Two Tales of Latinos in NYC

25 Feb

As an extension to Friday’s discussion comparing From Mambo to Hip-Hop and Latin Music USA: The Salsa Revolution, I am opening up the comments of this post as a space for discussing those two documentaries, the related readings by Wayne Marshall and Deborah Pacini Hernandez, and the music (and music videos) we discussed in class. Participation in this blog thread counts as your second writing assignment. Remember: the style rules I set out apply here as well –– what you post here will just be shorter than an essay (aim for 100-250 words) and more obviously in dialogue with others in the class. Blog entries should be posted by March 8th (11:59PM, EST).

Here are some topics to get us started:

Participation <—-> Presentation

What did you think of the contention that you can read the two documentaries as speaking for different attitudes towards music industry verses community-based activity? Is there a way to bring chapters 2 and 3 from Music as Social Practice to bear on the ideas we covered in class and that were apparent or in the subtext of the documentaries?

Oppositional Perspectives

We outlined many possible oppositional dichotomies in our discussion between the two documentaries: insider/outsider, young/old, S. Bronx / Spanish Harlem (el barrio), formal knowledge / social knowledge, Fania / everyone else. There were also many tensions and voices that only emerged in the readings, such as issues of gender and sexuality, and nation of musical origin/development (Cuba? Puerto Rico? United States? Panama?). Are these tensions reconcilable? If so, how do we reconcile the need to respect these perspectives even if what they express is personally offensive (i.e. the video for “Gasolina” or the overt machismo of boogaloo for feminists)?

Latino Musics?

Why is there so much recent public interest in music by Latinos? It could have to do with population growth over the last decade. It could also have to do with more recent acknowledgments and public discussions on the part of American music scholars that Latin America is part of American music history. Some of you were especially interested in the rhythms associated with the music we studied, in particular how familiar it all sounded from other genres that don’t explicitly index latinidad! (I recall references to the Rolling Stones and boogie-woogie.) What aspects of this music could be most (or least!) effective in a dance or social context? (Hint: this is an open invitation to talk about musical details.)



32 Responses to “Two Tales of Latinos in NYC”

  1. Dave Baker March 2, 2012 at 12:06 PM #

    here goes…

    Although the participation/presentation continuum Turino constructs is useful, because it articulates different ways of engaging with music and community, I disagree with Turino’s judgment that participatory musics are vaguely innately superior social forces. In fact, I would argue that a local/transnational continuum is a more encompassing lens with which to first approach the pairing of documentaries. This subsumes the question of participation/presentation alongside two others which inform Turino’s work: the question of identity and its relation to cohort or formation, and the question of mediators (local actors and environments vs capitalist organizations). By doing so we can better parse Turino’s bias, which I think is due to both his dislike of capitalist mediators (aka the record industry) and his implicit assumption that local spaces lead to the most influential cultural formations.

    Local musics, illustrated by From Mambo to Hip-Hop, usually involve a participatory ethos in which the cultural formation already present in localized places constitutes a strong identity in and by the activity of music-making. This means that there is no cultural mediator apart from the actors, technologies, and environments involved.

    Transnational musics such as those in Latin Music USA, on the other hand, generally necessitate a presentational mode, whether via recorded music or massive concerts. These must be mediated by entities such as Fania. I agree with Turino’s implicit criticism of capitalist exploitative practices evinced by the film. However, in the context of globalization, I think we cannot assume that local formative identities are more influential than transnational ones.

    • Elliot Evins March 2, 2012 at 2:02 PM #

      I’m curious as to your disagreement with Turino’s participation/presentational model and I’d like to talk more about it. Correct me if I’m wrong, it seems that you wish to convey that neither one is more influential than the other. Though even Turino later acknowledges that the two models are very rarely separated. I could agree with an argument that said neither of them could exist without the other and that the purity of the models can never truly be found in the real world. I believe that the musical movements shown in both of the documentaries are good examples of how influential participatory practice can be in the developmental stages of a genre, which does not discount the presentational aspect that performers often move to.

      • Dave Baker March 7, 2012 at 5:37 PM #

        Yes, I would agree that in most given examples there would definitely be elements of either defined extreme’s typology within the other. A record can help throw a party; a big arena concert engenders dance and socialization. I think most binaries are false dichotomies and correspondingly chose the word “continuum” to try and illustrate the porous nature of Turino’s ideal categories (in 250 words).

