Latin Music USA

S1 E8 | CLIP

The Legends: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Composer Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about his first hit, "In The Heights". Watch LATIN MUSIC USA Friday April 28 and Friday, May 5 at 9/8C on PBS (check local listings).

AIRED: October 18, 2009 | 0:03:15

♪ Lights up on Washington Heights ♪

♪ Up at the dawning I wipe down my awning ♪

♪ Hey, y'all, good morning

♪ In the heights...

SMITS: Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights,"

conceived during the Latin music explosion,

opened to packed audiences on Broadway

and was honored with the Tony award for Best Musical for 2008.

The lead character, born in the U.S.,

is torn between his allegiance to his neighborhood

and his parents' homeland.

♪ Let me get an amaretto sour for this ghetto flower ♪

♪ How are you so pretty? ♪

♪ You complete me; you had me at hello ♪

♪ You know you need me, Julie, madly; baby let's go quickly ♪

♪ Oh, I get get it; you the stong and silent type ♪

♪ Well, I'm the Caribbean island type... ♪

His whole, you know, being sort of reflects that,

that dual identity that I think so many of us have.

♪ But I digress; say something so I don't stress ♪

♪No hablo ingles ♪

My parents were both born in Puerto Rico,

but I'm a New Yorker.

I was born in Roosevelt Hospital and I...

I love spending my summers in Puerto Rico,

but I get itchy to get back.

We're 32 countries.

We are, you know, centuries and centuries of music.

♪ Fresh off the boat in America... ♪

MIRANDA: One of the things we really strived for

with "Heights" is to make sure that everyone is singing

in a distinct musical voice.

♪ Remembering what we went through... ♪

MIRANDA: You've got Abuela Claudia,

who came here from Cuba in the '40s.

Her song is a mambo number--

like dead-up, old school mambo number.

♪ you'd say...

MIRANDA: You hear salsa; you hear bomba y plena.

We really tried to honor all those different influences.

♪ Packing up and picking up

♪ And ever since the rents went up it's gotten mad expensive. ♪

Usnavi grew up in Washington Heights,

so he speaks in hip-hop language,

which is really my generation's language,

but it's heavily influenced by these Latin rhythms.

♪ Yeah, I'm a streetlight chilling in the heat ♪

♪ I illuminate the stories of the people in the street ♪

♪ Some have happy endings; some are bittersweet. ♪

SMITS: As he searched for a central theme

for "In the Heights,"

Lin-Manuel drew on Broadway's long tradition.

MIRANDA: A template we looked at a lot

was "Fiddler on the Roof,"

and one of the things they did in "Fiddler on the Roof"

constantly was to say, "What is the show about?"

What is it about? It's about tradition.

It took us a long time to find what that word was for us,

and that word becam "home."

♪ I found my island, I've been on it this whole time ♪

♪ I'm home.

"Home" for all Latinos in the United States, I think--

particularly for first- generation Latinos like myself--

"home" is a loaded word.

♪ I'm home!

MIRANDA: "Where do I belong?

"Do I belong here?

Am I supposed to go back there?"

We have traditions from all over the world,

and how do we reconcile them here?

What do we take with us?

What do we pass on to our children?

♪ I'm home

♪ We reach 100 in the shade

♪ But with patience and faith we remain ♪

♪ I'm afraid I'm home

♪ You hear that music in the air? ♪

♪ Take the train to the top of the world and I'm there ♪

♪ I'm home.

(final word and note held)

(music ends)


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