Notes 59.2 (2002) 323-324
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Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization. Edited by Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn. New York: Routledge, 2002. [xii, 288 p. ISBN 0-415-93695-0. $19.95 (pbk.).] Illustrations, index.
A label with considerable symbolic capital in American media for quite some time, Brazilian popular music is also becoming more visible in the circuit of academic scholarly research. This volume edited by Charles Perrone and Christopher Dunn exemplifies this trend, and both authors deserve warm applause for undertaking a rather difficult task. From the introductory chapter signed by the editors to the last of its sixteen essays (including a bonus translation of an article by songwriter-singer Caetano Veloso "Carmen Mirandadada"), Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization offers to the English-speaking audience a fair synthesis of historical trajectories as well as lively accounts and interpretations of particular musical genres, styles, and artists of the Brazilian music scene and its global ramifications in the last three decades.
Penned by scholars from the United States and Brazil, the book combines a variety of theoretical approaches and areas of expertise from the fields of literature, communication, cultural studies, ethnomusicology, sociology, and anthropology, creating a significant contrast with the more commonly diffused descriptive, factual literature on Brazilian popular music available in English. The articles are introduced by an overview of "Internationalization in Brazilian Popular Music" in the twentieth century and are not bound by a single theoretical/methodological frame, though the discussions on African diasporic movements in several articles are catalyzed by the seminal work of Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993). Even then, texts operate freely in the realm of investigating popular music and its emerging meanings in social practices, negotiations, and appropriations of musical signs within the frame of global capitalism. Therefore, sociocultural analysis is privileged over musical and technical considerations of the repertories under scrutiny.
Collective enterprises such as this one are not free of risks, omissions, misrepresentations, redundancies, and disparate levels of scholarship among the articles. The contents of this volume are not immune to these problems; nonetheless, the final outcome is positive and I want to stress that for the sake of clarity in the critique presented in this brief review.
A volume of this scope arranged under one general label—Brazilian popular music —confronts inevitably thorny issues regarding inclusion and exclusion. For that matter, the conception of the book raises some important questions on the representation of Brazilian popular musics in both scholarship and the media. Leaving aside the introductory chapter and the honorary essay by Caetano Veloso, one's thorough reading of the fourteen core pieces shows that they actually cover a very narrow spectrum of the popular musical practices of the country. No fewer than nine of them are tied to tropicalismo and Afro-Brazilian music movements and figures centered in Salvador, the capital of Bahia in the northeast. Even considering that Perrone and Dunn had no "pretense to any comprehensive coverage" (p. 3), the lack of balance is striking. For instance, chapters 11 and 12 on Bahian reggae cover the same musical materials, with other obvious overlap in chapters 9, 10, and 13 on Afro-Bahian music. This level of redundancy might pass unnoticed in a scattered reading, but it is apparent with closer examination.
Of the other five essays, two deal with music movements in Recife, also in the northeast, the capital of Pernambuco; the [End Page 323] remaining three split between Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and a comparison between the funk scenes in Rio de Janeiro and, again, Salvador. While all these essays bring interesting and insightful ideas to the subject matter that they address, my point refers to the coherence of the volume as a whole. If the continental size of the country is a truism; if Brazilian regional, cultural, and ethnic diversity "goes without saying"; why do these realities not hold true in the narratives that try to present and represent the much praised "rich musical diversity" of Brazil? Does the geographical distribution of musical expression not count in this case...