        That said, models are made to be useful, and in this particular case I do believe Turino’s still is. If we set a series of typologically significant points on the continuum that generally conform to its contours – recordings are more presentational than arena concerts, are more presentational than small club shows, are more presentational than house parties, are more presentational than bang-on-a-can games with your friends – I am comfortable making the argument that the popularity of the Fania All Stars was founded via predominantly presentational channels, particularly records. The arenas were only filled because the records sold and people learned who the band was. In this way, the preexisting fervor and ensuing participation shown for the rare Fania tour date or mega-concert directly contradict Turino,

        What I’m trying to get at here, though, is the competition of transnational vs. local identities within the self of an individual. Hip-hop’s considerable influence with the identities of a nest of local and racial formations formed via participatory musics; Salsa’s curiously strong influence with the identities of a nest of transnational and racial formations formed via presentational musics. Both modes “worked.” In order to explain the comparable powers of influence I superimpose the transnational/local continuum. I think that presentational musics are practically more capable of inducing transnational cultural formations than participatory ones, and vice versa for local. The final point, then, is that we – that is to say, Turino – shouldn’t be surprised at the strength of solidarity that generally presentational music has created (and that participatory music could not practically have created) across Latin America. Globalization! Each individual must decide how strong the local vs. transnational identities they wear are going to be, and the answers aren’t clear.

    • Bryce Bresnan March 2, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

      I agree that Turino’s bias is pretty apparent in the chapter on participation/presentation and I think his distaste for the notion of “innate musicality” described in later chapters also reveals he leans heavily towards participation as being the superior social force. I also agree that the history of localized music as presented documentary Mambo to Hip-Hop illustrates how cultural formations influenced the music and were influenced by the music. However, I have to add that there are many non-local and presentational elements to Hip-hop’s development.

      Hip-hop developed out of a combination of record manipulation, and “rapping”. With the exception of a 10 to 30 second break used by DJ’s as the back beat to rapping, the kinds of records that were played by hip-hop DJ’s were not accepted by the hip-hop cultural formation. According to Dan Charnas in “The Big Payback” most hip-hop breaks were sampled by DJ’s from forgotten and unpopular disco and r&b records, because record stores would mark down their price and most DJ’s were strapped for cash. Although the music that resulted from this process could be considered a local development, you can’t ignore the fact that there is a necessary influence from external, presentational recordings which are appropriated from exploitative capitalist practices.

      Not to mention the inevitable discovery and harnessing of the hip-hop genre by record companies that lead to its eventual massive international popularity. Although that was not include in the documentary, could the rapid geographical spread and increase in popularly of hip-hop due to record label distribution not be considered a cultural mediator?

      • Dave Baker March 7, 2012 at 5:47 PM #

        Yes, hip-hop totally has presentational elements. Like I said above, I was thinking of a pretty big difference between a continuum and a dichotomy.

        And yeah, once hip-hop took off from New York, I think you have to rely on impersonal mediators. Labels, records, posters, photos, videos. They’re all part of musical culture and concomitant identities.

        But! that’s the point at which it becomes larger than local – maybe not transnational, but translocal. Transregional? Trans-something. Large enough that participation in Turino’s sense of the word is no longer possible. (The internet and our interactions with new technology are especially interesting because they nearly wrap the Part/Pres continuum into a loop with connected poles… Does his model still have utility?)

    • griffin koss March 8, 2012 at 10:30 PM #

      If you don’t mind I would be interested in seeing you expand upon a comment you made in your last post, where you said that the internet and our interactions with new technology wrap the participatory/presentational continuum into a loop with two connected poles, and especially how this statement relates to your formulation of a local/transnational continuum. In your explanations of the latter pair it appears as though it maps directly onto Turino’s categories, which makes me wonder if you think there could be a musical style that is simultaneously transnational and participatory. It seems to me that even as Hip-Hop spread out from its root scene, becoming in the process an increasingly presentational genre, it would simultaneously remain deeply participatory both for those involved in the original scene, and for people in other locations who co-opted that musical style and made it their own. While Hip-Hop or any of the genres discussed in either documentary did gain a transnational and presentational aspect as a direct consequence of increasing popularity, I would argue that they still retained a localness both for those originally invested in the scene(s) and for other, geographically removed people who were first exposed to sounds as presentational but were able to appropriate them and make them their own, which is where I think a participatory element comes back into play. I hope this made some kind of sense.

