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Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music

David Garcia

Publication Year: 2006

Arsenio Rodríguez was one of the most important Cuban musicians of the twentieth century. In this first scholarly study, ethnomusicologist David F. García examines Rodríguez's life, including the conjunto musical combo he led and the highly influential son montuno style of music he created in the 1940s. García recounts Rodríguez's battle for recognition at the height of "mambo mania" in New York City and the significance of his music in the development of salsa. With firsthand accounts from relatives and fellow musicians, Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music follows Rodríguez's fortunes on several continents, speculating on why he never enjoyed wide commercial success despite the importance of his music. García focuses on the roles that race, identity, and politics played in shaping Rodríguez's music and the trajectory of his musical career. His transnational perspective has important implications for Latin American and popular music studies.

Published by: Temple University Press

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pp. ix-xii

THREE FACTORS LED ME to pursue research on Arsenio Rodriguez and his music. First, Dr. Robin Moore, who was my teacher at the University of California at Santa Barbara (1995-96), introduced me to the name and music of Arsenio Rodriguez. He also informed me of both his importance to Cuban and Latin music history and the lack of research on particularly ...

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pp. 1-11

ARSENIO RODRIGUEZ (1911-70) was one of Cuba's most important composers and musical innovators of the twentieth century. Since the late 1930s, Arsenio's music has continued to make an indelible impact on a broad range of musical styles from the Caribbean and Latin America to West and Central Africa and beyond. 1 In the early 1940s Arsenio created the,...

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1. "I Was Born of Africa": Black Consciousness and Cubanidad

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pp. 12-31

IN 1960 ARSENIO recorded "Yo naci del Africa" (I Was Born of Africa) for his LP Cumbanchando con Arsenio (Fiesta en Harlem) (SMC 1074). The lyrics of this song express the core of Arsenio's racial identity. In the verse section he rejects his Spanish surnames while speculating as to what his true African name and ethnicity might be. He then resolves his uncertainty...

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2. Negro y Macho: Arsenio Rodr

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pp. 32-63

THE CUBAN SON is a vocal, instrumental, and dance genre that is as stylistically varied as blues and jazz.1 By the early twentieth century son had proliferated into numerous regional styles that were performed by a wide range of mostly string and percussion instruments. Son music's commercialization through sheet music, recordings, and film, beginning in the 1910s,...

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3. Who's Who in Mambo?

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pp. 64-92

FROM 1948 TO 1966, the Palladium Ballroom was known among Latin music audiences as the mecca of Latin dance music in New York City. In the early 1950s it became specifically recognized in the American mainstream media as the home of the mambo, which featured amateur and professional mambo dancers as well as the Three Kings of the Mambo in New...

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4. Remembering the Past with El Ciego Maravilloso

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pp. 93-116

THE FINAL DECADE of Arsenio's career and life has been the subject of much speculation. As can be observed on many Web sites and in liner notes to CDs, Arsenio, it is widely believed, died "in poverty" and an "almost forgotten figure.,,1 To be sure, by 1960 the forty-nine-yearold bandleader and his conjunto...

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5. Salsa and Arsenio Rodr

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pp. 117-139

FROM THE TIME it was coined in the early 1970s by Fania Records, the term salsa has been used to market a stylistically diverse and historically broad repertory of music under one name. Although most agree that salsa has since the 1980s developed into a transnational music, incorporating musical genres and styles from various regions of Latin America and...

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Conclusion: Remembering Arsenio Rodr

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pp. 141-146

ON JULY 9, 2000 I attended Recordando el Mamoncillo, a Cuban festival that takes place annually in Astoria, Queens. This festival, marked by traditional Cuban music, dance, and food, commemorates the dances that used to take place at the salon "Mamoncillo," one of several popular dance floors that were located in the beer gardens of La Tropical in Havana and...


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pp. 147-166


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pp. 167-181


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pp. 183-202


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pp. 203-210

E-ISBN-13: 9781592133871
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592133864

Publication Year: 2006