Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca returns to New York with his Letters to Mother Africa series. He will present his “Cuba – Senegal: Letters to Mother Africa II” tonight, March 31, at 7:30pm, at Aaron Davis Hall at the City College Center for the Arts [located at 129 Convent Avenue between West 133rd and 135th Streets in Manhattan]. Alexandra Simon writes that the concert will be “an extension of his first installment, this time highlighting African roots of Cuban music and connecting a relationship between Cuban and Senegalese music.”
“The upcoming concert is a continuation and I present a second part of what I already presented, although this time I will be focusing more on Cuba,” said Villafranca. “Africa is still the theme and it’s what links both — but the focus is on Cuba and Senegal.”
He is elated to bring the concert to Harlem where he is playing for the first time, especially since the neighborhood was the home of Harlem Renaissance music legends he admires such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, he said. “I never played in Harlem, so I’m excited to do that because Harlem is a dear place,” said Villafranca.
Those legends celebrated Africa in their music and he will be paying homage to them and the by-product of their artistry, he said. “I look at the music of American composers who were doing something in relation to Africa and celebrating that legacy,” he said. “I’m going to be expanding a little bit on that concept but I’m still gonna touch on those American composers who also celebrated Africa and since we’re going to be doing it in Harlem, it seems appropriate to do that.”
At the concert, Villafranca will play never before heard music pieces he composed for films and some compositions from his mentors, he said. Unlike his previous show, this concert has some new sounds and new additions, said Villafranca. “This time the band is bigger and I’m bringing a set of music that is very unique in a sense that I’m not only using just percussion,” he said. “I’m also using strings — African strings.”
But to really highlight Cuban and Senegalese music, two percussionists one from each country will be playing, which Villafranca said he was looking forward to the most. [. . .]