  2. Ben Kerns March 2, 2012 at 4:44 PM #

    The opposing forces that are expressed in the two films fall on many different places in the spectrum of what could be counted as “reconcilable”. The dichotomy of insider vs outsider in the context of Latin music has seemingly been reconciled with the passing of time. The fact that we see songs like “Gasolina” reaching international success shows this to be true. The concept of “Latin music” has stopped being a something that is only heard in certain areas of the world, and has transcended into a global context. Ideas such as Fania being the only producer of Latin music have obviously been resolved because even though Fania is now gone, Latin music still exists.

    Some of the other dualities seem rely on different backgrounds and feelings though. The idea of national origin for the sounds that we associate with Latin music will most likely never be resolved for example. The music that started in New York was the music of immigrants from many different places, and finding the true national origin of those sounds would be next to impossible. The trumpet is a large part of the salsa sound, but who can really be credited with putting it there? We have no non-anecdotal evidence for if it was specifically Cubans, Puerto Ricans, or any of the other members of the melting pot. It also makes a difference whether it was Puerto Ricans in New York or Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico who put it there.

    • Nova March 8, 2012 at 12:30 AM #

      I agree that some of these tensions could be reconciled. I think that collaboration between artists from different genres and producing music that contains aspects of both will continue to aid this as well. There will always be extremes cases, and facets of every genre that some people won’t approve of, so I think that as time passes, the frustration will fade. If you think about it, as a social movement, dancing and media have always been mediums for acting out: in the ’20s, going to a dance hall on a Friday night could be scandalous and exhilarating. Many members of society, often from older generations, wouldn’t have approved. I feel that the same thing can be said about using music videos to communicate both discomforts and prowess. As time goes on, I think that we will eventually become desensitized to the material. It will still be there, and people might still disapprove of it, but it won’t be scandalous anymore.

  3. Lauren Brown March 5, 2012 at 12:39 AM #

    I have to agree with the previously stated sentiment regarding Turino’s position on participatory vs. presentational music. Turino makes it very clear to the reader that he favors participatory music over presentational music, but he acknowledges both his own bias and the fact that the participatory/ presentational dichotomy is an artificial construct. It is debatable whether one practice holds more social power than the other, since they operate very differently. Participatory events are the locus for building a musical community, as the participation creates cultural insiders. Presentational events have the opportunity to reach a wider audience, which can then instigate larger social movements. Again, as has been previously stated, it may be more useful to consider the participatory/ presentational model as a multi-directional dynamic progression rather than a static dichotomy.

    Both of the videos and Deborah Pacini Hernandez’s chapter reference how second-generation Latino/as (those who were US-born) found it necessary to develop new musical styles to express their dual identities. Based on this, I think that, at least in the United States, public interest in Latino music is growing due to the realization that the Latino styles are a part of the conglomerate national cultural fabric. The second-generation music makers who developed boogaloo and salsa state that their influences came from rock, jazz, disco, and hip-hop, in addition to the Latin styles of their parents. In the same way that jazz and rap are no longer exclusively portrayed as African-American genres despite their historical roots, Latino music has been a part of the cultural scene for long enough that non-Latino Americans can begin to participate in its creation and identify with it.

  4. Sara Linares March 6, 2012 at 5:09 PM #

    I have decided to focus more on the social aspect of Latino music….

    Many aspects of this “Latino Music” are effective and successful in a dance or social context. Especially if you are in the middle of a salsa or latin music club in Miami, you are pretty much obliged to participate. This rhythm is hard to not dance to. Everyone is together in this social environment and someone will grab you to pull you onto the dance floor. I know from personal experience that even some of my friends who do not like this kind of Latin beat at all, have been drawn to the dance floor and enjoyed themselves. The steady beat and recognizable vocals stir something in people’s bodies that make it almost impossible to resist. For example, “El Nuevo Barretto” by Ray Barretto incorporates a lot of celebratory yells: “¡A gozár!” which means “enjoy!” That gets the people going and instantly recognize that it is some form of calling out to them. This music is almost infectious. If you are sitting at the bar you will be tapping your foot or looking at the people dancing.

