Tag Archives: South America

Mickey Hart and endangered music

mickey hart

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.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, West Indies

From the field

carnival of memory

The Society for Ethnomusicology and Smithsonian Folkways launched From the field, a series of multimedia reports for the online Smithsonian Folkways magazine, in July 2013 with Carnival of memory: Songs of protest and remembrance in the Andes by Jonathan Ritter.

Co-produced by Smithsonian Folkways and SEM, this peer-reviewed series presents recent ethnomusicological field research to a general audience. Reports combine audio and video recordings, photographs, and narrative to explore music-making and social issues at locales around the world.

(Photo by Jonathan Ritter)

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, New series

Folia de reis and family

The folia de reis Christmas tradition of southeastern Brazil involves a group of musicians and clowns traveling from house to house in a symbolic re-enactment of the journey of the Magi. The performers sing to bless the families they visit, and the families contribute money and food; the money is used to mount a festival on 6 January for the contributors.

Familial symbolism operates on various levels: At each stop, the group begins with an adoration of the Holy Family; then they sing directly to the members of the family they are visiting, with verses ordered to reflect traditional familial hierarchy; and the culminating festival unites all of the faithful in a symbolic extended family. The performing group itself is organized on a familial model.

This according to “The family in song: Vocal organization in the Brazilian folia de reis” by Suzel Ana Reily, an essay included in Ethnomusicologica II (Siena: Accademia Musicale Chigiana, 1993) pp. 203–213. Below, folia de reis in Miracema.

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Tropicália and Bahia

 

The tropicália movement of the 1960s, which coincided with a period of intense cultural and political unrest in Brazil, emphasized the country’s multiethnic identity by incorporating the entire spectrum of Brazilian music. Although the movement had an ostensibly political framework of national scope, many of its products had deep roots in the traditional music of Bahia, the most important reservoir of Afro-Brazilian culture.

Among tropicália’s most important figures were Afro-Brazilian singer-songwriters such as Gilberto Gil and Tom Zé; several other artists connected with the movement hailed from Bahia. An overview of song texts and musical features of tropicália shows that the influence of Bahia’s traditional music and culture remained a strong factor behind even the most avant-garde experiments of the various artists who converge under that rubric. The website Tropicália is an extensive resource for exploring tropicalismo, the aesthetic of tropicália.

This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.

Below, Gil speaks about Bahia, tropicália, and political suppression. Many thanks to James Melo for his help with this post!

Related article: Macunaíma and brasilidade

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Filed under Politics, Popular music, Resources

Herskovits and Freud

Numerous examples of the Freudian concept of repression may be observed in black cultures in Africa and the Americas. Though they do not use the Western term, these cultures involve a full awareness of repression and its attendant dangers for individuals and society, and they have developed therapeutic activities to mitigate it.

This according to the 1934 essay “Freudian mechanisms in primitive Negro psychology” by Melville J. Herskovits, which was included in Essays presented to C.G. Seligman (London: Kegan Paul International). While the word primitive has since been discredited, the piece is a milestone in the history of anthropology and is considered the first successful application of psychoanalytic theory in that field.

Herskovits explores how in many cases these therapeutic activities comprise satirical or insulting singing events that express what cannot be spoken directly, providing a release of repressed feelings in a socially supported framework. He discusses examples from Benin, Haiti, and Suriname, with particular attention to the Suriname Maroon lóbi singi ritual.

Usually performed by women, lóbi singi may comprise an exchange of insulting song verses, or it may involve a woman who socially redeems herself through singing satirical verses about her notorious past in alternation with a chorus of her peers; in both cases, social wounds are healed by the expression of repressed feelings.

This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.

Top: In 1929, Herskovits contemplates ritual objects that he collected in Suriname.

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Filed under Science, West Indies

Fonoteca: Radio Nacional de Colombia

 

Fonoteca: Radio Nacional de Colombia presents over 29,000 historical recordings, including speeches by presidents and public employees since 1940, serials since 1941, interviews since 1944, religious music festivals, llanera, bagpipes, porro, vallenato, rock, reggae, and Native American music from 1975 to date, as well as lectures and high school class broadcasts from 1960 through 2004.

The site also features the virtual Fonoteca radio station, whose broadcasts have long been part of the youth-oriented Radionica, the Radio Nacional de Colombia FM station.

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Filed under Popular music, Resources

Macunaíma and brasilidade

In Macunaíma, o herói sem nenhum caráter (Macunaíma, the hero without character) by the Brazilian musicologist, ethnomusicologist, poet, and cultural activist Mário de Andrade (1893–1945), the title character leaves his home deep in the jungle for a mystical quest to São Paulo to retrieve the muiraquitã, an amulet said to embody all of the history and traditions of his culture. Macunaíma succeeds in his mission, but in the process he undergoes a series of dramatic transformations; finally, he is changed into a constellation. He leaves for the firmament with a cryptic remark: He was not brought into the world to be a stone.

The story can be read as a metaphor for the cultural developments that Andrade helped to shape: He advocated bringing the jungle to the city to create the modernist aesthetic of brasilidade that informed the growth of the Brazilian creative arts and the parallel development of musicology and ethnomusicology there. Like Macunaíma, Brazilian modernism did not come into the world to be a stone, with all its implications of rigidity, contour, and well-defined boundaries—rather, brasilidade relishes improvisation, exploration, and fluid boundaries that can be perpetually transformed.

This according to “Macunaíma out of the woods: The intersection of musicology and ethnomusicology in Brazil” by James Melo, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

Related article: Tropicália and Bahia

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Ethnomusicology, Literature, Musicologists