Music is a Language: Tania León

by Scott Lozier

Before she could read and write her mother brought her to a conservatory at age four. Tania León found that music was a language for her. It's how she understands culture and people. As an adult she became a CPA just in case music didn't work out. It did.In March 2005, Ms. León joined forces with Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, with whom she collaborated on her award-winning opera Scourge of Hyacinths. She's worked with Jamaica Kincaid, John Ashbery '49 and Derek Wolcott. In March 2009, the ballet Inura, with music by Tania León and choreography by Carlos dos Santos was premiered by Dance Brazil at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.Tania León is performing and conducting with the Harvard Wind Ensemble on Saturday 3/6 at 8 pm. Video of Tania on her music: [http://www.youtube.com/v/SpXH149-bBY&hl=en_US&fs=1&] Notes from Tania León's composition for the Harvard Wind EnsembleCumba Cumbakin is a transliteration of the sound of a certain rhythm played by congeros (conga drummers). Inspired by well known musical gestures and melodies of the music of Cuba of the 1940’s (i.e., son, guaracha, danzon, guajira, guaguanco), I grew up dancing to this rhythm. Someone would walk down the street singing: "Cumba Cumbakin, Cumba Cumbakin kin cum". Another inspiration for this and several other works has been the poetry of Nicolas Guillen, particularly his collection of poems, Motivos del Son. The well known writer Helio Orovio explains "The Son cubano is a style of music that originated in Cuba and gained worldwide popularity in the 1930s. Son combines the structure and elements of Spanish canción and the Spanish guitar with African rhythms and percussion instruments of Bantu and Arará origin. In New York City, it mixed with other musical styles to influence the creation of salsa music. The Cuban son is one of the most influential and widespread forms of Latin American music: its derivatives and fusions have spread across the world."

[Caption: Music from Tania Leon]