    Also, the lyrics have a lot to do with how people relate to the music. In “El Nuevo Barretto” Ray sings: “¡Que gozén la juventud!” which means “young people enjoy!” This is a more explicit call to a certain demographic. Nonetheless, the young people nowadays would not enjoy this kind of music so much as their parents. Yet there is a desire to return to one’s roots when this music is playing in a social setting. People want to be able to dance around other people, it is a way of meeting someone new or displaying a certain mastery in salsa dancing. This kind of mastery is highly regarded and young people are often rewarded for being good at it.

  5. Dana Ziegler March 6, 2012 at 10:14 PM #

    What I found interesting about both of the films was the lack of women represented. Celia Cruz was briefly mentioned in both films, but no women were interviewed and for the most part their contributions were not discussed. In their articles, Chang and Rose touch on some of the contributions of women such as Salt N Pepa and Lisa M, but women were left out of the documentaries. In this class we’ve seen women as vocalists, especially in disco and salsa, but not as instrumentalists, DJs, or producers. It makes sense that hip hop, as a form male social interaction involving boasting and macho themes as well as sexist themes, would mostly exclude women from involvement in its production. We can additionally look at the historical cultural context in which mambo, salsa, and bugaloo were being created to explain the lack of female involvement. But, it blows my mind that today, women are still hugely underrepresented as musicians, producers, composers, DJs, and instrumentalists. Many women have had success as vocalists, but few in other capacities in the music industry. It is hard for me to relate to music when there are no women represented, and as a female musician I feel it is important for me to point out inequalities in participation and encourage other women to get involved in music. In the past and now, I would blame the lack of role models and structures of support for women to learn technical skills (such as DJing and electronic instruments) and creative ways of expression (such as improvisation).

    • Prof KG March 8, 2012 at 3:13 PM #

      If there were more salseras apart from singers, I would include them in the class. Interestingly, women figure very prominently in the production side of early hip hop, especially at Sugar Hill Records. Also, hip hop history is full of female MC’s and DJ’s making it appear more egalitarian than rock ‘n’ roll. With the exception of all female swing bands, it’s still difficult to find women playing horn lines in any kind of band, regardless of genre. I can direct you to some work on women and salsa –– there’s a huge literature on the topic.

  6. Jenny Wheeler March 6, 2012 at 10:32 PM #

    To be yet another person to comment on the supposed divide between emphasis on participatory and presentational music in the two videos, I’d like to say that I believe both of the videos talked about music within a community. While From Mambo to Hip Hop mainly focused on solely community-based events, the episode of Latin Music USA merely put the emphasis on community within the context of a young, blossoming record industry.

    I don’t think the music events in From Mambo to Hip Hop were necessarily any more participatory than those described in Latin Music USA; whether the performers were trying to sell records or just trying to get people together to have a good time, all of them increased the sense of musical community in New York City. The examples from the latter video of Johnny Pacheco selling records out of his truck and Willie Colón and his band just hanging out with a group of fans all the time especially show that there isn’t a complete void between performers and those who listen to them.

    • Mollie Farr March 7, 2012 at 5:02 PM #

      That is a thought I was continuously having while watching ‘Latin Music USA’ – one could easily argue that the record label itself was a participatory music venue that developed in Spanish Harlem that consisted of just as much “community” ethos as anywhere else. All of the musicians interviewed seemed to know one another very well, and the words “Fania family” are thrown around a whole lot. While the Fania All-Stars aims were certainly more “presentational” in scope with their inclusion of large scale concerts, international tours, record production, and large scale industry films such as “Salsa”, the whole thing seems to have come out of a community that Jerry Masucci helped to build and maintain (as referenced by the numerous home movie clips of tours, bands playing with one another on an airplane, and Alex Masucci’s discussion of Jerry’s involvement with each of the musicians on an individual level). One could even argue that Fania was a presentationally based group that created venues for musical participation, such as when the crowd raged the stage at the New York Yankees stadium.

      But ultimately, this all comes back to how this dichotomy of presentational/participation is an artificial construct where the lines are blurry and neither one exists fully without the other. More interesting, I think, is the different ways the these two documentaries are presented – From Mambo to HipHop was clearly already assuming that the observer was an insider, where as Latin Music USA took the position of attempting to inform the modern viewer of the development of a genre that has recently gained a lot of public interest from people outside of the Latin community. As Bryce said earlier about HipHop, I think that this documentary was focused on Fania AS an important cultural mediator that aided the “rapid geographical spread and increase in popularity” that we see today in Latin Music, through record label distribution.

