Rubén Blades will discuss his stunning legacy of advocating for social change throughout his musical, artistic, and political career—which includes a five-year term as Panama’s Minister for Tourism and a run for the presidency of the Republic of Panama—and the future of Latin music. This conversation builds upon the momentum of the documentary Yo No Me Llamo Rubén Blades (Rubén Blades is Not My Name)—to be released on HBO—which explores Blades’ life and career and opened last month in theaters across Latin America.
Co-sponsored by NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Held weekly every Monday at 6:30pm during the academic terms, Skirball Talks hosts visionaries from the worlds of politics, the arts, sciences, academia, and more. This event is free and open to the public.
PLEASE READ IN FULL REGARDING SEAT RESERVATIONS: RSVP does not guarantee a ticket. You can begin picking up tickets at the NYU Box Office (566 LaGuardia Pl) 2 hours prior to event. Even if you have picked up a ticket, please be aware that if you are not seated in the theater by 6:20pm, we will be opening up the theater to people in standby line. Tickets must be claimed by 6:10 pm. Unclaimed tickets will be released to those on the standby line.
Rubén Blades is an artist whose work spans many media and arenas. He currently stars in the AMC television series Fear the Walking Dead, and was recently seen starring in Hands Of Stone opposite Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez and John Turturro, and in Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, opposite Michael Fassbender.
Blades has played memorable roles in films with such acclaimed directors and talent as Robert Redford in The Milagro Beanfield War, Robert Rodriguez in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spike Lee in Mo’ Better Blues, Alan Pakula in The Devil’s Own, and Jack Nicholson in The Two Jakes. He was also seen in Safe House opposite Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Blades was nominated for three Emmys for his roles in the television movies The Josephine Baker Story, Crazy From The Heart, and The Maldonado Miracle. His work in over 35 films and documentaries also won Blades a Cable ACE Award, plus Independent Spirit and ALMA Awards. The Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors honored him with its Raúl Juliá HOLA Founders Award, and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation honored him with its Arts Award.
In addition to his film work, Blades is a composer and vocalist, and one of the most successful artists in the history of Latin music. His landmark albums in classic Afro-Cuban salsa, as well as Afro-Cuban music touched with rock, jazz, pan-Latin, and other influences from around the world have won 17 Grammy & Latin Grammy Awards, including one in the World Music category. His 2017 album Salsa Big Band was named the Latin Grammy Album of the Year. Blades has collaborated with rock, jazz, pop, hip-hop, reggaeton, and salsa artists, and has composed hundreds of songs and dozens of hits, known for their eloquent, politically-aware lyrics, colorful characters, and memorable melodies. ASCAP honored him with its Founders Award, and the Grammy Recording Academy with its Heroes Award.
Beyond Blades’ artistic success, he holds degrees in political science and law from the University of Panama, and an LLM from Harvard Graduate Law School. The Loeb Music Library at Harvard University formed The Rubén Blades Archives in 2009 with the purpose of collecting his work and papers. He has received Honorary Doctorate degrees from Berkeley University in California (Chicano Studies), Lehman College in the Bronx (Humanities) and the Berklee College of Music in Boston (Music).
In 2006 the president of Chile awarded Blades the Pablo Neruda Order of Cultural Merit, and in 2010 the president of Ecuador honored him with their Orden Nacional al Mérito Cultural.
Blades has always had an eye for political activism. In 1994 he formed a political party, Movimiento Papa Egoró (“Mother Earth” in the indigenous Embera language), and ran for President of the Republic of Panama, coming in third place with 18% of the vote. In 2000 Blades was named U.N. World Ambassador Against Racism in 2000. He epitomizes a true Renaissance man.
The Skirball Talks series is made possible in part by a Humanities New York Action Grant and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.