Chinese and Spanish may not even have an alphabet in common, but these two cultures will be coming together for the Upper West Side’s first annual Bilingual Fest, a charity event featuring music and dance acts in both Chinese and Spanish. The family-friendly festival, which will take place on April 20th at the West 83rd Ministry Center, was put together by Toni Wang of the children’s bilingual music organization, “A Little Mandarin,” and Bilingual Buds School- one of the few elementary schools in the city that teaches both Mandarin and Spanish.
Bilingual Fest is part of NYC Heritage Week, and has been endorsed by City Council Member Gale Brewer. The afternoon’s events will be emceed by broadcast journalist Pei-Sze Cheng. Kids can enjoy performances across the cultural spectrum, from a Chinese Lion Dance and songs played on traditional Chinese instruments, to salsa dancing and Spanish-language sing-alongs.
But the real highlight of the evening is when the Latino and Chinese cultures will collide, for the musical collaboration between Toni Wang, and Bernardo Palombo of “El Taller,” a Spanish cultural community organization, who has written songs for Sesame Street’s Spanish language program.
“They may be different languages, but it is all still music for children and families. We don’t aim to put those two together, you can have a song go from English to Spanish to Chinese and its all enjoyable,” said Wang.
The collaboration will feature a Puerto Rican song with some verses translated into Chinese entitled “Le Lo Lai” (the Puerto Rican version of singing la-la-la) Palombo and Wang will trade off verses, and will be performing with children. Another subtle colliding of the cultures according to Wang is the performance by a Chinese dancer who will be dancing with a Hispanic partner.
The Bilingual Fest started as Wang’s idea to do a concert with the Bilingual Buds School. As the school also teaches Spanish, Wang began looking for Hispanic acts to join the cultural effort, and found Palombo. They then decided to turn the concert into a charity event. Proceeds will benefit The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, an organization that mainly works with families in the Bronx, and APEX, an Asian-American youth outreach group based in Chinatown.
While collaborating together, both Palombo and Wang noticed that the two cultures have more in common than the originally thought – a love of family and family time for instance, as well as cooking with a lot of rice. Palombo thinks that the experience will be educational for all ages.
“Two completely different languages on the same stage is very positive for the child,” said Palombo. “To not only be exposed to the differences but also the understanding and respecting that which isn’t your own culture is very important.”
The event will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday on West 83rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. The cost is $10 for a child and $15 for an adult. It is expected to sell out, so Palombo suggested getting tickets ahead of time.
“I hope this will be an annual event because the timing is right,” said Wang. “People want their children to become more globally aware.”
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