By Beverly Grafton
Singapore Latin American Arts and Cultural Centre
This coming week, Wednesday the 30th of September, sees me back onstage, together with the wondrous Wayne Sandz, for the Singapore Latin American Arts and Cultural Centre's (SGLACC) Online Zoom Concert series.
For many, Latin America may only mean as little as Salsa (the dance), tacos and Pitbull. If you're curious about the SGLACC and what they are about, I caught up with founder, Alina Ramirez, who fills me in on all the juicy bits. Read on for more!
To start things off, I asked Alina when the SGLACC was founded and it turns out, it wasn't all that long ago as almost a year ago, on the 18th of October 2019, the centre was officially opened. I recall the nights where, over a bottle of wine at Senor Taco, Alina would share with me the difficulty she faced in finding a suitable location where the centre could take root. I remember the long arduous search that nearly drove her to exasperation until they finally settled in at Pearl's Hill Terrace.
Of course, when one sets off on a journey to face that much adversity right from the get go, the purpose surely is a strong one and for Alina and her dream of setting up the centre, it was passionately stronger than the kick from a raw habanero pepper.
"We aim to establish and strengthen the connection between Latin American countries and Singapore through the arts. (We want) to preserve the spirit, diversity and richness of the Latin American cultural heritage among the local community, creating cross-cultural experiences." said Alina, when asked of the founding intent for the centre.
Through collaborations with musicians on projects like a choir, a Latin big band, and workshops for topics like Jazz, Percussion and, of course, Latin music, SGLACC has left quite a solid footprint on our shores in the short time that they've been around. But they're not just about the music. As an arts and cultural centre, they have organized festivals, art exhibitions, concerts, conferences and events specially for kids, which expose the children who attend to cultures beyond our shores. In fact, the centre is such a huge advocate for education that they offer a multitude of lessons ranging from dance to art to theatre to language as well.
With such a full schedule and the sudden onset of a global pandemic that has brought most of the world to her knees, one begs to ask, how has the pandemic affected the centre and its activities?
According to Alina, just like everyone and everything else, it all came to a grounding halt.
"We had to stop EVERYTHING, only some music lessons and language lessons went online." That's when she decided to create her Online Concert series. In fact, as of today the 26th of September, the SGLACC has just aired their 70th show, a commendable feat considering the limitations they've had to face from watertight regulations governing our movements from the start of Phase 1, post Circuit Breaker.
Here are some of the past concerts from the SGLACC's Online Concert Series
"With the support of people (audience) who were interested in keeping the project (SGLACC) alive by attending the concerts and with students continuing with their lessons, we have managed to pull through the last 6 months. And then we also have the support of the performers musicians and friends that believe in the project and are keen to share their craft with an audience that we are building up gradually. On top of that, our audience members from all over the world are willing to tune in at whatever time it is in their country. It is with this support from all directions that the centre has been able to survive this adversity." she says.
As an audience member myself, from time to time, I recall Alina mentioning during some shows that feature Latin American acts, that some performers have to sometimes wake up at 7am just to make it in time for the soundcheck and technical set up for the Zoom call. Being a performer myself, I can and will vouch that it is hard to do that and still be energetic, entertaining and still technically brilliant on all fronts by the time you're on, which is usually five hours later. But believe me when I say that they are always amazing. I come from a background where I was highly exposed to Latin music at an early age because of my father, whom Alina knew very well before I even came onto the scene. So, I know my Latin music.
With the start of a new year looming only months away, I asked Alina what lies ahead for the centre and without missing a beat, she aspires for one simple thing; that the centre become a space of reunion and interchange for diverse communities to share art and culture.
- To find out more about the SGLACC's events, classes and more, click here.