The Universal Languages of Music & Dance


In Argentina, a peña is a cultural gathering space of live folkloric music and dance, whose style and rhythms are born out of African and indigenous influences as well as the resistance during the Spanish colonial era. A peña can take place anywhere, from intimate spaces like somebody’s dusty back patio to massive dance halls rented out to put on big scale spectacles. The live music is the central element, and the dancing inevitably follows suit.


What tradition did I learn about?:

I’ll never forget the evening I stepped foot in my first peña. It was wintertime in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and I was far from home, far from New Orleans’ subtropical humidity and community, and I was doing my best to keep my spirits up. Upon passing through the double doors of the cultural center hosting the peña, (aptly named América Libre--Libre, as in free, and América, as in the whole American continent), I was greeted by the colors of the hand painted murals lining the walls. The sounds of guitars, violins, and profoundly percussive drums, known as el bombo legüero, painted the air, mixing with the sounds of many feet dancing rhythms like the chacarera and the zamba.