ORI-GEN IS A JOURNEY TO THE ROOTS AND BACK
— WITH THE FUTURE IN MIND
For the past year, the Ori-Gen Collective, a diverse, New York-based group of Latino music makers including multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy winners, has been developing platforms to explore and present new combinations of Latin American roots music, jazz, and technology in contemporary pan-Latin music.
But just as plans were taking form, the COVID-19 pandemic imposed its own priorities and set its own schedule. The Collective then pivoted, and launched a series of free, weekly online concerts and a weekly Ori-Gen Podcast
“This is our response to this crisis. Each one of us tries to do our part, to contribute something positive, and music is what we know and what we do,” said singer and songwriter Sofia Rei, a founding member of the Collective and part of the curatorial committee. “As a collective, we came together to play a greater role in how our music is presented. We were thinking of changing the future. But now we feel we need to work on the present. That’s what the urgency of the moment requires. We all have this need for community, to feel a sense of belonging, and music helps create that — and we need it now.”
The Ori-Gen Collective includes bassist Pablo Aslan; singer Lara Bello; percussionist Rogerio Bocatto; bassist Alexis Cuadrado; arts writer and musician Fernando González; vocalist and guitarist Juancho Herrera; pianist Arturo O’Farrill; singer Sofia Rei; drummer Antonio Sánchez, singer Kavita Shah; percussionist Samuel Torres; trombonist Papo Vázquez and saxophonist Miguel Zenón.
“We started this Collective simply because it didn’t exist, and many of us felt there was a need for it,” said O’Farrill, a founding member and also part of the curatorial committee. “When surveying the landscape of festivals, we saw a decided lack of Latino presence, and what presence we had, was dictated by promoters who didn’t necessarily have any expertise in our music. So we banded together to share our experiences and resources.”
The collective is also launching a weekly podcast “to have a space for musicians and music workers to talk to each other, exchange ideas and get inspiration in a scary situation,” said podcast producer and host Pablo Aslan. The Ori-Gen Podcast will feature news, interviews, and, of course, music.
Most of the founding members of the Ori-Gen Collective came to the United States following the sound and promises of jazz. Educated in classrooms, on stages, and recording studios, they then applied those experiences to reinterpret and reimagine their home traditions.
It’s work that, in its wide variety of approaches and styles, challenges, at times radically, postcard notions of Latin music.
The attitude “is timely. It speaks to the atmosphere that we’re in,” said O’Farrill. “Different thinking is the future. We can’t do things the way we’ve done them, not in live settings, not in virtual settings, not in the planning of events or in setting an aesthetic policy. Things have to change. The world of jazz is much bigger than the one being put forth by the institutions that define it — and given the contributions that we’ve made to this music, we demand a seat at the table. That’s all.”