The annual Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert celebrates Ralph's mind and spirit, his untiring and wideranging cultural work, his all-encompassing humanity, his commitment to traditional musicians and artisans, and his never-ending will to increase and diffuse knowledge in support of cultural democracy.
The 2008 concert honored New York City's René López, a grassroots cultural activist, lay scholar, educator, collector, and music producer. René was among Ralph Rinzler's special friends and colleagues in many ground- breaking field research projects and musical endeavors. Both were keen on research, documentation, and respectful presentation of musicians and their genres and on the importance of disseminating grassroots arts and traditions to diverse audiences across the world. Their collegiality led to years of Smithsonian performances, archival documentation, recordings, and public programs.
Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquino, one of numerous culture and advocacy projects that René López gave birth to, became legendary after its founding in 1974 for experimental recordings that brought together some of the most gifted, often little-noticed elder composer-musicians (with deep connections to Puerto Rican and other Caribbean and Latin American communities and audiences) with some of the brightest young musicians, who would go on to master traditional musical genres, become major innovators in various Latino and other musical genres, and continue to explicitly identify themselves and their art as grounded in traditional, community-based music and participation.
Performing at the Rinzler Concert for only the second time in thirty years (the reunion concert was in Berlin, Germany, last fall), Grupo was joined by renowned Cuban drummer, community leader, and Afro- Cuban priest Orlando “Puntilla” Ríos, who died a few weeks later in New York on August 12.
James Counts Early and René López were Curatorial Advisors and Rebecca Smerling Marcus was Coordinator. Joan López and James Counts Early were Presenters.