BYU community shares in Afro-Cuban tradition


Students filed into the Harold B. Lees Library’s Reynolds Auditorium to experience Afro-Cuban culture and jazz.

For decades, this style of music has formed the basis of Latin jazz in the United States, Cuba and around the world — and here at BYU, it was met with overwhelming support. 

Latin jazz combines the rhythmic traditions of traditional Afro-Cuban music with more progressive harmonies and improvisation of American jazz music.

BYU Spanish and Latin American literature professor Erik Larson incorporates Latin American culture, music and history into his language classes.

Larson, the bassist, has always gravitated toward jazz music because of the creativity it allows, which, according to him, is the essence of African American tradition. 

“I just love the improvisation — I love the idea of creating in the moment,” Larson said.

He mentioned how all jazz — whether jazz in the United States or the Cuban jazz they played — use a common language of rhythm and groove.

“That’s what I always like — the spontaneity,” he said.

Elizabeth Reynoso, a freshman studying Portuguese, is the vocalist for the band and is grateful for the opportunity put light on and represent Afro-Cuban music.  

“This music is so important to me because it’s classic Latin music that I grew up on,” Reynoso said.

She appreciated the opportunity to honor those cultures and help the BYU community better understand Latin culture and music.

“I thought it was really incredible that … we got this opportunity to do this for Black History Month,” she said.

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