The Brazilian recording star Luiz Gonzaga made a career of singing about the drought-plagued northeastern Brazil countryside, where he is still revered as emblematic of the region.
For individuals who predict the weather based on natural patterns in the northeastern backlands, Gonzaga’s music continues to lend credibility, clarity, and local significance to the practice known as rain prophecy.
For example, his Acauãclearly conveys the meaning of the laughing falcon’s cry for the region’s inhabitants: it augurs and “invites” drought. “In the joy of the rainy season/sing the river frog, the tree frog, the toad/but in the sorrow of drought/you hear only the acauã.” The song ends with Gonzaga mimicking the bird’s call, evoking a sound that arouses powerful emotions in the region’s inhabitants.
When northeastern rain prophets cite Gonzaga’s songs, they add credibility to their own expertise, framing it in a context that most Brazilians can comprehend. Enhanced by his national fame and legendary status, Gonzaga’s voice continues to play a significant role in the maintenance of traditional ecological knowledge.
This according to “Birdsong and a song about a bird: Popular music and the mediation of traditional ecological knowledge in northeastern Brazil” by Michael B. Silvers (Ethnomusicology LIX/3 [fall 2015] 380–97).
Today is Gonzaga’s 110th birthday! Above, Gonzaga performing in the traditional costume of the northeastern rancheiros, in 1957 (Arquivo Nacional, public domain); below, his 1952 recording of Acauã.
BONUS: Gonzaga performs Acauã in a film intended for television broadcast. In his introduction he compares the local significance of the laughing falcon’s call with that of the purple-throated euphonia, which heralds rain.
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As the largest minority in the United States, the Latino/a/x population has spawned a diverse array of cultural and musical expressions, many of which have impacted American popular culture. From the Latino/a/x groups historically affected by border expansions, to today’s immigrants, these communities express their experiences, political struggles, and lives in oral traditions, music, dance, and sound.
This bibliography reflects the diversity of musical and dance expressions of these communities. Beyond the dominant sonic imaginaries towards mariachi music, or the ideas of correspondence between geographic region and musical style, the selected texts reflect a complex reading of how cultural practices challenge ideas on race, gender, sexuality, experiences of dislocation, belonging, and identity. This bibliography references practices on the Mexican-American border region, the Appalachian region, Puerto Rico, and New York, and spans multiple genres, from son jarocho and salsa, to Latin jazz and reggaetón.
Written and compiled by Beatriz Goubert, Editor and Product Development Coordinator, RILM
Alvarado, Lorena and Frances R. Aparicio. “Dissonant love: Music in Latina/o diaspora weddings”, Music in the American diasporic wedding, ed. by Inna Naroditskaya (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019) 70–86. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-5492]
Abstract: Deploying Deborah Vargas’s critical concept of dissonance as a disruption of the heteronormative and cultural nationalist limits, this essay examines the heterogeneous musical repertoires featured in U.S. Latina/o weddings that trouble or “disrupt” the dominant sonic imaginaries—the Mexican mariachi—that conflate national identity with musical traditions. Tracing the musical repertoires in U.S. Latino weddings, the essay juxtaposes a survey conducted by the authors with 11 couples and four Latino grooms and their own readings of weddings in films (including the Latino film Mi familia [My family]), novels, and poetry. In order to weave a broad picture of music in Latino weddings, the essay weaves textual and ethnographic approaches as an intervention that can only begin to suggest new ways of thinking about the social meanings of musical repertoires in these weddings. Tensions between tradition and modernity, between national and global sounds, generation-informed musical taste and predilections, and gendered norms, surfaced in the film and literary texts studied as well as in the surveys completed by young Latina/o couples.
Chávez, Xóchitl Consuelo. “La creación de Oaxacalifornia mediante tradiciones culturales entre jóvenes oaxaqueños de Los Ángeles, California”, Desacatos Revista de Ciencias Sociales 62 (enero–abril 2020) 172–181. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-69173]
Abstract: The Guelaguetza and the philharmonic bands are community practices of the Oaxacan migrant communities in the United States—from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles—and in the places of origin in Oaxaca, Mexico. These cultural productions cross the border between Mexico and the United States and survive in the region called Oaxacalifornia. As part of the traditions and forms of cultural expression, music and dance help to recover a community identity, despite economic instability and political conflict, and overcome the difficult processes of transnational migration. Oaxacalifornia is a microcosm, a migration route of human bodies, ideas, languages, and identities. Young people create a bicultural identity that claims and constitutes their indigenous cultural citizenship in Oaxaca and California.
