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The strum of the cuatro and the bass of the bongos

Berklee summer series celebrates Latin music

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
The strum of the cuatro and the bass of the bongos
Dancers from Meta Movements keep the action going during the Tito Puente Latin Music Series in the South End. Photo: Celina Colby

The hills may be alive with the sound of music, but the South End is alive with the sound of tapping feet and Salsa beats. Every Thursday in July and August, Berklee and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) put on a Latin music concert as part of the Tito Puente Latin Music Series.

On the Web
on the web See the Tito Puente Latin Music Series schedule at:

“People come from all over Boston and beyond to attend these outdoor concerts,” says Abria Smith, associate director of community engagement at Berklee. “People end up dancing with people they’ve never even met.”

The Tito Puente Latin Music Series in the South End. Photo: Celina Colby

The Tito Puente Latin Music Series in the South End.
Photo: Celina Colby

Each concert is held in a different park around the city and features a different Latin musician or band. IBA recruits three acts and Berklee recruits the other three. Musicians are only given the stipulation that the music should be something people can dance to, and that usually means salsa.

Zayra Pola

Last Thursday 3nity, an all-female Boston area band led by Zayra Pola, headlined. 3nity celebrates both female musicians and international talent. “We have three big influences,” says Pola. “American music, Latin music and African music.” Though the band now has nine performers, it originated as a trio. The three founding members, including Pola immigrated to the U.S. from different countries and met while studying at Berklee.

Pola says 3nity works hard to bring their own cultural experience to the audience. “As a Puerto Rican, I have African roots and I have Spanish roots,” she says. “When we are on stage we send our crowd on a trip with rhythms from different places.”

Many performers are Berklee alums or educators. Eguie Castrillo, an associate professor of percussion at the school will perform with his salsa orchestra Mar del Norte on Thursday, July 19 at O’Day Park in the South End.

The Tito Puente series, now 11 years old, is one of the most popular series’ of Berklee’s Summer in the City programming. And like most Latin American gatherings, there is a lot of dancing. MetaMovements Latin Dance Company attends the concerts to teach basic salsa steps to new dancers. But for every duo learning new steps, there are two more swishing hips and clapping hands on the dance floor like they never left the barrio square.

The series isn’t only a chance to highlight Latin American musical talent; it’s an opportunity for Boston’s Latinx community to come together in a celebration of their culture. And what better way to revel in your roots than to the strums of the cuatro and the bass of the bongos?