Monday, April 24, 2006

Salsa, Charity & Dignity

Last Sunday evening was thoroughly enjoyable.

It was a salsa occassion put on by someone I knew, raising money for the post-tsunami reconstruction effort in Sri Lanka. Now that's a matter very close to my heart for two reasons: I've always felt that there has always been a lack of follow-up after an initial charitable reaction to a disaster (who remembers the earthquakes in Afghanistan and Bam?); I also have good friends who fundraise for, and help run, an orphanage school in Honduras - Children of Honduras Trust.

A beach-front in Galle
©Copyright 2005 Support Sri Lanka Foundation. All Rights Acknowledged

And that one of my brothers and sisters-in-law might well have been in Galle at the time the tsunami struck, had it not been for a quirk of circumstance.

So, strolling my way down to the place, my primary thoughts were to contribute to a cause I felt for via the door tariff and to add to the minimum 50 bodies required so that she wouldn't have to pay rental for the bar. Most of my fellow band members sportingly self-mobilised for the effort too. Somewhere along the line, the actuality of dancing salsa just slipped my mind.

Silly me.

One chaos-touched international samba lesson, and two cheekily funny learning partners later, the salsa wheels were well and truly greased. This night had in U.K. musical terms, everything in it but the kitchen sink. It was a good opportunity to dance with engaging people I often meet but don't often get to dance with; probably because of the fragmentation in Sheffield's salsa scene, and my own commitments to the band. It turned out to be one of those wonderful evenings which surprise you once in a while because it was unanticipated.

Now the core point is this. Salsa's heritage is that of a music of the underclasses. Most of us studying in this arena would acknowledge that. Some of us even begrudge its upward mobility, citing the compromising of authenticity. I, for one, would not be untouched by guilt. However, salsa's acceptance and practice by the middle classes has done much to enable the effective mobilisation of smaller-scale of social events in support of good causes. Is that not worth renegotiating a definition of authenticity for?

And here's another thought. The people we help are still people. And charity is stronger when it bears provision for human dignity. As we part with our money, is it too much for us to try to understand the people we're helping? (No prizes for guessing where my effort's going to.)

Loo Yen

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