South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Quick! Name five different kinds of musical bows found in Latin America. If you answered caramba, baka aapa, quijongo, shukster, and paruintsi without so much as batting an eye, then you probably do not need the second volume of the highly acclaimed Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (GEWM) If, however, you came up with only two or three names before faltering, you may be among the vast majority of musicologists who will celebrate the arrival of this wonderful addition to the set.
It hardly seems necessary to belabor the obvious, that despite the commendable job done by The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (20 vols. [London: Macmillan, 1980]) and the new edition of Die Musik in geschichte and Gegenwart (2d ed., 9 vols. to date [Kassel: Barenreiter, 1994-]) in covering folk and popular musics in addition to the European classical tradition, a comprehensive reference source dealing with these musics around the world (as well as with non-Western classical music) was long overdue. It is also obvious that Latin America counts among the most important regions, given the enormous impact it has had on global musical culture. One simply cannot overstate the pervasive popularity and influence of the tango, mambo, rumba, samba, Cuban son, salsa, bossa nova, mariachi... well, the list seems endless.
Enter the GEWM volume dealing with South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, capably edited by Dale A. Olsen and Daniel E. Sheehy. Here, at last, is "one-stop shopping" to assist those of us who teach courses on Latin American music and often find ourselves in need of the kind and amount of information provided here in such an accessible and convenient format.
Part 1 profiles the lands and peoples of the diverse regions covered in the book and then discusses various scholarly approaches to this vast musical cornucopia. Part 2, also a survey, is framed as "issues and processes" and deals with the symbolism and use of musical instruments, musicians in their social context, and native and immigrant groups. Of special interest in this part are several essays on popular music, broken down by region.
Part 3, section 1, treats South American native peoples and their musics. Most of us are familiar with major North American tribes such as the Cheyenne, Mohawk, and Cherokee, but how many can place the Tukano, Yanomamo, and Q'ero in their proper geographical locations? (Answers: Colombia, Venezuela/Brazil, and Peru.) Of course, the traditional lands of many native peoples do not conform to modern political boundaries, and these essays focus on the various tribes themselves rather than on the countries in which they are found. By contrast, the many national traditions of South America form the substance of part 3, section 2. Section 3 focuses on Mexico; section 4, on Central America; and the last section, on the Caribbean.
Summarizing the entire volume in greater depth would require many more pages than Notes can allow. To give the reader some idea of the procedures the editors have adopted, it will suffice to treat a single section in detail, one that is of major importance and interest to most readers: Mexico.
One of the notable and welcome features of the volume is its rich abundance of maps, pictures, and other illustrations, including music examples. Since the subject matter is unfamiliar to many readers, topics like geography, organology, ritual context, and so on must be made visually as well as textually compelling and informative. The section on Mexico begins with a full-page picture of a man in traditional costume playing a guitarron, a large bass guitar with six strings commonly used in mariachi ensembles. Opposite is a brief introduction to Mexico, setting forth its complexity and diversity, its regions, and its people. This is followed by a full-page political map of the country that shows states and principal cities. (One could quibble that since topography has had a surpassing influence on the development of regional styles not only in Mexico but throughout the Americas, some indication of mountains, deserts, rainforests, and grasslands would have been useful.) The introductory essay by Sheehy gives a brief overview of Mexico's rich native traditions. He reminds us that although each tribe has its own distinct heritage, there are some unifying elements among all of Mexico's various native musics. Among these are the powerful connection between music and ceremonial or ritual occasions, the use of music to accompany dance, and the general preference for high vocal timbre and instrumental performance. This introduction is followed by several essays written by various experts and providing much more detail about the major tribes, including the Guajiro, Mexica (or Azetc), Mixtec, Otopame, Purepecha, Tarahumara, Yaqui, Mayo, and Yuma groups. A thoughtful feature of each essay in this section (and throughout the volume) is a closing paragraph with recommendations for further study, followed by a list of references that is not confined to English-language materials and includes articles and recordings as well as books.
The essays on native traditions are followed by a section on Mexican folk and popular music. It opens with a historical summary covering the preconquest period (to 1520), the colonial period (to 1810), independence, and the twentieth century (after 1910). Our sources for and knowledge of vernacular music from the early periods will never be as extensive as we would like, but there are numerous accounts, written by Spaniards, of musical activities in Mexico at the time of contact, and certainly there are ample sources for the notated European heritage that quickly established itself in Mexico. Sheehy includes in his discussion prominent composers such as Manuel Ponce and Carlos Chavez because of their use of native, folk, and popular musical materials in otherwise classical works.
The numerous regional folk styles, or sones, come next, including huasteco, jarocho, chilena, and jalisciense. Other song-and-dance types are not associated with a particular region but spread throughout the country. These include religious and children's songs, serenades, and especially the corrido, a ballad that became popular during the Revolution (1910-17). Particularly useful in this entire section are sample song verses, with English translations. Some sones have migrated from the folk to the popular sphere, such as the canciones rancheras, canciones romanticas, and music of the mariachi ensemble.
Sheehy concludes by examining the impact of foreign music in Mexico and the diffusion of Mexican music abroad. In the nineteenth century, the Mexican middle class fell in love with the polkas, mazurkas, and waltzes of the European salon, along with opera. In our own century, the Cuban danzon, American dance-band music, and the Cuban son and salsa have had an enormous influence. Looming over the last few decades, however, has been the colossal presence of American rock, not only in Mexico but all the way down to Argentina. Mexican musicians have been less successful, perhaps, than the Argentines in developing a distinctly native style of rock. The son mariachi, though originally associated with the region just south of Guadalajara, has become a musical emblem of the entire country, absorbing into its repertory many other regional sones. And of course, its impact has spread far beyond the Rio Bravo. It is ubiquitous in the United Stares and has found a cultural niche in such disparate locales as Japan and Italy.
At the end of the volume are a glossary and guides to publications, recordings, and videos. A thoughtful addition is a compact disc with thirty-nine examples of pieces discussed in the text. This is hut a tiny fraction of the hundreds of styles and genres covered in the volume, but the sampling is broadly representative of the major regions. Helpful notes on the compact-disc selections precede the index.
Regardless of the pop quiz at the beginning of this review, any work such as this would fall well short of the mark if it remained merely a compilation of facts, dates, names, and statistics. The essays included here are at once informative, thought provoking, and not only data-driven but also issue-driven.
Despite the herculean labor invested in the volume, the overriding impression that emerges from it is how much work remains to be done. Musically speaking, Latin America is still virgin territory, where adventuresome musicological conquistadores and conquistadoras can explore and settle freely without damaging the climate, causing the extinction of rare species, or violating human communities and cultures. This volume provides not only the initial means for such journeys of exploration but something more important--the motivation.
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|Author:||CLARK, WALTER AARON|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2000|
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