Finding musical common ground
What's in a name?
the case of Planet Siqueiros Pe“a — an evening of socially conscious
traditional world music, contemporary musical styles and spoken word at
the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice — a name
tells a whole lot.
Siqueiros Pe“a is itself the derivative of two other names: the
revolutionary Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros combined with
traditional South American musical venues called "Pe“as."
Pe“a phenomena emerged during the 1950s in South America, especially
Chile and Argentina," says Marta Ramirez, one of the founders of the
evening and a former student of Siqueiros. "These popular gatherings of
rural folk musicians would come together in mountain villages playing
their traditional rhythms and singing about their everyday life.
in times of repressive governments, poets and artists were not allowed
to assemble. The Pe“as moved into private homes where musicians
discreetly shared with family and friends, their food and wine,
interweaving their songs of despair and hope for change."
It is in that spirit, and the spirit of Siqueiros himself, that Planet Siqueiros Pe“a began.
Alfaro Siqueiros's commitment to change through monumental art inspired
many young Chicanas and Chicanos of the 1970s," continues Ramirez. "In
the traditional downtown Placita Olvera, one of Siqueiros's murals,
America Tropical re-appeared under the whitewash that censored the
mural, painted in 1930. It was like an apparition that symbolized for
many muralists, the renaissance of art for social change."
of these young muralists was Judith F. Baca, who co-founded SPARC in
1976 and is now its artistic director. In the center's "Backspace,"
Baca directs a creative digital mural lab where she oversees the UCLA/
SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab community partnership, which she
The lab serves as an inspirational backdrop to the
Planet Siqueiros Pe“a, which kicks off its second season from 7:30 to
10 p.m. Saturday, January 24th, at SPARC, 685 Venice Blvd.
opening act calls itself, appropriately, the Santa Monica College
Guitar Ensemble. Louise Quevedo, who has been going to Pe“as since she
was a teenager, helped organize the trio of students from the Music
"It's interesting because Edgar [Zaragoza] has a
classical background, and then on the other hand we have Javier
[Kistte], whose background is flamenco," says Quevedo. "And then
myself, I have a background with Latin American folk styles. Together,
we're learning to speak to each other in our different genres, through
our instruments. We're learning the strengths of all the different
styles. They're all beautiful but have different flavors. We're trying
to find common ground musically."
Sounds like an emerging theme, no?
headliners of the evening are The Lefteous Sisters, featuring Angi
Neff, Ann Polhemus, Ericka Verba and Lisa Hornung, four friends who
sing songs with meaning.
"The style of music that we enjoy
singing and playing comes out of the folk tradition of purposeful songs
that tell great stories, take us out of ourselves for a moment, ask
questions of conscience and, hopefully, sound beautiful," says Angi
For the Planet Siqueiros Pe“a, the Sisters have come up with a special set list.
come up with a set list of original and traditional songs (sung mostly
in English) that not only reflect our current challenges as a people,
but also revisit challenges and struggles of the past," says Neff. "We
hope that the word 'folk' doesn't scare anyone away as it is a
time-honored style that continues to tug at music lovers' hearts,
generation after generation."
But when pressed as to why their music is inspirational, Neff deflects.
think the question is 'How has SPARC been inspirational to our music?'"
she says. "This is a wonderful venue, created by lovers of rich,
diverse cultures, and we have been inspired to come up with songs that
beg to be sung in an art space and environment committed to social
justice and human rights."
It sounds like an evening that is true to its name.
Information, (310) 822-9560, www.sparcmurals.org/.