Colón Montijo, César. “Carimbo: Raza, farmacolonialidad y conjuro en la espectropolítica salsera de Ismael ‘Maelo’ Rivera”, Del archivo a la playlist: Historias, nostalgias, tecnologías, ed. by Darío Tejeda (http://iaspmal.com/index.php/2021/07/07/del-archivo-a-la-playlist-actas/, 2021) 286–292. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2021-5920]
Abstract: The song Carimbo, by Afro-Puerto Rican singer Ismael “Maelo” Rivera, tells the story of Carimbo, an enslaved man who talks to the sonero about the infamous mark that slavery left on his voice. Carimbo’s spectral voice can be thought in relation to the precarious contemporaneity of the 1970s in which Maelo recorded it. Maelo’s Carimbo is not only the subject of the times of slavery, he is also that contemporary subject who struggles with the infamous mark of pharmacolonial violence. The incantation that Carimbo and Maelo vocalize as a survival tactic allows us to rethink the concatenation of their voices as an entry point to theorize a spectropolitics of listening. The incantation tells us much about the politics of life and death in contemporary Puerto Rico.
Enriquez, Sophia M. “‘Penned against the wall’: Migration narratives, cultural resonances, and Latinx experiences in Appalachian music”, Journal of popular music studies 32/2 (June 2020) 63–76. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-14803]
Abstract: Although the Appalachian region has long been associated with white racial identity, Latinx people remain the region’s largest and fastest-growing minority. What perspectives and experiences are revealed when such narratives of whiteness are challenged by the visibility of Latinx migrants? What does music tell us about ongoing discourses of migration and border-crossings? This essay analyzes Latinx immigration narratives in Appalachian music and offers the possibility of a Latinx-Appalachian musical and cultural resonances. I take up the music of artists who claim hybrid Latinx-Appalachian cultural and musical identities. Namely, this essay focuses on Che Apalache—a four-piece band based in Buenos Aires that plays Latingrass—and the Lua Project—a five-piece band based in Charlottesville, Virginia, that plays Mexilachian music. Using field recordings and ethnographic interviews with both groups, this essay analyzes references to U.S.-Mexico border politics, acts of border crossing, and Latin American-Appalachian geographic similarities. I engage U.S.-based Latinx studies and Appalachian studies to establish relationships of Appalachian and Latinx cultures and incorporate analyses of both Spanish and English lyrics. Ultimately, this essay suggests that listening for Latinx migration narratives in Appalachian music challenges assumptions of belonging in the shifting U.S. cultural landscape.
Fernández L’Hoeste, Héctor and Pablo Vila, eds. Sound, image, and national imaginary in the construction of Latin/o American identities. Music, culture, and identity in Latin America (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-64488]
Abstract: Addresses a gap in the many narratives discussing the cultural histories of Latin American nations, particularly in terms of the birth, configuration, and perpetuation of national identities. It argues that these processes were not as gradual or constrained as traditionally conceived. The actual circumstances dictating the adoption of particular technologies for the representation of national ideas shifted and varied according to many factors including local circumstances, political singularities, economic disparities, and highly individualized cultural transitions. This book proposes a model of chronology that is valid not only for nations that underwent strong processes of nationalism during the early or mid-20th century, but also for those that experienced highly idiosyncratic cultural, economic, and political development into the early 21st century.
Hernández-León, Rubén. “How did son jarocho become a music for the immigrant rights movement?”, Ethnic and racial studies 42/2 (2019) 975–993. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-25678]
Abstract: Chicana/o activists and artists in Greater Los Angeles have turned son jarocho, a traditional music genre from southeastern Mexico, into an organizing resource and a means to express the plight of immigrants. Building on a movement that started in Mexico to reestablish the communal celebration of the fandango as the center of the son jarocho tradition, these Chicana/o activists have reinterpreted fandangos as the enactment of community. They have also repurposed son jarocho and its lyrical content to articulate demands for the rights of undocumented immigrants and other social justice causes. These endeavors take place in community and cultural centers founded and led by a mix of immigrant generations: veterans of the Chicana/o civil rights movement of the 1970s, first generation immigrants and their adult children and grandchildren. These actors embrace fandangos as a metaphor and blueprint for community participation as they write new lyrics to demand justice for immigrants.
Loza, Steven, ed. Barrio harmonics: Essays on Chicano/Latino music (Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-14233]
Abstract: Explores Chicano, Mexican, and Cuban musical forms and styles and their transformation in the United States. Employing musical, historical, and sociocultural analyses, Loza addresses issues such as marginality, identity, intercultural conflict and aesthetics, reinterpretation, postnationalism, and mestizaje—the mixing of race and culture—in the production and reception of Chicano/Latino music.
