Artist Biographies

De Inga y Mandinga Artists

 

Monica Rojas-Stewart

I was born in Lima, Peru two months before the military coup of Juan Velasco Alvarado, a turning point in Peruvian history that impacted my schooling and childhood in many ways. During my teenage years I became a National Dance Champion and started performing widely during the turbulence of the Shining Path. Dance became a hub for self-discovery, the safe place for self-expression where I nurtured my creative force. But dancing was (or is) never enough for me. I wanted to understand the who, what, where, why and how and dove deeply into the Afro-Peruvian community. The cajón drum had been the heartbeat that guided my dance and wanted to learn how to play it. That journey led me to cross several societal barriers starting with the opposition from my parents given that the cajon was a male exclusive instrument back then. As a result my musical skills were mostly self-taught because men also did not share across gender lines. These are some of the early life experiences that shaped my drive to self-reflect about my own positionality as a middle-class light-skinned Afro-Euro-Indigenous Latina practicing Afro-Peruvian music and dance, and to understand social dynamics and the multiple identities that crossed me and others. Then is when my intellectual, artistic, and activist journey to explore art as a tool for social change began.

De Inga y Mandinga is one of various platforms I’ve given birth to during my journey in the Pacific Northwest to express myself, activate others and educate about a history of slavery and colonialism in Peru and Latin America. The main mission of my artistic and academic work is to highlight the contributions of people of African descent and to center the voices of those who have been historically silenced. De Inga y Mandinga contributes with insider voices to fill gaps in historical narratives. The arts can unlock our own stories and the multiple identities embodied in us to walk in this world making better decisions to build together the world in which we want to live.

 


Antonio M. Gómez

Antonio M. Gómez is an educator, percussionist, arts administrator and public media producer who is passionate about connecting communities and learners with compelling cultural stories and arts experiences. A former K-12 teacher, Tony manages economically and culturally accessible education programs at Tacoma Arts Live, where he also designs curricula, as he has done for PBS’ Latino Americans and Italian Americans series and the Museum of Pop Culture’s American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music. As a percussionist, Tony specializes in Afro-Latin and Mediterranean genres. He performs with Trío Guadalevínthe Eurasia Consort, and Tango del Cielo. Recent projects include Ramas & Raíces – a transnational musical collaboration between Mexico and Washington state; and Diáspora en Diálogo, focused on the African diaspora in the Americas. He has been a frequent speaker on arts and culture for Humanities Washington and various universities and school districts. Tony was a Jubilation Foundation Fellow in arts education who works to shift marginalized stories to the center, from integrating K12 arts with culture and social studies to producing the National Race & Pedagogy Institute’s Migrations: Forced & Chosen. He holds an MA in education from the University of California, Berkeley, a BA from the University of Puget Sound, and has done musical study in Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Panamá, Spain, Italy, and Morocco.

 

Reynaldo Ruíz

Reynaldo was born in Bolivia, a country rich in music, culture, and traditions.  It was precisely this cultural environment that awakened in him the love of music.  At an early age he learned to play the guitar, which unbeknownst to him, it became his companion after moving to the States at the age of twenty-one.  He kept music close to his heart and learned to play Andean flutes while in North America and has been sharing this love of music ever since.

Music has always been a key element in Reynaldo’s life and feels proud to now collaborate with the Inga y Mandinga project.

 

Jabali Stewart

My name is Dr. Ernest Jabali Stewart. My family has always called me Jabali, and it is the name I have always used. My father’s father was named Ernest. I was named after him and wear his name with honor. He was born, raised, and died in the country of Trinidad, where my father too was born. Grandpa Ernest died young, but from all accounts he was an amazing musician, exercising his talent on the violin and the guitar. Music runs deeply on both sides of my heritage tree. My maternal grandmother, Evelyn McDonald, taught music for a living and all of her kids sang or played an instrument. In fact my mother and her siblings had a gospel group called the McDonald Sisters, which can still raise the roof to this day. My earliest music training came from my mother, as she taught me to sing harmony. I took that training and dove headlong into the world of rock through the doorway Jimi Hendrix provided. That ultimately led me to the Bad Brains, and the magical wonderland of punk rock where I became a lead singer and bassist for multiple bands. That path ultimately led me to the saxophone giant, John Tchicai, with whom I studied for three years.

From there the path got more academic. I took my on-the-ground musical learning and entered graduate school, where I received a PhD in Ethnomusicology. Throughout my studies I constantly struggled with the split between musicology and ethnomusicology, feeling as though the music of Europe and the rest of the world were not to be analyzed with the same sense of worth. This is a sentiment and practice by which I cannot abide. My studies on the intersection of music, dance, and ritualized violence only deepened that belief. During the course of my studies I was fortunate enough to begin playing with an Afro-Peruvian ensemble, which would morph into De Cajòn. It became a way for me to connect with more of the African Diaspora, allowing me to see how we used similar roots to magnificently different ends depending on where we landed in the New World. De Inga y Mandinga is a crown jewel of my time with De Cajòn. It has become a way in which my indigeneity from multiple root systems is given voice and honored. I look forward to sharing the space and the magic with you.

