Inaugural Lectures

Professor Sue Miller: Charanga, Pachanga and the enduring influence of Latin music

  • 16.00 - 21.00
  • 29 Mar 2023
  • Leeds School of Arts, Leeds Beckett University, City Campus, Leeds, LS1 3BP
Professor Sue Miller: Charanga, Pachanga and the enduring influence of Latin music
Hiding in plain sight, Latin influence is everywhere in jazz and popular music and often goes unacknowledged. In her Inaugural lecture Professor Sue Miller demonstrates how these Latin styles evolved historically and shows, through musical examples, how many aspects of these performance practices are embedded in a variety of vernacular dance music forms past and present. Also on 29 March 2023 there will be a performance from Sue's 12-piece Latin band; Charanga del Norte

While many people know about Cuban music from the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon of the late 1990s, from the Cubop experiments of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo in the 1940s, or from the Fania Records salsa projects, the roots and routes of clave-based Latin dance music are not as well known. For example, the Cuban charanga line-up (of flute, violins, timbales, congas, güiro, piano, bass and singers) alongside the Cuban trumpet-led conjunto format are major contributors to what most people know today as salsa.

The charanga orquesta was hugely popular in 1960s New York and was rebranded there as the pachanga ‘style’, originally a term in Cuba that simply meant ‘party’. The co-creator of both the pachanga and salsa marketing terms, Dominican-born and New York-raised Johnny Pacheco, was himself a charanga flute player and percussionist who directed his own charanga and conjunto bands in New York in the 1960s before he set up Fania records to promote his music in the USA and later internationally. Even before these developments the transnational Cuban danzón as played by Cuban orquesta típicas in the late nineteenth century and the early charanga orquestas of the first part of the twentieth century lie at the roots of ragtime and jazz.

This lecture is part of Leeds Beckett University's Inaugural Professorial Lecture Series and is happening as part of the LEEDS 2023 Season One: Awakening showcase

Also appearing on 29 March; Charanga del Norte, the exciting sound of New York and Cuban Charanga at the Leeds School of Arts as part of the launch event for this building. Charanga del Norte is a traditional ensemble that plays Cuban dance music performed by violins, flute, piano, bass, singers and Latin American percussion.

Sue Miller is a Professor of Music at Leeds Beckett University. Her research interests include Cuban music (history, analysis, and performance), Latin music in the USA, performance aesthetics, improvisation studies, music and dance relationships in animation film, and French popular music. Her PhD on flute improvisation in Cuban charanga performance at the University of Leeds (2011) was based on her studies in charanga flute improvisation with the legendary flute player and improviser Richard Egües from Orquesta Aragón in Havana. Building on this practice-research her books Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation (Scarecrow Press 2014) and Improvising Sabor: Cuban Dance Music in New York (University Press of Mississippi 2021) document and re-evaluate the history of clave-based Latin music in both Cuba and the USA.

In conjunction with her academic writing Professor Miller is also a professional flute player and musical director of the UK's only full charanga orchestra 'Charanga del Norte' which she founded in 1998. Performances have included concerts supporting Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa (The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester) and Orquesta Aragón (The Barbican, London). Her recent British Academy funded practice research project employed experimental archaeology approaches to live studio performance and this research led to Charanga del Norte’s live take recordings on their new album Pachanga Time. As a linguist with a degree in Languages (French, Hindi and Linguistics) from the University of York and an MA in Applied Translation (with a specialism in French Popular Music and Culture) from the University of Leeds, Professor Miller also has an interest in vernacular musics with a broad international reach and is currently researching Caribbean musicians’ influence on twentieth-century French popular music.

A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, she has also published in the field of music education contributing book chapters on the teaching of improvisation and on the creative combination of performance and production in higher education, informed by both her professional practice and her extensive experience as a music educator.

Charanga del Norte is a 12-piece Latin band set up in 1998 by bandleader Sue Miller. Sue studied Cuban flute improvisation with the legendary flute player and composer Richard Egües from Orquesta Aragón. The group has performed at many venues and at festivals as diverse as Cambridge jazz, Harrogate International, Sidmouth Folk, and Cheltenham International. They have also supported internationally renowned Cuban bands Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa in the main concert hall at The Bridgewater Hall, and Orquesta Aragón and Changüi de Guantánamo (booked by The Barbican in London).

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