and offer a supportive, creative environment in which Native youth can celebrate their heritage whether they’re on the Rez or in Downtown Toronto. For a taste of what this fusion looks like in South America, groups like Bajofondo Tango Club, Sidestepper or Bomba Estereo are worth a listen. It will be interesting to continue witnessing the constant evolution of these genres, especially now that the Internet allows for more democratic distribution networks and access to global audiences.