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Intimate Distance

Andean Music in Japan

Michelle Bigenho

Publication Year: 2012

What does it mean to play “someone else’s music”? Intimate Distance delves into this question through a focus on Bolivian musicians who tour Japan playing Andean music and Japanese audiences who often go beyond fandom to take up these musical forms as hobbyists and even as professional musicians. Michelle Bigenho conducted part of her ethnographic research while performing with Bolivian musicians as they toured Japan. Drawing on interviews with Bolivian musicians, as well as Japanese fans and performers of these traditions, Bigenho explores how transcultural intimacy is produced at the site of Andean music and its performances. Bolivians and Japanese involved in these musical practices often express narratives of intimacy and racial belonging that reference shared but unspecified indigenous ancestors. Along with revealing the story of Bolivian music’s route to Japan and interpreting the transnational staging of indigenous worlds, Bigenho examines these stories of closeness, thereby unsettling the East-West binary that often structures many discussions of cultural difference and exotic fantasy.

Published by: Duke University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

The myth of the single- authored book lives on in spite of the fact we are all in on the secret. The book in your hands would not be possible without the cooperation and contribution of many different individuals..

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1. Setting the Transnational Stage

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pp. 1-31

“What are we going to do with your hair?” was the band director’s worried comment when he met me at the airport in La Paz. He added this problem to his lengthy list of concerns that would have to be addressed before the band left to tour...

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2. “What’s Up with You, Condor?”: Performing Indigeneities

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pp. 32-59

Around 1977, the sound of the quena “grabbed” Koji Hishimoto. “That year, Andean music was in fashion here in Japan,” he told me. On a November evening of our tour, we were sitting on tatami mats in a traditional Japanese hotel or...

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3. “The Chinese Food of Ethnic Music”: Work And Value in Musical Otherness

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pp. 60-90

After arriving in Japan, recovering from jet lag, and holding a first rehearsal, we launched into an intense first week of work in which we were giving three performances a day in multiple locations, all in the still scorching summer...

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4. A Hobby, a Sojourn, and a Job

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pp. 91-121

“Can I smoke here?” Takashi Sugiyama asked me somewhat nervously. Sugiyama had been living in Bolivia for thirteen years. I had not met him during my own ongoing interactions with La Paz’s world of musicians, perhaps because Sugiyama...

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5. Intimate Distance

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pp. 122-148

In a noisy Tokyo restaurant, I chatted with Eduardo Prado during his brief lunch hour.1 When we spoke, he was working an office job and playing “folklore” very much as a secondary project on the side. He was one of the few Bolivians I interviewed...

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6. Gringa in Japan

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pp. 149-166

During three months of touring, we performed primarily in public schools and moved daily throughout the islands, going from the northernmost, Hokkaido, all the way to the southernmost, Okinawa. A small bus became our principal...

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7. Conclusion: One’s Own Music, Someone Else’s Nation

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pp. 167-177

At one level, this book has been about the intercultural nexus of Bolivian music in Japan as an ethnographic space through which to ground what often have been called sweepingly and ambiguously “transnational cultural...


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pp. 179-199


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pp. 201-218


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pp. 219-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780822395317
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822352204

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 18 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 793202681
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Intimate Distance

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bolivians -- Japan -- Music -- History and criticism.
  • Bolivians -- Music -- History and criticism.
  • Ethnomusicology -- Bolivia -- History and criticism.
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