Rumba, conga, and Afro-Cuban jazz. Mambo, cha-cha-cha, and salsa. Cuba’s rich and diverse culture delighted American audiences in the 20th century. From tourist-packed Havana cabarets, to New York City dance halls, to the silver screen of Hollywood films, Afro-Cuban rhythms surged in popularity between the 1930s and ’60s, rewriting the history of American music and dance. American jazz and big band swing, in turn, greatly influenced music in Cuba, where new hybrid genres added polyrhythmic African elements to the mix. Turn the Beat Around replays this artistic exchange, illustrating how musicians of both nations produced new musical forms by riffing off their neighbors. Showcasing posters, record and sheet music covers, film clips, and audio from the era, the exhibition charts the explosion of collaborative creativity driven by Hollywood musicals, American dance studios, and Cuban performers, bringing to life the musical fusion found between cultures.
We gratefully acknowledge Vicki Gold Levi for her donation of objects that inspired this exhibition.