We’re partnering with Latino Memphis to bring you Somos Memphis! A hub of content focused on sharing all the great endeavors, businesses, and more from Memphis’ Latinx community. The Latinx culture isn’t a monolith–there are so many vibrant cultural aspects, forms of expression, and perspectives that come together to make Memphis the amazing city that it is. We can’t wait to share more stories with you!
This week, we’re featuring Alexander Parker and the Mid-South Bugalu Podcast! Music has moved Memphis and Memphians for generations, making the city the perfect home for the show. Keep reading to see how Parker shines a light on the rhythm, culture, and more that has united both the Black and Latinx communities for generations!
What is the background on the podcast? How did you get started and what inspired you?
A close friend of mine has a podcast called “The Psyche Ward” which I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest several times. He suggested that I start a podcast at some point. During this time, I was enjoying a lot of podcasts such as JRE (Joe Rogan Experience), The Lex Fridman Podcast, Huberman Lab Podcast, StarTalk, and Unconformed Podcast. This was also around the same time I changed my major to journalism.
At first, I didn’t have an idea but after thinking about my heritage, along with the things that I’m interested in, the concept for my podcast came to me. There is a documentary called “We Like It Like That” by Mathew Ramirez Warren that also inspired the podcast. With that, the “Mid-South Bugalu Podcast” was established and launched on Feb. 18th, 2021. The podcast is a space for the African American and the Latinx community to learn and connect with one another. A space to invite all in the Mid-South and beyond to our beautiful cultures. To be clear, the word “Bugalu ” in the title of my podcast is a reference to Latin-Boogaloo, a crossover music genre from 1960s New York that heavily combined musical elements and cultural themes from African-American and Latinx communities. My podcast encourages creativity, collaboration, and solidarity.
What is your favorite topic that you’ve covered so far and why?
So far my favorite topic was the African-American involvement in Latin music which was covered in the 3rd episode. This was very important to me because I wanted to challenge common misconceptions about Latin music. Cuba and Puerto Rico are huge and undeniable influences but the New York jazz is also part of the DNA of Latin music that shouldn’t be overlooked.
I also feel that it was important to mention Dizzy Gillespie, whose interactions with early pioneers of Latin music/Afro-Cuban music such as Mario Bauzá led to what we know today as mambo, cha-cha-cha, and salsa. Which are all products of combining jazz melodies with Afro-Cuban rhythmic patterns, as well as the Puerto Rican American musicians who were influential in both the jazz and Latin music scenes. Joe Baatan was another figure mentioned in this topic; he is of African-American and Filipino descent who heavily participated in Latin music and was the leader of a Puerto Rican street gang. New York has always been a place where a lot of cultural exchange took place, especially between African-Americans and Latinos. This topic is one of my favorites as it educates us all on the history of Latin music and how it intersects with other music histories.
What topic do you hope to cover in the future and why?
There are many topics I’d like to cover, here are two I’ll quickly share. One topic close to heart is discussing Afro-Latino identity. For the second topic, I’m aware that many of the Latinos in Memphis are of Mexican descent. I would like to talk more about Mexican culture and the Mexican experience in Memphis.
How has Memphis’ Latinx community been part of your story?
In my late high school days, I reconnected with my mother’s side of the family, most of them coming from Costa Rica. It was a season where I redefined myself. Most of my life I only identified as African American, but after reconnecting with my family I had an understanding that the Latin-American and Caribbean cultures are also a part of me. Which made me eager to connect to the Latinx community in Memphis. I would also be introduced to the Rumba Room, a Latin restaurant/bar in downtown where I have spent a lot of time in the last 4 years. From learning to dance salsa, bachata, cumbia, merengue and more. To establishing community and wonderful friendships. Cazateatro, Memphis’only bilingual theatre group is another organization I have acquainted myself with.
What’s next for you and your podcast?
I’m really excited about my podcast and I’m thankful for my girlfriend, my family, and all the people that have supported and helped in any way with “The Mid-South Bugalu Podcast”.
There’s a lot of topics I want to cover and conversations I want to have. In addition, I also want to continue to shine a light on Memphis’ African-American and Latinx communities and encourage collaboration between these groups. This will be done with continued engagement online, but also in person through events in the future. Stay tuned! Ultimately, I want to positively influence this city.