Latin American Research Review 39.1 (2004) 273-284
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Globalization and Appropriation in Latin American Popular Music
The terrain traversed by many recent studies of popular music and dance—especially "world music" and the music of non-Western regions—is by now a familiar one. Key processes and concepts that draw the scholar's attention when studying such music, in contexts in which capitalist relations of production have a dominant or growing role, include the following inter-linked themes (in which for "music," please read "music and dance"):
- appropriation, or the idea that subordinate musical styles may be taken over, often in modified or "mainstreamed" form, by superordinate classes, often linked to commercial and/or nationalist endeavors
- folklorization, or the constitution of a musical entity objectified as folklore, frequently by middle-class intellectuals and/or state institutions, also often linked to commercial and/or nationalist endeavors
- commodification, or the idea that appropriated and/or folklorized musical styles may be increasingly subjected to the pressures of the capitalist marketplace [End Page 273]
- hegemony and resistance, or the idea that certain values and styles become more or less commensensically dominant, but that a cultural terrain is constituted in which such dominance may be contested
- tradition and modernity, or the idea that cultural struggles and debates around a given musical style draw on notions about what is traditional and what is modern, frequently creating something seen as combining elements of both
- authenticity and imitation, related to the previous dualism and again, albeit perhaps in more overtly value-laden terms, referring to debates about whether music is seen as proudly rooted in an authentic, pure, original (and often national or ethnic) past or whether, in slavish imitation, it adopts "foreign" fashions
- global and local, or the idea that there are forms of music and dance which are more or less specific to a given locality in which culture, territory and social reproduction strongly overlap; and that these relate in complex ways to other musical (and non-musical) forms which have a global and deterritorialized spread in which culture, territory, and social reproduction are far from coterminous
- identity and expressive form, or the idea that various identities—ethnic, racial, national, sub-cultural, gender—both shape and are themselves shaped by styles of musical expression
This matrix of ideas, by no means confined to the study of popular music, forms the conceptual toolbox from which scholars tend to select their theoretical materials. The authors of the work reviewed here are fairly typical—with the notable exception of Julie Taylor, who has written an innovative and distinctive text. However, although the empirical case material is fascinating and often brilliantly presented, I got little sense, first, that these theoretical ideas were much more than a commonsense background and, second and not surprisingly, that much advance had been made in how to deploy these concepts. I will review briefly how various authors in the works under review use the concepts outlined above.
Charles Perrone and Christopher Dunn's collection starts with their very useful, concise, yet comprehensive historical overview of Brazilian popular music. Central to their concerns is the tension between ideas of authenticity and imitation. They trace how claims about the relative weight of each emerged in debates about bossa nova, Tropicalism, rock, and soul...