Bantu: The Central African Legacy in Afro-Latin Popular Music

ACTA - Posted on 11 May 2016

Event Date(s)
6:00 pm

Brasil Brasil Cultural Center
11928 W Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066

Please join ACTA for our 2016-17 Roundtable Series in Los Angeles County. The Series is designed to strengthen intercultural arts networks and to offer opportunities for traditional and tradition-based artists and arts advocates to learn from one another through intimate discussion, technical assistance, skill-building, networking, and sharing community-based arts and culture. The Roundtable Series in Los Angeles County will offer programs throughout the year at various arts venues.

Bantu: The Central African Legacy in Afro-Latin Popular Music
The Black music of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia and the Caribean coast of Central America are close cousins, sharing a similar history of slavery and European colonization. However, little focus is given to the fact that the popular music and round dances have their roots in the Central African Kingdom of Kongo, in the diverse peoples that make up the Bantu ethno-linguistic group. Join ACTA Program Specialist Beto González and our distinguished guests for a multidisciplinary sharing event, exploring the subtle threads that unite these Afro-Latin musical traditions.

Confirmed Guests
Mestre Amen Santo (Capoeira Batuque)
Eduardo Martínez Arvilla (Afro-Colombian master drummer)
Rony Figueroa and Cheryl Noralez (Garifuna Heritage Foundation)
Hector Rivera (bomba practitioner, songwriter, poet)
Sonny Batata (Tata Nkisi Malongo of Brillumba Kongo tradition/independent researcher and historian)

Please see below for extended bios of our guest artists.

Before our opening roundtable, please join us for some light refreshments and meet ACTA's Los Angeles staff, other artists, activists, community organizers whose work is based in cultural communities, and learn about ACTA’s grant opportunities for folk and traditional artists.

6:00 pm: Artist and community meet-and-greet
6:30 pm: Roundtable discussion

This event is FREE and open to the public.

ACTA's Roundtable Series is generously supported by The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

Los Angeles County Arts Commission logo


Rony Figueroa is the Chief Financial Officer for Garifuna American Heritage Foundation United, Inc., a non-profit organization based in the city of Long Beach, California, and a current ACTA grantee in ACTA's Living Cultures Grants Program. He has facilitated cultural workshops at colleges and universities around the country and organizes community assemblies around Los Angeles County to create awareness about the social issues that affect Garifuna communities such as drug addiction, gang prevention, domestic abuse, as well as the retention of the language and culture which are the link to survival outside of Central America.

Rony is Internet radio producer and host of Garifuna Music and Talk With DJ Labuga. He was been awarded a Humanitarian Award by the City of Los Angeles in 2013 and a Garifuna Achievement Award/Entrepreneur & Activist presented by Garinagu Empowerment Movement in 2006. Rony is also the host of the Garifuna Language and Culture Academy online Wednesdays at 7:00pm at

Cheryl Noralez is the President and Founder of Garifuna American Heritage Foundation United, Inc. She was born in the town of Punta Gorda, Belize, and migrated to the U.S. at the age of 4. She founded GAHFU, Inc. in 2005 when she saw the need to preserve and revitalize the culture among Garifuna Americans. She established the Clifford J. Palacio Garifuna Language & Culture Academy which is now offering free Garifuna classes online through radio and

Eduardo Martínez Arvilla was born in Cartagena, Colombia, a city rich with African, Spanish, and aboriginal cultures and traditions. His studies in Afro-Colombian drumming began as a young boy, immersed in his city's oral history and music. He has learned drumming and gaita from some of the most respected masters of the tradition, including Paulino Salgado (aka Batata III) and Encarnación Tovar (aka El Diablo), two of the most famous Afro-Colombian drummers who play, make, and repair drums. After high school, Eduardo studied music at the Institute of Fine Arts in Cartagena, where he continued to practice and refine his skills in Afro-Colombian music performance. Following school, he became a workshop leader, and traveled around the world representing his country and culture. Additionally, he has toured with many groups including Totó La Momposina and Petrona Martínez.

Eduardo was a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2016 and 2014, with apprentice Alberto López. The apprenticeships focused on the rhythms and musical styles from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, such as cumbia, puya, chalupa, mapalé, tambora, bullerengue, and zambapalo.

Sonny Batata is a Tata Nkisi Malongo of Brillumba Kongo tradition. He is a cermonial drummer and "gallo" (singer) for Palo Monte ceremonies. He also spent many years playing bomba (Puerto Rican traditional drumming) as well Cuban rumba and bombe. Sonny is an avid researcher and historian of Bantu-derived rhythms and music that has a common thread through many cultures in the diaspora.

Hector Luis Rivera has been "moving the crowd" (the job of the MC) throughout the country for the past 20 years as an award-winning songwriter, poet and musician. His songs in diverse genres including, bomba, plena, and hip hop have enriched communities and are being sung, performed, published and republished internationally. When he is not in classrooms, community centers or university halls giving lectures or facilitating dynamic workshops, he is performing locally in Southern California with Puerto Rican bomba group Cunyà and creating songs to capture life's vibrancy and hope.

Hector was an apprentice to master artist Roman Carrillo in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2011. Together they studied the drumming, singing and dancing traditions of Puerto Rican bomba.

A native of Salvador da Bahia, Mestre Amen Santo is a recognized Mestre de Capoeira, master drummer, and is the Artistic Director of the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center. He began his artistic career under the guidance of Mestre Waldemar and Mestre Ávila in the Liberdade neighborhood of Salvador. He was mentored as a performer by Negão de Doni (percussion) and Emilia Biancardi (dance) and toured internationally as a member of Brazil’s historic premiere folk ensemble Viva Bahia.

In 1989, Mestre Amen founded the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center that serves as the home base for a professional touring ensemble (the Ballet Folclórico do Brasil) and the internationally renowned and longest-standing capoeira school in Southern California, Capoeira Batuque. He helped bring capoeira to a worldwide audience through his performance and choreography in feature films including "Only the Strong" and "Kickboxer IV." Mestre Amen has used dance and music as a platform for promoting intercultural interchange, Latin American diversity, and the African diaspora. He has also been honored in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and as a pioneer by the World Sokeship Council.

Mestre Amen Santo was a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2011, with apprentice Beto González, where he taught Afro-Brazilian Candomblé percussion.