      • Prof KG March 7, 2012 at 5:21 PM #

        Excellent point. Indeed, producers and A&R people have an influence on the development of genres.

    • Coral Chepren-Moore March 8, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

      I don’t think that because the record label itself is a community that it makes the label necessarily participational to anyone but the people directly involved. I do, however, agree that the music produced by Fania is as participational as a record label can be. There was a great deal of marketing within the record label going on, to attempt to capture the participational vibe that was very much present in From Mambo to Hip Hop. The people from Fanaia were very deliberate in their marketing, guiding the finer points of developing the genre of salsa. Latin Music USA discusses the marketing decisions and successes behind Willie Colon’s albums. Willie Colon’s albums reflected the interests of the people and because the people were engaged by the presentation of the music, the “inside joke” feel of Willie Colon’s album covers for “Cosa Nuestra” (a reference to Shaft and Super Fly’s gangster image. The relatability to the consumer is what made the marketing so successful. I also feel that the the concerts are a huge marketing strategy and an effective way of bridging the gap between presentational and participatory. The crowd does not (usually) participate with the actual performer but everyone in the crowd is participating in attending the concert and being part of that group. I agree with Mollie that Fania is indeed a “presentationally based group that created venues for musical participation,” but they are very conscious to market themselves as being very participatory and audience friendly.

  7. Katie O'Brien March 7, 2012 at 4:13 PM #

    I’m writing my blog entry in context with Ben’s entry.
    I agree with him that “the idea of national origin for the sounds that we associate with Latin music will most likely never be resolved”. This pertains to the issue of authenticity. Does any such genre of music belong to a certain country or region, making it authentic and relative to that place? I would say the answer is no. Genres of music migrate, as do people. People bring their musical influence with them wherever they go. For example, when Puerto Ricans started moving to New York they brought Latin salsa that eventually turned into hip-hop when also mixed with R&B. Genres of music aren’t relative to a certain place and authentic only to a certain nationality. For instance, cumbia, originated in Colombia, is more popular in Mexico. There, people can relate to the genre of music just the same as the Colombians, and even better at that. People pick up on music because they can relate to it, they can sing or dance to it, etcetera, so it can’t really belong to one place or group. To me, authenticity doesn’t exist. All music is the product of the synchronization of influential genres.

    • Prof KG March 7, 2012 at 5:19 PM #

      Katie, I would clarify that Puerto Ricans (both boricuas and nuyoricans) in NYC created salsa. It didn’t necessarily come from Puerto Rico but rather Puerto Ricans mixing sensibilities from mambo, plena, bomba, and even R&B.

      • Katie O'Brien March 7, 2012 at 6:22 PM #

        Right, sorry about the ambiguity.

  8. Tyler Pratt March 7, 2012 at 6:07 PM #

    Though new styles of Latin music produced by Fania Records were developed to represent the mixed cultural identity of a specific cultural cohort of young Nuyoricans living in Ney York City, they transcend this purpose and appeal to other demographics through incorporating prevalent musical styles of the time and maintaining a high level of danceability. Ruben Blades’ “Plastico” begins with a long introduction featuring steady disco beats, before jumping into a new, smooth style of salsa that takes cues from American singer-songwriters of the sixties and seventies—effectively combining three popular musical styles. Even as Blades sings about uniting nations and peoples, the song moves to a danceable salsa tune; only when it’s translated do the song’s political aspirations become apparent. This crossing of genres on Blades’ album, Siembre, led to its widespread popularity and phenomenal record sales, and helps to explain why earlier Latin fusion music, such as the Joe Cuba Sextet’s “Bang Bang,” never reached a larger market. “Bang Bang” draws from big band and American jazz more than mambo, the music of the older Puerto Rican generation, placing emphasis on piano riffs and a bandleader inciting responses from the larger group, with Latin-infused percussion playing only a supporting role; it sounds as though the song was taken directly from American radio and translated partially into Spanish. The one’s success explains the other’s failure, it’s the difference between imitation and mimicry: Blades creates something new from three genres, where early fusion music attempts to make one into another.