 

Taryn Webber

Little did I know in 2002 when I walked into my “Introduction to Afro-Peruvian Music” class with Monica Rojas in my first day of grad school at the UW that I would still be making music with her 20 years later!! Raised as a classically trained cellist and pipe organist, I developed a deep fascination with the music of non-western cultures during my undergraduate studies at Syracuse University. My senior year of college, I had the privilege of visiting a friend living in Seattle who was pursuing her a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at the UW, and I was hooked. I picked up everything and moved from my home state of Connecticut, took a job teaching orchestra and choir at a public middle school in Seattle, and began my Pacific Northwest adventure. My original intent was to pursue a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology, but after a few years of teaching realized that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. Coming from a mostly-white New England town, I have always felt that my perspective in life is very limited. Over the years I have yearned for ways to get out of the security of my life of privilege, and being a part of De Cajon has been a large part of that exploration for me. I have been playing with Monica and Jabali for the better part of the last 20 years, and I am hoping that I will continue to do so for another 20 more years in the future. De Inga Y Mandinga 2022 will be life changing experience for both the performers and the viewers, and I hope to see you all in the audience!

 

Eduardo Montero

Eduardo is a bass player and Music Director of DIYM 2014.

Music is a huge part of my life. Growing up in Perú I was always eager to try and learn any musical instrument I had access to on my own. I was also lucky enough to receive formal music education. As a kid, I got hooked on the bass even before I knew what it was, I could identify it and follow bass lines in music, trying to replicate them on piano and guitar. I played bass for the first time at age 15 and I never looked back.

It took years of personal research and reconciliation to discover that Afro-Latin music was my thing after realizing that I had hand picked only songs with African beats and patterns in my life’s playlists for decades.

Once in Seattle In an effort to expose my kids to their culture we went to see De Inga Y Mandinga in 2013. I was overwhelmed by the quality of production the sentiments and the history they were able to transmit through music, poetry and dance, and at that very moment I knew that we had to be part of it; Right after the show I introduced my self to Monica Rojas and the rest is history.

In all my years with De Cajon Project I have learned so much from my own culture and heritage, I have been able to better understand myself and my struggles and the parallels with Afro-indigenous communities in the Americas. For the past 10+ years I tried to find my place in the Seattle music scene playing as much and as often I could with several local bands and for the past 5 went on tour with several well known Peruvian musicians; But it is with De Cajón Project and especially with De Inga y Mandinga where I find purpose and meaning to every single note I play.

 

Milvia Berenice Pacheco Salvatierra

I am an Afro Latina artist born in Caracas, Venezuela where I began my career as a performer combining dance and theater training. Early experiences with trauma fueled a pressing drive toward movement. My first brush with the power of movement as a catalyst for healing came at age 13 during a theater arts project geared toward inner-city youth. By the time I was 18, I was certain that healing through movement was my calling. I devoted the next years of my life to achieving liberation (physical, emotional, intellectual, psychological) through art and movement. In this Journey, I have become a performer, choreographer, bodyworker, painter, poet, mother, and Community Organizer.  My mission is to be a conduit for empowering myself, my family, and my community. Rather than being a victim of the past, I continue to deepen the connection with my history and my ancestral roots to facilitate a process of healing, and further, to help the Afro-descendant community find sustainable ways to share who we are and reclaim equity in our social structure. MÁS (Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle) has become the platform where I am able to actualize and continue this empowerment work both as an artist and an organizer.

Since I arrived in Seattle in 2012, I have had a wealth of experiences that have led me to deepen my understanding of my positionality in the world as a black and immigrant woman from Latin America. One of the most important experiences that I have had and that has opened the door to deepen that understanding is Monica Rojas’ invitation to be part of the De Inga y Mandiga show at Langston Hughes in 2014. Participating in the De Inga y Mandiga show marked the beginning of a profound work of healing the wounds caused by the processes of racialization. In that first experience, I embodied a character who taught me about my black heritage and the Afro and indigenous alliances throughout Latin America, through theater, music, and dance. It also taught me that Afro-descendant women are much more than what those racialization processes impose on us. The character of La Negra Lorenza said: “I am what I am” and that statement, simple as it may seem, helped close a deep crack of pain and pushed me to continue searching for tools to help dismantle structural racism and inspired the work of creating empowering spaces for the black voices of our communities. That is why I accepted without a doubt the invitation to continue collaborating in the creation of DIYM 2022. To give continuity to that healing process and to continue enjoying and sharing the deep joy generated by the sound of the drums and our traditions.

 

Lian Caspi
My mom likes to remind me every time we talk about my birth that whenever there was music, I was playing along in utero. Throughout the generations, my family has built memories and foundational building blocks with the music that now fuels me. My parents met Israeli folks dancing and continued to dance barefoot together until the week before I came into the world (and after!) My Romanian-Israeli grandparents got to know each other in elementary school choir in Romania and still burst into celebratory, improvised songs every Friday Shabbat zoom call.
My Bulgarian grandma, Inga, grew up speaking Ladino and is a big part of my connection and participation in De Inga Y Mandinga. Even when she reached an age where she was no longer able to hold complete conversations together, she still joyfully sung along to La Vie en Rose by her favorite Edith Piaf. It has always been clear to me that music is the deepest connector and the most engrained stimulator of memory, history, and humanity. 

I was lucky to be able to pursue a classical music education and background, competing throughout Washington as a high schooler and college student. My classical singing training has given me technical skills that serve me today, but I’ve always gravitated towards using my voice in Jewish spaces, a cappella, jazz, and fusion based collaborations. After college, with the support of Watson and Davis grants, I had the honor of being able to work with music therapists and music oriented community organizers in several countries as well as work with groups using music to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. The thing I feel most passionately about is using music to connect and start a healing process, so I am deeply touched and excited to be exploring and sinking into the music of my ancestors alongside the brilliant and inspiring artists who are part of DIYM. Milvia Pacheco has been a dear friend and generous connector to the DIYM artists. It is such a gift to explore these stories and melodies together!