Miller, Sue. “Pacheco and charanga: Imitation, innovation, and cultural appropriation in the típico tradition of New York City”, Latin American music review/Revista de música latinoamericana 41/1 (spring–summer 2020) 1–26. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-2944]
Abstract: Explores the performance practice and aesthetics of Cuban dance music in the U.S. in relation to the concept of sabor. This multifaceted term encompasses a range of meanings and includes, among other elements, a dance imperative, melodic call-and-response-style inspiraciones, and a clave feel. A case study of Dominican-born Johnny Pacheco, a charanga flute player and the cocreator of the term salsa, allows for exploration of a specific New York-based sabor as well as consideration of issues such as imitation, innovation, and cultural appropriation in the context of charanga típica performance in mid-20th-century New York. Pacheco’s musical contributions, critiqued by Juan Flores as “traditionalist” and by John Storm Roberts as “revivalist”, have often been overshadowed by his considerable entrepreneurial activities. Rather than examine his work as a record producer and entrepreneur, Pacheco’s earlier recordings made as a charanga flute improviser are examined to demonstrate that, pace Roberts and Flores, his improvisational style illustrates a particular New York performance aesthetic rooted in clave aesthetics and the rich musical culture of the Bronx—an aesthetic that is related to, but distinct from, that of earlier Cuban role models.
Power-Sotomayor, Jade. “Moving borders and dancing in place: Son jarocho’s speaking bodies at the Fandango Fronterizo”, TDR: The drama review 64/4 (winter 2020) 84–107 [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-12392]
Abstract: The annual Fandango Fronterizo is a binational performance gathering where the U.S.-Mexico border meets the ocean. Fandanguerxs, gathering on both sides of the border wall in Tijuana and San Diego, enact a performative, political gesture that interrupts the discursive racialized and gendered logic of the two nation-states, refusing to be eternally desterrados by the violence of the border.
Ramos-Kittrell, Jesús A., ed. Decentering the nation: Music, mexicanidad, and globalization. Music, culture, and identity in Latin America (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-8323]
Abstract: Decentering the nation: Music, mexicanidad, and globalization considers how neoliberal capitalism has upset the symbolic economy of “Mexican” cultural discourse, and how this phenomenon touches on a broader crisis of representation affecting the nation-state in globalization. This book argues that, while mexicanidad emerged in the early 20th century as a cultural trope about national origins, culture, and history, it was, nonetheless, a trope steeped in otherization and used by nation-states (Mexico and the United States) to legitimize narratives of cultural and socioeconomic development stemming out of nationalist political projects that are now under strain. Using music as a phenomenological platform of inquiry, contributors to this book focus on a critique of mexicanidad in terms of the cultural processes through which people contest ideas about race, gender, and sexuality; reframe ideas of memory, history, and belonging; and negotiate the experiences of dislocation that affect them. The volume urges readers to find points of resonance in its chapters, and thus, interrogate the asymmetrical ways in which power traverses their own historical experience. In light of the crisis in representation that currently affects the nation-state as a political unit in globalization, such resonance is critical to make culture an arena of social collusion, where alliances can restore the fiber of civil society and contest the pressures that have made disenfranchisement one of the most alarming features characterizing the complex relationships between the state and the neoliberal corporate system that seeks to regulate it. Scholars of history, international relations, cultural anthropology, Latin American studies, queer and gender studies, music, and cultural studies will find this book particularly useful.
Rivera-Rideau, Petra R. and Jericko Torres-Leschnik. “The colors and flavors of my Puerto Rico: Mapping Despacito‘s crossovers”, Journal of popular music studies 31/1 (March 2019) 87–108. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-3436]
Abstract: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s song Despacito shattered records to become one of the most successful Spanish-language songs in U.S. pop music history. Declared 2017’s Song of the Summer, the remix version featuring Justin Bieber prompted discussions about the racial dynamics of crossover for Latin music and Latina/o artists. However, little attention was paid to the ways that the song’s success in the Latin music market demonstrated similar racial dynamics within Latin music, especially in the song’s engagement with reggaetón, a genre originally associated with Black and working-class communities. This paper examines the racial politics that surround the success of Despacito in both the Latin mainstream and the U.S. mainstream. We argue that Despacito reinforces stereotypes of blackness in the Latin mainstream in ways that facilitate reggaetón’s crossover. In turn, Fonsi himself becomes attributed with similar stereotypes, especially around hypersexuality, that represent him as a tropical Latina/o racialized other in the United States. Through close readings of media coverage of Despacito alongside the song’s music video, we argue that it is critical to look at its success in both the Latin mainstream and the U.S. mainstream in order to examine the complex and contradictory process of crossing over.
