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  • Joe Bataan: The Afro-Filipino King of Latin Soul

    Music, activism, creativity, and community collaboration are celebrated in this FREE evening concert and discussion on Friday, October 19, between 6:30 p.m and 9 p.m. at the Baird Auditorium of the National Museum of Natural History.

    This program is a tribute to Joe Bataan, a musician who symbolizes the intersections between Afro-Asian-Latino histories and cultural forms. Born and raised in Spanish Harlem, Bataan said, “My father was Filipino and my mother was African American, and my culture was Puerto Rican.” Through the 1960s and 70s, Bataan was an enormously popular bandleader and hailed as the “King of Latin Soul.” Of his music, he said, “Latin soul comes straight from the streets of Harlem. It’s a cha-cha backbeat with English lyrics and a pulsating rhythm that makes your feet come alive.” Bataan recorded his first album Gypsy Woman in 1966 and later founded the company Salsoul Records. After a hiatus of 20 years, during which he worked as a youth counselor, he is performing again at venues worldwide.

    The program features a concert by Joe Bataan and his band. It is preceded by a discussion with Joe Bataan, African American Studies scholar Dr. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, and activist and performer Nobuko Miyamoto, whose 1973 album A Grain of Sand was recorded on Paredon Records and is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings catalog. With them, we revisit the political and cultural ferment and collaboration of the late 1960s and early 70s in New York City when groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, Asian Americans for Action, and El Comité contributed to dynamic social justice movements, catalyzed largely by young people, which inspired cultural pride, creativity, and activism. Miguel “Mickey” Meléndez, author and former member of the Young Lords, will moderate the discussion.

    The program is presented by the Asian Pacific American Program and the Smithsonian Latino Center, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the Americans All: Immigration/Migration Initiative. It is part of a project, led by the Asian Pacific American Program and the Smithsonian Latino Center, which explores the ways that the American experience is animated by the many intersections connecting Asians and Latinos, the two fastest-growing populations in the U.S. Through a year-long series of programs, this pan-institutional and interdisciplinary initiative is expanding public understanding of the changing face of American history, art, and culture.

    This program is free. But seating is limited and available on a first come-first served basis.

    For more information, please visit or call 202-633-1240.

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