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).
Above, the cover of Mapuche en la historia y en la lucha (Mapuche in history and in struggle), the album containing Weichafe Alex Lemún; below, the music video.
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.
In 1991 the celebrated singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso discussed the legacy of Carmen Miranda:
“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).
Today is Miranda’s 110th birthday! Above, in 1941; below, performing in A date with Judy (yes, that’s 16-year-old Elizabeth Taylor in the audience).
Related article: Tropicália and Bahia
Every year from Christmas to Epiphany, the communities descended from the African slaves who mined gold for the Spaniards celebrate the Adoraciones al Niño-Diós in the Andean valleys of Cauca in southwestern Colombia.
The celebrants sing and dance until dawn in front of a creche set up in one of the village houses. A group of six musicians, unusual because it includes violins, accompanies the women who are the singers and the leaders of the ritual.
The tradition is documented on the CD Colombie: Adoration à l’enfant-Dieu (Département du Cauca) (VDE-Gallo 1349 ). Below, a brief documentary on Auroras al Amanecer, the group featured in the recordings.
Chile’s bailes chinos are ritual musician-dance brotherhoods in the country’s Central Zone. They express the religious fervor of campesinos (peasant farmers) and artisan fishermen who get together for religious fiestas celebrated in small villages and coves, where groups from the neighboring towns congregate.
The bailes chinos feature Native American contributions, which include dance, instruments, and a direct relationship with the supernatural through ritual incorporating special states of consciousness. Hispanic contributions are also present, such as prayers, the Holy Scriptures, sacred images, the Catholic ritual calendar, and other elements of Christian expression.
Due to their strong dependence on nature and themselves, these fishermen and farmers are especially fervent in their religious devotion. The members of the bailes chinos dance, play flutes, and sing to help secure their fundamental needs: health, rain, and a good harvest in the inland valleys; protection and abundant fish in the coastal waters. In addition, their fiestas serve as occasions for strengthening the social and family bonds that unify the inhabitants of the area.
This according to I humbly pray: Central Chile’s bailes chinos by Claudio Mercado Muñoz and Victor Rondón Sepúlveda (Santiago de Chile: Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, 2003). Below, a brief documentary (in Spanish).
BONUS: A full performance of canto a lo poeta, a related Chilean tradition.
Peruvian tecnocumbia arrived in Ecuador in the 1990s, and the ensuing tecnocumbia boom fostered a new music scene that revitalized Ecuadorian popular music (EPM) and contested Ecuadorians’ perception of its national music.
Social, economic, and political factors triggered the increasing production and consumption of this music, and EPM, a stigmatized music that was barely heard in the mainstream media in the 1970s and 1980s, came to be perceived as música nacional by the working classes. The historical contexts, social relations, political economies, and physical landscapes that generate and maintain the EPM scene illuminate how working-class musicians, entrepreneurs, and fans from Quito responded to the social and economic crisis in the country that brought about a massive wave of emigration in the late 1990s.
This according to “The Ecuadorian popular music scene in Quito: Contesting the national imaginary” by Ketty Wong, an essay included in Made in Latin America: Studies in popular music (New York: Routledge, 2016, pp. 89–98).
Above and below, Quito native Jaime Enrique Aymara, known as el rey de la tecnocumbia.
Brasiliana: Journal for Brazilian studies is a dynamic academic forum where scholars from diverse disciplines in humanities and social sciences publish their research, establish academic discussion, exchange ideas, and draw on each others’ research within the field of Brazilian studies.
Brazil is currently establishing itself as an economic and political power within a global context, and the interdisciplinary study of Brazil is emerging at a high academic level. Several universities worldwide are offering programs under the term Brazilian studies, an area that differs from the more common Latin American studies. Academic communities of Brazilianists exchange ideas across universities and collaborate on research projects inside and outside Brazil. This is an academic journal absolutely dedicated to Brazilian studies.
Although the journal was launched by Statsbiblioteket, Aarhus, in 2012, it is new to RILM because vol. IV/1 (August 2015) is the first issue that features musical content.
Below, Vitor Ramil’s Milonga das sete cidades, the subject of one of the issue’s articles.
In July 2016 the Society for Ethnomusicology issued A Latin American Music Reader: Views from the South, edited by Javier F. Léon and Helena Simonett and published in collaboration with University of Illinois Press. Along with extensive introductory material, the book includes 17 articles translated from Spanish and Portuguese into English, representing a cross-section of the innovative research of Latin American music scholars over the past 25 years.
The project was initiated by SEM’s Latin American and Caribbean Music Section and Board of Directors several years ago in support of the Society’s goal of expanding international communication in ethnomusicology. A detailed new introduction by León and Simonett surveys and contextualizes the history of Latin American ethnomusicology, opening the door for readers energized by the musical forms brought and nurtured by immigrants from throughout Latin America.
Below, Violeta Parra, the subject of one of the book’s essays.
The women herders of ayllu Qaqachaka in highland Bolivia sing to their llamas in various ceremonial occasions during the year, and also on a more pragmatic daily basis to accompany their herding activities.
But their songs have other, more magical functions, involving the increase of the flocks, when they become a part of the body-centered knowledge and practices that comprise a female aesthetics and poetics of creation that parallels men’s more destructive activities in war.
Many of the principal singers are elderly midwives, and in a lifetime of learning they practice the art of wrapping their animals in song. This wrapping in song also serves to transform and domesticate the spirits of dead enemies, embodied in the animals, and to rebirth them into human society.
Key concepts such as jawi, that glosses as both fleece and river, are ontological expressions of flowing musical sound in woven substance. A mating song for the female llamas, a marking song for the ewes, and a song of blessing for the female llamas reveal how specific musical and lyrical structures express the women’s preoccupations with the generation of beautiful fleece and its weaving into sung wrappings.
This according to “Midwife singers: Llama-human obstetrics in some songs to the animals by Andean women” by Denise Y. Arnold, an essay included in Quechua verbal artistry: The inscription of Andean voices/Arte expresivo Quechua: La inscripción de voces andinas (Aachen: Shaker media, 2004, pp. 145–179).
Below, a visiting delegation passes through Chucura.
In 1990 Mickey Hart and the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center began work on what would become known as the Endangered Music Project—an effort to disseminate both new and archival recordings of vanishing world traditions.
In a 1993 interview, Hart described assembling the tracks for the project’s first CD release, The spirit cries: Music from the rainforests of South America & the Caribbean:
“My selection process was mostly earplay…I didn’t want it to be an ethnography specifically of the area, I wanted it to be a popular work.”
“I would listen to them over and over…in different environments, on the beach, in the house, in the car….I would listen in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening, and the selection revealed itself to me.”
This according to “Opening up the ‘Oz of archives’: Mickey Hart and the Endangered Music Project” by James McKee (Folklife Center news XV/1 [winter 1993] pp. 3–7).
Today is Hart’s 70th birthday! Below, a brief documentary about The spirit cries.