    • Prof KG March 8, 2012 at 3:10 PM #

      I was _this_ close to playing something from _Siembra_ for the class –– either “Pedro Navaja” or “Plastico.” You can almost read “Plastico” as a response to disco rather than absorbing it because it never returns to that beat and he’s singing about fake (plastic) people. I think that Blades and Colón decided to open _Siembra_ with such a set of sounds to make a statement connecting disco to superficial people. Just a thought…

  9. Patti McChesney March 8, 2012 at 12:28 PM #

    In response to Dana, I also noticed the lack of female representation in both of the documentaries. This was especially unnerving to me as Celia Cruz is one of the most famous and influential latin musicians in America. Celia Cruz was part of my high school spanish curriculum. She was only mentioned in the Latin Music USA film and she was still portrayed fewer than other, less widely known, male musicians. I couldn’t tell if this was meant to highlight the amount of machismo in the latin music scene or if it was more unintentional thing. I would be interested to know more about the female influence in latin music.
    The two documentaries offered incredibly differing perspectives. From Mambo to Hip hop focuses primarily on the musicians of the South Bronx and outlines their experiences and feelings. Latin Music USA focused much more on the recording industry’s perspective and the business of spreading the influence of Latin music throughout the country. These perspectives help to provide a more rounded understanding of the way that Latin music was experienced by a society. Both sides are equally important in understanding the effects Latin music had on individuals involved in the movement. The recording industry keeps a larger perspective of how the public is responding to the music, while the musician’s perspective is helpful in understanding the cultural significance and development of the music.

  10. Frankie Alibro March 8, 2012 at 1:58 PM #

    In the two documentaries we watched, the differences were stark, to say the least. Most of the various dichotomies presented in this blog entry, while certainly of importance to note, pale in comparison to the “Fania / everyone else” duality.

    In From Mambo to Hip-Hop, there is a large emphasis on “the people’s” role in propelling the development of various kinds of music as social identifiers. Record labels are not even heavily discussed in the documentary, despite the huge role they obviously played, as shown in Latin Music USA.

    In Latin Music USA, subject matter is centered around Fania. The emphasis placed on its corruption scandals and subsequent demise exemplify this. In some parts of the documentary, I would argue that the dialogue is between Jerry Masucci and the narrator, discussing various perspectives of the scandal, with no music whatsoever mentioned.

    Overall, I feel that the “Fania / everyone else” dichotomy is much more apparent than any sort of participatory/presentational duality. In one documentary, Fania never leaves the discussion. In the other, it is not even mentioned. Furthermore, while From Mambo to Hip-Hop did focus more on participatory music, there was also a large emphasis on presentational music. Latin Music USA focused on Fania and presentational music, with a small amount of emphasis on participatory. The differences are worth taking note of, but they are not as stark as the “Fania / everyone else” dichotomy.

  11. Emily Fleming March 8, 2012 at 3:02 PM #

    I want to jump off Katie’s discussion of authenticity to talk about how both films managed to create a strong sense of authenticity in the NYC Latin music scene. I would agree with Katie that it is very challenging to identify a particular style of music as completely authentic; there is very little in music that is strictly original, as it is a medium which is defined by the ways in which it is continuously evolving and building off its past. I would argue that the Salsa music of Latin-Americans in NYC in the 70’s is no different; it very clearly built off of other sounds and previous genres. Yet both From Mambo to Hip-Hop and Latin Music USA: The Salsa Revolution left me with a very compelling impression of the authenticity and originality of Latin music and Salsa, because they placed such a strong emphasis on the communities that evolved with the music. These communities were truly an authentic and an original development in NYC at that time, because they were a combination of things that had never been combined before: Latin-American immigrants, the existing African-American population, and the overall cultural and political developments of the 1970’s. Both films showed the musicians and their respective communities to have very genuine responses to the conditions they were experiencing during this time. These responses were not only seen in the music they were creating, but in the strong role that these musicians played in creating a community and a cultural movement. While the presentation of the music itself was more or less a conglomeration of various existing styles, the participatory aspect involving the communities that grew up around these musics was something much more original. Both of the films that we watched emphasized this aspect of the music as it made for a convincing depiction of the musicians and their music as very original and influential.

