Monday, April 5, 2010

Critical Review #7 Waxer 1994

I think this article does a pretty good job in making its claims. I don't know tons about son, danzon, mambo, or chachacha, and this seems like one of those situations where thorough listening knowledge would have allowed me to feel like she was making a substantiated and legitimate argument. Her large claims of "transculturation" across the American continents and throughout the fast-paced social and technological developments make sense to me, although it's a huge claim to make for a chapter-sized piece of writing.

That being said, I'm left grappling with her framework--"Fernando Ortiz's influential theoretical concept of 'transculturation'"--and how that relates to the formation of a Pan-Latin identity. Waxer's "genealogical" approach to mambo and chachacha invoke a lot of social/economic explanation for the development of music. Although I am sometimes skeptical when I hear these extremely developmental descriptions of how music is cobbled together by international power relations, media constructions, race relations etc., I like how in these descriptions people and places are married to their music.

What I found interesting was the part about chachacha's popularity being attributed to the intimate connection between the dance step and the rhythmic impulse of the music. In these highly anthropological styled ethnomusicology pieces, I like seeing music tangibly related to the cultural trends or behaviors at hand. This analysis values and empowers the music by giving it similar clout to any economic or racial factor. The chachacha is not simply a practice that is reflective of those economic, racial factors etc., but shaped and formed in an aesthetic way out of its practice. With the risk of sounding cliche, I like the power music has in this particular anaylsis.

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