Saturday, April 18, 2015 – The Complexities of Tania León

Tania Justina León (b. 1943) 
has a web site at 
and is featured at

"I am of the mind that I am a composer.  I am not a Black composer.  I am not a woman composer.  I am not a Caribbean composer." [Tania León in  interview with Maria Hinojosa, Latino USA]

By Michael Simon Johnson

April 17, 2015

Composers like Tania León infuse their work with caribbean instruments, Yoruba rhythms, and a-tonal piano work—elements that make their music a much more global experience.

Tania’s compositions and operas have been performed internationally and they’ve have received countless awards from places like the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and ASCAP. The Grammy and Latin Grammy nominated León was the first musical director and a founding member of Arthur Mitchell’s famous Dance Theatre of Harlem and has been a visiting professor at Yale, the University of Michigan and others.

And at 71 years-old there is no sign of her slowing down. She recently assembled a month-long music festival called Composers Now featuring New York-based composers of all kinds. Plus she is in the process of writing an opera with Harvard African-American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about the Little Rock Nine–the group of black students who bravely enrolled at a white high school in Arkansas in the 1950’s.

Born in Havana in the 1943, Tania León was classically trained, but Afro-Cuban music and other Cuban traditions, as well as a variety of postmodern musical forms have always found a way into her unique style. She sat down with Maria Hinojosa to talk about her life and her work.

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