El Sonido del Agua

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We are excited to share that on Saturday, January 26, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]), La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, and Texas Housers, with the support of UTHealth School of Public Health, UTRGV School of Medicine, and UTRGV-Cameron County will host a conjunto music celebration as part of the El Sonido del Agua project.

The celebration event will mark the live debut of six original songs that have been written through El Sonido del Agua—a multiyear initiative funded by the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund which aims to mobilize and equip residents of the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s colonias to tackle public health issues that arise from inadequate infrastructure. The lyrics of the songs composed tell the story of what colonia residents experience—the day-to-day challenges of living in these substandard subdivisions, such as flooding and a lack of street lighting. Project partners and participants hope to utilize these songs to draw attention to inequities of place and build momentum for colonia residents’ organizing campaigns to win change for their communities.

At the event, the four musicians commissioned through the project, who have worked alongside residents over the past several months to craft lyrics, will play the corridos for a live audience. Project partner organizations will speak about the goals of the project and the suite of events that will be taking place over the next few months as part of the effort.


El Sonido del Agua Workshops

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Alongside our partners La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, and four selected musicians (Frutoso Villareal, Jonathan Salinas, Refugio Ortiz, and Juan Manuel Alejo) we have recently wrapped up a series of three songwriting workshops in the Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres colonias.

In July, a workshop was held at each colonia where musicians, residents, and partner organizations came together to write corrido verses following discussions about daily life and the impact of flooding in the colonias. The workshops began a walk around the neighborhood and a Colonia Audit of Public Spaces (CAPS), where the residents recorded the physical conditions and their thoughts on spaces in the community focusing on areas related to drainage, flooding and safety. Musicians participated in the audit as well to hear about challenges and success stories within the colonias. After walking the neighborhood, the musicians performed some of their music and spoke about the corrido process and the musical elements that make a compelling corrido. Residents discussed the music performed and then began to write their own stories as corrido verses.

The second round of workshops took place in early September. During these workshops, groups worked collaboratively to write corrido lyrics, and residents shared out their writings. Musicians led conversations to explore the format of the song to be produced. At the end of September, residents, musicians, and partners re-convened to weave the writings produced through the second workshop into cohesive songs that represent the struggles of each colonia.

We are looking forward to continuing work with our partners, residents, and musicians to record the songs produced through these workshops and plan a dance celebration in the new year. Stay tuned for updates!

El Sonido del Agua is a multi-year creative placemaking project that supports the expression of local voice through music, and is supported by ArtPlace America.

Four Musicians Selected for El Sonido del Agua

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On June 13, 2018 the musician selection committee—comprised of community organizers, conjunto musician experts and designers—reviewed applications and held live auditions at the ARISE Support Center in Alamo, TX. The Support Center is just a few miles from Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres, two colonias which are focus areas for the project.

Four musicians rose to the top of the list during this session and the committee thought that finding a way for the four of them to work together would foster the best possible outcomes for the project. Two of the musicians are from the colonias themselves (one each from Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres). The other two live in the Rio Grande Valley and have experience working with colonias. This combination of local expertise and regional understanding of drainage and music should make for a lively experience!

We will announce the musicians at the July 11 and 12 songwriting workshops and community audits, to take place in the colonias. These events will kick off the next phase of the project. Musicians will lead corrido writing writing workshops, following walking community audits led by [bc]. The community audits are designed to support residents of the colonias in identifying, documenting, and reporting infrastructural issues that impact drainage and catalyze conversations about the challenges of daily living in a flood prone area. These audits and conversations will be a foundation for writing corridos (narrative ballads) about these conditions.

Additional workshops will be held this summer to refine the corridos and then produce conjuntos based on these stories. This effort to put the daily struggles that colonia residents face into song is at the heart of El Sonido del Agua.

 This project is supported by a grant from the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund.