What’s in a name?
In 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.
Planet 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.”
“The 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.
“Later, 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.
“David 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.”
One 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 also founded.
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.
The 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 Department.
“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?
The 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 Neff.
For the Planet Siqueiros Pe“a, the Sisters have come up with a special set list.
“We’ve 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.
“I 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/.