Cumbia!: Scenes of a Migrant Latin American Music Genre

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Cumbia is a musical form that originated in northern Colombia and then spread throughout Latin America and wherever Latin Americans travel and settle. It has become one of the most popular musical genre in the Americas. Its popularity is largely due to its stylistic flexibility. Cumbia absorbs and mixes with the local musical styles it encounters. Known for its appeal to workers, the music takes on different styles and meanings from place to place, and even, as the contributors to this collection show, from person to person. Cumbia is a different music among the working classes of northern Mexico, Latin American immigrants in New York City, Andean migrants to Lima, and upper-class Colombians, who now see the music that they once disdained as a source of national prestige. The contributors to this collection look at particular manifestations of cumbia through their disciplinary lenses of musicology, sociology, history, anthropology, linguistics, and literary criticism. Taken together, their essays highlight how intersecting forms of identity—such as nation, region, class, race, ethnicity, and gender—are negotiated through interaction with the music.

. Cristian Alarcón, Jorge Arévalo Mateus, Leonardo D'Amico, Héctor Fernández L'Hoeste, Alejandro L. Madrid, Kathryn Metz, José Juan Olvera Gudiño, Cathy Ragland, Pablo Semán, Joshua Tucker, Matthew J. Van Hoose, Pablo Vila

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About the Author:

Héctor Fernández L'Hoeste is Professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino/a Studies at Georgia State University. He is coeditor, with Deborah Pacini Hernandez and Eric Zolov, of Rockin' Las Américas: The Global Politics of Rock in Latin/o America.

Pablo Vila is Professor of Sociology at Temple University. He is coauthor, with Pablo Semán, of Troubling Gender: Youth and Cumbia in Argentina's Music Scene.


"Cumbia has mattered, matters, and will most likely continue to matter for the multitudes who create it, listen and dance to it, and debate it almost as a way of life. This collection is both a sonic roadmap and testimony to the imagination of people across the Americas as they make some sense of their many worlds through music."—Jairo Moreno, author of Musical Representations, Subjects, and Objects

"This is a significant, comprehensive, and timely collection of essays. As the essays demonstrate, cumbia is probably the most widespread rhythm in the Americas. Yet, until now, its travels and transformations have not received systematic attention, taking into account the complexities of the genre's roots in northern coastal Colombia and its subsequent routes into Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and the United States. Cumbia! fills a crucial gap in the literature on Latin/o American popular music."—George Yúdice, author of The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era

“The clear, simple language makes the essays accessible, and contributors are to be commended for their excellent presentations...Highly recommended.” (K. W. Mukuna Choice)

"Together [the essays] introduce the reader to a broad range of Latin American musical practices that claim their roots in a specific regional genre but mean different things in different places. Cumbia! is essential reading for anyone interested in popular music studies, music and migration, globalization, and communication."  (Helena Simonett Hispanic American Historical Review)

"The 'scenes' of this anthology range widely in a geographical sense and in the way that each writer approaches cumbia. Héctor Fernández l’Hoeste and Pablo Vila have assembled a collection of thoughtful essays and presented them in a logical sequence reflecting the outward migration of cumbia from its origins." (Carlos Pena Notes)

“[T]he volume underscores cumbia’s potential as a subject of academic inquiry and should inspire scholarship with a more integrative perspective. [The book] is a laudable effort to establish an understudied Latin American popular music in Anglophone academic discourse.” (Sven Kube Journal of Popular Culture)

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