By Gaetano Kazuo Maida
October 16, 2022
“The drum is like a heartbeat.” —John Santos
I grew up in the Bronx in the ‘50s. This was in an old Italian neighborhood, full of grape arbors and fig trees (even a goat!), but by the time I was eight our neighbors on one side and across the street were from Puerto Rico, and on the other side were African Americans; it’s mostly Caribbean now. My public school was a ten block walk from home and most of my classmates there were Jewish. My parents were a mixed couple (Japanese/Sicilian) and most of their friends were mixed in one way or another as well, so I had a strong sense of a wonderfully polyglot community that ill-prepared me for the rather homogeneous and affluent population of my elite public high school. But it did open my ears to a wide variety of music. The soundtrack at home was folk, blues, soul (long story), flamenco, and opera, but in the streets it was doo-wop and Afro-Caribbean.