Ruiz Vega, Omar. “Representando al caserío: Narcocultura y el diario vivir en los videos musicales de reggaetón”, Latin American music review/Revista de música latinoamericana 39/2 (fall–winter 2018) 229–265. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-44684]
Abstract: Reggaetón music videos frequently portray representations of narco culture and Puerto Rican marginalized communities. Existing literature explains these representations as an expressive vehicle that reflects the life and problems in the barrios and housing projects. However, the analysis of 14 reggaetón music videos provides a critical perspective of the narco-related messages. Reggaetón’s narco references help strengthening the stereotypes prevailing in Puerto Rican society toward marginalized communities, promoting a problematic identity through narco-aesthetics messages.
Sánchez Rivera, Rachell. “Reggaetón, trap y masculinidades: Dinámicas sociales al ritmo del perreo combativo en Puerto Rico”, Taller de letras número especial (2020) 42–55. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-64456]
Abstract: Examines the Puertorican reggaetón imagination based on the perreo combativo, a combative reggaetón dance that was part of the 2019 social protest against Governor Ricky Rosselló. The analysis of the intersections between gender, race, class, and identity overcome the unitary view of Puertorican identity embedded in machismo.
Schreil, Cristina. “Eunice Aparicio: Slow and steady”, Acoustic guitar 28/4:298 (October 2017) 48–49. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-55454]
Abstract: Flor de Toloache’s guitarist, Eunice Aparicio, shares her mariachi playing tips. Formed in 2008, the Latin Grammy winning Flor de Toloache are New York City’s first all-female mariachi group. Today its members hail from diverse locales such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Australia, Italy, Germany, and the U.S.
Washburne, Christopher. Latin jazz: The other jazz. Currents in Latin American and Iberian music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-10628]
Abstract: Jazz has always been a genre built on the blending of disparate musical cultures. Latin jazz illustrates this perhaps better than any other style in this rich tradition, yet its cultural heritage has been all but erased from narratives of jazz history. Told from the perspective of a long-time jazz insider, this book corrects the record, providing a historical account that embraces the genre’s international nature and explores the dynamic interplay of economics, race, ethnicity, and nationalism that shaped it.
Williamson, Emily J. “Reclaiming the tarima and remaking spaces: Examining women’s leadership in the son jarocho community of New York City”, Transatlantic malagueñas and zapateados in music, song and dance: Spaniards, natives, Africans, Roma, ed. by K. Meira Goldberg, Walter Aaron Clark, and Antoni Pizà (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019) 406–413. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-6519]
Abstract: If the tarima is the corazón of the fandango, is the zapateado its heartbeat? Then, is the bailadora the life that flows through this heart? The tarima and zapateado are often described in romantic and powerful metaphors. However, few scholars have examined women’s relationship to the performance and practice of son jarocho. In this paper, I build upon Martha González’s theory of “rhythmic intention,” and argue that women in the recently formed Mexican fandango revival or “jaranero” community across the five boroughs of New York City are not only moving and executing sounds of zapateado on the tarima with rhythmic purpose, but also outside of the fandango. The jaraneras of New York City are creating distinctly feminine spaces for music as well as leadership. Their leadership is present in their organizational work that maintains and cultivates the son jarocho community and in their musical practices—at fandangos, in professional stage performances, and in music workshops. This paper presentation will provide ethnographic examples that demonstrate the ways in which women are making and articulating space for jaraneras by sounding their fandango-centered practice on and off of the tarima.
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Capoeira, a Brazilian battle dance and national sport, was brought to Brazil by African slaves and first documented in the late 18th century. The genre has undergone many transformations as it has diffused throughout Brazilian society and beyond, taking on a multiplicity of meanings for those who participate in it and for the societies in which it is practiced.
Three major cultures inspired capoeira—the Congolese (the historic area known today as Congo-Angola), the Yoruban, and the Catholic Portuguese cultures. The evolution of capoeira through successive historical eras can be viewed with a dual perspective, depicting capoeira as it was experienced, observed, and understood by both Europeans and Africans, as well as by their descendants.
This dual perspective uncovers many covert aspects of capoeira that have been repressed by the dominant Brazilian culture. The African origins and meanings of capoeira can be reclaimed while also acknowledging the many ways in which Catholic-Christian culture has contributed to it.