  12. Harriet Barnes-Duke March 8, 2012 at 4:11 PM #

    I would like to address and compare the conclusions made in both the Pacini Hernandez chapter and the Wayne article because I thought there were some interestingly contradicting points discussed. Hernandez’s use of the term “crossroads” to describe the desire of U.S. Latinos to identify themselves with their Latin roots as well as American citizenship or nationality through the incorporation of U.S. styles such as rap and hip-hop was intriguing. This was namely because she seemed to place the importance of expressing pan-Latin identity as equal to the importance of maintaining some ties to one’s place of origin through traditional language and music genres. Hernandez also concluded, with a not particularly biased-sounding perspective, that genres similar to and including reggaeton have already become an identity profile for pan-Latino culture.
    Wayne took that conclusion one step further in stating that the future of reggaeton may be that of an even more mainstream genre that covers many derivatives of actual reggaeton. I couldn’t help but notice a sense of bitterness in his article when discussing this prediction, which I thought was interesting considering he devoted his entire article to the significance and origins of reggaeton as well as an analysis of the 3+3+2 rhythm and the minimalist construction that accompanies this genre, etc. It seemed as though Wayne might be more enthused by the spread of reggaeton as a trans-national popular music with his ending statement; “Can’t we all just dance along?” However, because of his more cynical view of the corruption of reggaeton by mainstream popularity, I can’t help but wonder if he supports the pan-Latin genre only up to the point at which it becomes world-wide and diluted due to the prospects of profit and fame.
    Needless to say I was somewhat confused by Wayne’s conclusions whereas Pacini Hernandez stated herself more clearly if less aggressively.

  13. Charles Gillig March 8, 2012 at 6:05 PM #

    I would like to add to and contest some of the ideas that have been brought forth regarding the dichotomy between presentational and participatory music in the two documentaries. As Turino has pointed out, participatory music encourages greater social unanimity, because of a high intensity of engagement with others, while presentational music lacks the inevitable creation of such close bonds. In From Mambo to Hip Hop, almost every social scene portrayed, epitomized a participatory musical event, working from the framework of what Turino defines as such. Even the gatherings wherein a single or group of performers dominated the music making aspect of the event, many others present, acted in such a way as to make the essence of the event “participatory.” Those that weren’t directly involved in music making took part in dancing, communicated with the performers via body language and voice, and communicated with each other through voice. I would argue that all of the sounds present at social events, make up the music for which people long to hear, and contribute to the all desired “flow.” Thus, peoples voices, even if just in conversation with one another, contribute to the music of what some might call a purely presentational event, in essence, causing it to be defined as a participatory event. From Mambo to Hip Hop emphasized the unifying power of various musical styles in New York City, from a framework of participatory music. I feel that Latin Music USA placed much less emphasis on portraying these musics as participatory. Consequently, the documentary very much missed citing the importance of the radical socially unifying power that music can attest for.

    • Ganga March 11, 2012 at 10:52 PM #

      I would like to expand on Charles’ discussion of the highly participatory nature of these musical styles. I am particularly interested in the dynamic that emerged at the very beginning of Hip Hop, as we saw in From Mambo to Hip Hop in which the music is the focal point, but the musician is de-emphasized. As in Mambo and much other dance-oriented music, the music makers act as facilitators for the social and often participatory activities that occur at the performance event, and while there is a clear distinction between those creating the music and those for whom it has been created, the emphasis is overwhelmingly on the social environment being created, rather than on the DJ. As Charles pointed out, there is still a great deal of participation occurring, as the audience, or more often, partygoers, interact and communicate aurally, orally, and physically with the DJ. There is no strict line between performance and participation, but the de-emphasis of the performer in as secular a context as this is intriguing. I would argue that these dynamics in the early formative stages of Hip Hop have affected the relationship between DJ and audience in all of the genres that Hip Hop has contributed to over the decades.

  14. Nathaniel Langston March 8, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

    I agree with your point that From Mambo to hip-hop was much more based on the peoples role in regards to the music. Overall I would have to say that From Mambo to Hip-hop might have been more representative of the culture that helped shape the music.

    Latin Music USA felt almost more like a behind the music style documentary depicting more of the famous individuals who were most successful during this musical period, and how this music was made marketable.

