On Saturday, Oct. 22, members of both Claremont and its larger international community gathered at Big Bridges Auditorium to engage in a night of multicultural performances. The atmosphere, thick with anticipation and warm excitement, enveloped the theater as the eager crowd filed into the big hall.
The first performer of the night gracefully walked out on stage, performing a Shaolin martial arts dance. Stating that she had been practicing this form of martial arts for five years, she twirled a staff with a fierce, focused look that displayed a sense of diligence and attention developed far beyond her years of practice. She leaped with her staff as the crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers, calling on the next set of acts.
Following the dance was a group of Pitzer students performing the song, “Latino America,” by Calle 13, from Latin America, speaking about the constant struggle against imperialism in Latin America.The drummer commenced the piece by playing a steady rhythmic beat, after which the soft plucking of a guitar riff began, nestling into the background. With maracas and a wiro playing subtly, of the two singers, one started to sing the lyrics of the song as if a chant, whilst the other highlighted it with a soft, static harmony. The audience could feel the palpable, ardent emotion exuded from the performers, epitomized at the end of the set as a group of students came out from backstage holding up flags from Latin America, standing behind the performers in an effort to show solidarity.
The next act, which was a musical duo, was particularly notable. Kimaya de Silva from Sri Lanka on vocals and Alex Dolan Balin from the U.S. on the guitar. The duo had only met a few days prior to the gala, yet they shared remarkable chemistry. This was evident in their performance that showed “music truly is a universal language.” They started off by singing “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse; the soulful strumming rang through the auditorium as the vocalist’s delicate, soulful tone took presence. In her bright pink sari, the vocalist de Silva added her unique interpretation to the classic, as the guitarist provided a comfortable contrast harmonizing in the chorus.
After getting the crowd excited with “Valerie”, they stepped it up with their second piece “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel, bringing a new, bubbly energy to the room.
“For those of you who know more than 21st-century music, you may recognize this…that was not a good introduction,” said the guitarist Balin, earning a few giggles from the audience. This time, the male vocals took the reins as his counterpart harmonized. His rough, raw voice blended beautifully with hers, both of them maintaining their unique, individual tones but blending them together to create something a lot more engaging and powerful, similar to the essence of the night. They continued through the song with animated gestures, rhythmic snapping, and infectious dancing, ending the phrase with a final a cappella harmonic phrase.
The hosts of the night, adorned in national attire, addressed the mission of the night: to be able to coexist as a unified front amidst diversity. She touched on her own background, “we have about 22 different states in the country [of India] and over 100 regional dialects … that’s a lot of diversity. But, at the end of the day, we’re all very proud to be Indian.”
Divya Ryan PO ’19 attended this event last year and returned again for a great experience and “really liked seeing the different cultural performances.” She went on to remark that “it’s important for cultural appreciation and also for the international students to get to share their little piece of home with Pomona. It’s also just nice to watch and listen and appreciate the talent that students have.”
Jolo Labio PO ’20, who performed at the International gala as part of his a Cappella group, One Night Stanza, agreed that “these kinds of events are a good representation of Pomona’s student body, [which is] incredibly diverse. I feel like I get a slice of that particular country when I watch cultural performances.” Despite the stressful start, since it was One Night Stanza’s first performance of the year, the audience was very warm and supportive. “It was a great group bonding experience,” Labio noted.
Claire Yi PO ’20 shared those sentiments as she, too, appreciated the wide array of cultural performances, that “such events are not only a pleasure to see and participate in, but also a great way to show and celebrate different cultures…not just knowing that they exist but actually seeing and appreciating them.” She concluded by asserting that “cultures are something other than politics.”