WXPN connects Latin artists with audiences

Latin Roots Live! is a free concert series highlighting Latin music.

For Bruce Warren, listening to live music is an “emotional” experience.

“It’s joyful, it’s beautiful and it’s moving,” said Warren, a 1979 education alumnus. “When you go to a concert, that should happen. You should have that reaction.”

Warren is the executive producer of Philadelphia-based station 88.5 WXPN’s radio show, World Cafe. It presents an eclectic mix of music through means like Latin Roots, a bi-weekly segment on the show that highlights Latin music and brings artists to Philadelphia.

With support from the William Penn Foundation, WXPN partnered with AfroTaino Productions to create Latin Roots Live!, a concert series inspired by the radio show’s segment and includes live performances from Latin artists at World Cafe Live on Walnut Street near 31st. This is the second year of the three-year-long initiative.

Warren said the segment started because of an emerging audience with an interest in Latin music that was “underserved.”

“It started with the recognition that there was some amazing music in the world and how could we do our part to best showcase that,” he added. “There weren’t a lot of outlets for Latin musicians in Philadelphia to showcase their music on a wider platform.”

“We live in a musically diverse world and it’s important to showcase all kinds of music,” he added.

World Cafe provides artists with a venue and production support, and promotes the events by webcasting performances on VuHaus, a platform to watch music videos. All of the concerts are free to promote accessibility.

Rahsaan Lucas, a partner for AfroTaino Productions, said WXPN approached the company two years ago to collaborate on the concert series.

“We said, ‘We can not only deliver what you’re asking for, but we also can see where this could take flight and go to different levels,’” Lucas said. “We have a lot of great stuff planned and it’s only getting bigger and better.”

AfroTaino Productions — which formed in 2005 to present more multicultural events — helps WXPN connect with and book artists for the concert series.

Lucas said Latin Roots Live! is an “untapped well of cultural influence” that provides Latin artists “a safe space and acceptance.”

“There aren’t many outlets that cater directly to their networks, to their talents or to their audiences,” Lucas added. “There’s nothing like being in a space and not having to redefine yourself or explain who you are and where you come from all the time.”

Warren said Latin Roots Live! is reflective of WXPN’s overall mission: connecting artists with audiences.

“It’s amazing to see the creative energy in the bands,” he added. “You don’t have to speak the language to connect to the music. We’re glad to have that opportunity to bring that to people here in Philly.”

In July, Latin Roots Live! presented Nuevofest, a free Latin music festival at FringeArts. Six bands, like the Sexy Zebras, performed and exhibited the “full range of musical flavors and really connected emotionally,” Warren said.

By presenting an array of artists, like mambo bands and traditional folk bands, the concert series reflects the diversity of the Latin genre.

“We’re not world experts on it,” Warren added. “We can’t think of a better way than this program that sort of represents our ability to sort of make that happen and also to make it happen with a broad range of music, not just a common line.”

Grace Shallow can be reached at grace.shallow@temple.edu.

Emily Thomas contributed reporting.

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