EOU students deliver Afropop hits and tropical tunes

By on Friday, February 25th, 2022 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

LA GRANDE – (Information provided by Eastern Oregon University) With spring around the corner, celebrate the return to warm weather with a performance of tropical classics by Eastern Oregon University’s 45th Parallel Ensemble. 

EOU’s instrumental ensembles, The 45th Parallel, African Drumming Ensemble and EOU Fiddle Ensemble, perform a collection of tropical and pop style songs on March 4.  

“We do a concert at the end of every term. This is all music that is new to us this time,” said instructor of jazz and contemporary music Greg Johnson.  

The 45th Parallel is EOU’s jazz and world music ensemble made up of 12 students. It’s upcoming performance focuses on Afro-Cuban, Afropop, and Calypso music, rather than American jazz. 

“We’ve had a lot of fun with this music. It’s different in many respects from a lot of the stuff that we’ve done before. It’s not so focused on the American jazz tradition, but more focused on other music of the African diaspora and some different approaches to some similar ideas,” Johnson said. 

The 45th Parallel will perform eight songs, including “Donde Estabas Tu?” by Ernesto Duarte Brito, “Amor Verdadero” by Cheo Marquetti and “Distinto, Diferente” by Lazaro Villa. Concertgoers will also enjoy music popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club, a Cuban ensemble from the late 1990s. The performance will use a mix of percussion and instrumental arrangements.  

“The style of African music that we’re doing, Afropop, has been popular the last 50 years in West Africa, and it’s a different approach to some similar ideas from the world of fusion and jazz. I think it’s a program that will be surprising to some people and very interesting and not something that you can hear every day in La Grande,” Johnson said. 

All ensembles will perform separately with some overlap and collaboration.  

“We are talking about adding African drumming to a couple of our tunes, so there may be some collaboration there. I’m also planning to feature Senior Instructor of Music Tech Luke McKern playing guitar on a couple tunes as well,” Johnson said.  

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. on March 4 in the McKenzie Theater. The event is free and open to the public. Donations for music scholarships are gladly accepted. 

“I’m really excited about the fact that we’re taking a look at a group of songs and arrangements that are challenging and not typical of what we’ve done before. For me, it’s really a step outside the traditions with which I’m most familiar and I think that everybody will learn some things about what’s possible with a student ensemble with this concert,” Johnson said.  

Learn more about The 45th Parallel at eou.edu/music/45th-parallel.