This according to The hidden history of capoeira: A collision of cultures in the Brazilian battle dance by Maya Talmon-Chvaicer (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2008-708).
Above, capoeira performers in São Paulo (photo by Fabio Cequinel licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); below, capoeira performers in Salvador, Bahia.
Black women’s cultural activism in Lima, Perú, enacts a vibrant geohistory of respatializations of raced and gendered embodiment, advancing deprovincialized manifestations of the historical continuities, transnational ties, and internationalist impulses that connect otherwise localized and specific stories of diasporic cultural formation in the Black Americas.
The analytics and vocabularies of sound studies, critical race and gender studies, and feminist geography illuminate convergences within the cross‐generational work of Peruvian black women performers from the mid-20th century to the present. Despite differences in content and form—and at times in approach or aspiration—their collective work as political activists and cultural producers can be understood as both formed by and formative of performance geographies of feminist diasporicity.
This according to “Afroperuvian feminisms and performance geographies of diasporicity, 1953–2013” by Kirstie A. Dorr (Journal of popular music studies XXIX/4 [December 2017] 21 p.).
Above and below, Susana Baca, one of the musicians discussed in the article (yes, that’s David Byrne on rhythm guitar).
Seventeen-year-old Alex Lemún was shot and killed in 2002 while retaking ancestral lands for his people, the Mapuche, on the western side of the Andes in the Southern Cone. The song Weichafe Alex Lemún by the band Pewmayén memorialized Lemún as a weichafe (warrior) and helped spark a new musical movement.
Pewmayén’s fusion of ritual sounds with heavy metal both valorized traditional expressions and opened sociocultural boundaries that historically isolated those expressions from non-Mapuche society. Mapuche music is mapping new territories of sound and meaning, with serious implications for indigenous empowerment and cultural continuity.
This according to “Martyrdom and Mapuche metal: Defying cultural and territorial reductions in twenty–first-century Wallmapu” by Jacob Rekedal (Ethnomusicology LXIII/1 [winter 2019] pp. 78–104).
The date on the Catholic calendar commemorating the birth of St. John the Baptist, 24 June, is widely celebrated in northeastern Brazil. Festas juninas (June festivities, or St. John’s Day festivities) take place from early June to mid-July and are characterized by the presentation and representation of diverse cultural traditions of the region.
Forró, the typical music of this period, brings together diverse musical genres, dances, and a strong festive connotation. Although forró musicians born before the mid-1970s acquired their musical competence outside of formal educational institutions, large segments of the younger generation attend schools of music (though not necessary in lieu of other learning strategies). Meanwhile, changes in the organization of professional forró activities are linked to the larger transformations of northeastern festas juninas since the late 20th century.
This according to “Musicians in street festivals of northeastern Brazil: Recent changes in forró music and St. John’s Day festivities” by Carlos Sandroni, et al. (The world of music V/1  pp. 159–79).
Happy St. John’s Day! Above and below, forró as festa junina street dance.
“She was a typical girl from Rio, born in Portugal, who, using a blatantly vulgar though elegant stylization of the characteristic baiana—Bahian dress—conquered the world and became the highest-paid woman in the United States. Carmen conquered white America as no other South American had done or ever would. She was the only representative of South America who was universally readable, and it is exactly because of this quality that self-parody became her inescapable prison.”
“Nevertheless, in 1967 Carmen Miranda reappeared as a central figure in our aesthetic concerns. A movement that came to be known as Tropicalismo appropriated her as one of its principal signs, capitalizing on the discomfort that her name and the evocation of her gestures could create. We had discovered that she was both our caricature and our X-ray, and we began to take notice of her destiny.”
“In Carmen’s day it was enough to make a percussive din that was recognizably Latin and Negroid. By bringing the musicians from Bando da Lua with her to the United States, however, she represented less the adulteration alleged by her critics than a pioneering role in a history that is still unfolding. It is the history of the relationship between a very rich music from a very poor country and musicians and audiences from the rest of the world.”
Quoted from “Caricature and conqueror, pride and shame” by Caetano Veloso (The New York times 20 October 1991).
This bilingual series aims to raise the study of the music-related activities of the pre-Columbian Americas to a new level, with peer-reviewed studies of both past and living traditions, providing a platform for the most up-to-date information on the music archaeology of the New World.
Below, a brief film about the pre-Columbian instruments of Mexico.
The main entrance to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’s exhibition Lou Reed: Caught between the twisted stars opens up on Lincoln Plaza, directly adjacent to the The Metropolitan Opera house. On a sunny day, the Met’s … Continue reading →
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →