Fragments from Sonatas Cimarronxs

I’m back here now. Here in the cuna of the uprising—Boca de Nigua—my family’s land—such important land—but you wouldn’t know. There are no landmarks, no statues, no plaques, and no official holidays. The only festival to celebrate this historic land full of sites of rebellion and resistance was discontinued over a deacde ago. No remembrance.

There’s only the sounds of the tambores rising from the homes celebrating an orisha, or lwa, veiled as un santsincretismo—on the indicated day of the Gregorian calendar. The casitas de madera carry history in their planks. Los techos de zinc tell stories each rainfall. Los machetes that live behind the doors or holstered on a hip. Do we remember how we used them 500 years ago?

About the project

The term sonata originally distinguished a musical piece that is played instead of sung. The term was purposely redefined during the classical era to denote the organization, interpretation, and analysis of music. It became a way of imposing a structure over musical composition. This imposition of classifying systems on cultural history created categories of inclusion and exclusion--excising the "non-classical", denying it the status of music within rigidly oppressive binaries of the "civilized" and the "primitive" or "folk".

I am examining the sonata as a rigid structure imposed both with and without consent, a storytelling art in music bearing specific historical burdens and eurocentrisms. I am using the mechanisms of DJing to compose the Sonatas. DJing is often similarly Eurocentric, proposing discrete orders or "correct" approaches to playing or mixing music. This is a stark contrast to the early days of turntablism whose culture of technological and formal experimentation, DIY sound design, community-building and copyright-elision, all established the art form. I chose the container of the Sonata and DJing, both forms related initially to free expression, but co-opted into Western-imperialistic forms, to explore my own relationship to such restraints.

I work with music as a medium, not only because it is rooted in Black history, but because it represents a vast, alternate and unwritten history--the history and traditions of people who did not have control over (or even access to) archives and museums, or literary and artistic canons. Music sustained stories that were not preserved anywhere else, that were willfully excluded everywhere else. I've been thinking about sound as a transference of history—through story-telling, harmony and rhythm—elements often excluded from Western education and history for not fitting the canonical modes of transcription.

Conversations can be had without speaking the same language. Enslaved Africans separated on the basis of language to prevent solidarity, recovered it on dance floors, letting violently disconnected bodies seek and find connection as a collective body moved by the music's vibration.

Sound language. Movement language. By purposely composing using samples, I reorganize the thoughts and histories of others into new, speculative stories, fragmentary retellings of memories lost and untold. Although the loss is irrecoverable, the act of re-telling weaves connections between experiences, re-mapping the absent history that music and dance embody.

Sonata Cimarronxs are an invocation, weaving together a plurality of histories to create a rhizomatic collective shared memory. While my focus is on sound, both the visual and the site-specific are vital and necessary factors for my installation-performances. I work with specific sites of Black memory in the Dominican Republic and see my projects as counter-archives for both documentary and speculative investigations, sharing Afro-Indigenous history through sites, images and voices with the people who by right should own and know it: people who live in the DR and know nothing of the sites so vital to their own history and present.