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Roberto Borrell collaborating with SOMArts
Award: $35,000 Traditional Arts grant awarded in 2001
Presented: April 13-21, 2002

Roberto Borrell and Orquesta La Moderna Tradición collaborated with SOMArts to produce an evening-length multi-disciplinary concert, Musica Cubana, exploring the genres of Cuban music that lead up to Timba, a modern popular dance music. More than 10 ensembles (many featuring the same musicians in different configurations) performed the finished work. Borrell researched, transcribed and composed the appropriate music and brought from Cuba the necessary (locally unavailable) talent to create a work of the highest quality. Among other highlights, he was reunited on stage with his siblings, “the dancing Borrell brothers,” for the first time in many years.

The finished work was presented four times at SomArts’ theater in San Francisco, and in two workshops at Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center in San Pablo. SOMArts collaborated with the artists, managing technical, administrative and production arrangements for this complex work, and providing a venue for the performances.

Percussionist and dancer Roberto Borrell learned traditional and popular Afro-Cuban dance, percussion, and song from master musicians and dancers while growing up in Cuba. He led the Afro-Cuban Folkloric group Kubata, in Cuba for 10 years before coming to the United States in 1980. First settling in New York, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, in 1996, and founded Orquesta la Moderna Tradición—one of the only U.S. ensembles that is dedicated to the performance of classic Cuban dance music. At the time of the Creative Work Fund grant, he co-directed Orquesta with violinist/composer Tregar Otton.

SOMArts, celebrates the multicultural texture of San Francisco by presenting art reflective of the City’s diverse communities. Founded in 1975, it is based in a 30,000-square foot city-owned cultural center with two art galleries, rehearsal spaces, and a 300-seat flexible theater.