    I thought it was really interesting how Willie Colon adopted the image of a gangster on many of his album covers to make his music more appealing to the youth culture. It was mentioned the Blaxsploitation films of the period such as Shaft and Super Fly were the main influence of this. As well as Colon’s desire for himself as well as his fellow Latino’s to not only be part of this cultural image. I think that this is interesting when compared to Hernandez’s chapter talking about the role that Latin music played in the development of hip-hop. Even though being Latino made it harder to make a name in Hip-Hop. I think that Colon influence from Blaxploitation shows this cultural exchange between African Americans and Latino’s. Even though in this example does not directly pertain to the music itself.

  15. Holly McArthur March 8, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

    The focus of From Mambo to Hip Hop on more of “the people’s” music compared to Latin Music USA’s focus on the recording industry is an interesting expression of the industry’s divisions. Acknowledging what has been said about Turino’s presentational/participatory model as a construct, the value of the two perspectives and the realization that they can be relatively separate from each other is interesting and raises the question of how separate the recording industry and Fania was from what was happening in the South Bronx. It was said in class that the musicians were traveling between the two parts of the city, but how much interaction was happening in the influence of the music? The documentaries present things in such a way as to render them almost completely separate of one another, but they must have had an effect on one another.

    And just as a side note: Dana and Patti have both talked about the obvious lack of women visible in the two documentaries, but I think the tension between genders is even more obvious when we look at videos like “Gasolina.” I’m curious as to how this (the exclusion/objectification of women) affects the development of the music itself.

  16. Kyla March 8, 2012 at 10:10 PM #

    I would like to approach the topic addressing why there is so much attention to Latin American music in recent years as well as why this music is effective in a dance or social context. In addition to the creation of the Latin Grammys in 2000, recent public interest in music by Latinos I feel is grounded in its Afro-Caribbean/ Afro-Cuban origins. The fundamental polyrhythmic beats that are now termed as “tropical” influence every genre of Latin American music, including Cumbia as well as other genres such as the blues and jazz. I feel this is due to the centrality of the drum and how its rhythm is essential to driving the beat in order to propel people to dance. In addition to polyrythmic drum beats, the use of the cow bell and clave sticks is especially useful in keeping the time for beat, allowing a wide skill range of dancers to participate. Other more complex Latin genres such as Salsa stress the virtuosity of the body and the performer’s own mastery of the dance moves. When adapted with jazz, music genres such as mambo incorporate brass instruments like the trumpet, bringing another added level of familiarity to North American listeners/dancers. This in turn is developed further for dance hall venues where again, athleticism and control over the body is emphasized over communal participation.

  17. Jakilah Mason March 8, 2012 at 11:04 PM #

    A small comment in Latin Music USA left a big impression on me, and that was Johnny Pachecho’s comments about his distaste for boogaloo. Although he admits that his musical preferences did not prevent him from profiting from the genre, he does characterize boogaloo music as too simple, and too disconnected from Latin musical aesthetics. I am interested in the implicit privileging of certain kinds of Latin musical aesthetics, both in terms of its effects on commercial success and in two narratives presented in Latin Music USA and From Mambo to Hip-Hop. Latin Music USA seems to link its discussions of the fusion of American popular music with rural and folk traditions from Puerto Rico and (less so) Cuba with the intersection of capitalist and artistic interests. That is, I found an implication of incorporating existing Latin American and American Popular Musical aesthetics to broaden the commercial appeal of music that engaged with Puerto Rican rural and folk traditions. Further, the interest in Puerto Rican musical aesthetics seems linked to articulating or representing the cultural roots of salsa, its musicians and its fans. Similarly, from Mambo to Hip-Hop seems interested in music as an articulation of the Latin American culture in the South Bronx, but it also seems less interested in specifically commercial success than in success in inspiring and resonating with the people who are a part of the same culture.

  18. dylan robitaille March 9, 2012 at 2:04 AM #

    In From Mambo to Hip Hop, it is made clear that there was a generational gap between the Salsa explosion and the advent of Hip Hop culture. “Why don’t you play SALSA records like your neighbor, he’s making money!” says a mother to her DJ son. However, more than simply time divides the two musical cultures. In Latin Music USA, the salsa scene seems to be something for an older audience interested in pushing the limits of typical presentational Latin dancing music of the time. Salsa was available and digestible, much like the film Latin Music USA. From Mambo to Hip Hop, on the other hand, portrays hip hop as a music for the young and restless, which can explain the adolescent brashness of “occupying” public space and blurring of traditional lines of participation and presentation.

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