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Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music

Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music

David F. García
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music
    Book Description:

    Arsenio Rodríguez was one of the most important Cuban musicians of the twentieth century. In this first scholarly study, ethnomusicologist David F. García examines Rodríguez's life, including the conjunto musical combo he led and the highly influential son montuno style of music he created in the 1940s. García recounts Rodríguez's battle for recognition at the height of "mambo mania" in New York City and the significance of his music in the development of salsa. With firsthand accounts from relatives and fellow musicians,Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Musicfollows Rodríguez's fortunes on several continents, speculating on why he never enjoyed wide commercial success despite the importance of his music. García focuses on the roles that race, identity, and politics played in shaping Rodríguez's music and the trajectory of his musical career. His transnational perspective has important implications for Latin American and popular music studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-387-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Arsenio Rodríguez (1911-70) was one of Cuba’s most important composers and musical innovators of the twentieth century. Since the late 1930s, Arsenio’s music has continued to make an indelible impact on a broad range of musical styles from the Caribbean and Latin America to West and Central Africa and beyond.¹ In the early 1940s Arsenio created theson montunogenre with his innovativeconjuntoensemble, and by the 1950s Benny Moré, Ernest “Tito” Puente, and other Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Latin big band leaders had adopted the son montuno genre into their repertories, bringing it to a broader international audience...

  5. 1 “I Was Born of Africa”: Black Consciousness and Cubanidad
    (pp. 12-31)

    In 1960 Arsenio recorded “Yo nací del África” (I Was Born of Africa) for his LPCumbanchando con Arsenio (Fiesta en Harlem)(SMC 1074). The lyrics of this song express the core of Arsenio’s racial identity. In the verse section he rejects his Spanish surnames while speculating as to what his true African name and ethnicity might be. He then resolves his uncertainty in themontuno(call-and-response) section by embracing his African and Congolese heritage: “Yo no soy Rodríguez / yo no soy Travieso … tal vez soy Lumumba / tal vez soy Kasavubu / yo nací del África /...

  6. 2 Negro y Macho: Arsenio Rodríguez’s Conjunto and Son Montuno Style
    (pp. 32-63)

    The Cuban son is a vocal, instrumental, and dance genre that is as stylistically varied as blues andjazz.¹ By the early twentieth century son had proliferated into numerous regional styles that were performed by a wide range of mostly string and percussion instruments. Son music’s commercialization through sheet music, recordings, and film, beginning in the 1910s, contributed to its stylistic diversity as well as its geographic and social dissemination. By the 1920s Cuban writers, artists, and others embraced son music, primarily in its commercialized form, and claimed it as a symbol of national identity (see Moore 1997). Since then,...

  7. 3 Who’s Who in Mambo?
    (pp. 64-92)

    From 1948 to 1966, the Palladium Ballroom was known among Latin music audiences as the mecca of Latin dance music in New York City. In the early 1950s it became specifically recognized in the American mainstream media as the home of the mambo, which featured amateur and professional mambo dancers as well as the Three Kings of the Mambo in New York City, Machito, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodríguez. Its importance to the popularization of Latin dance music in the United States is undeniable, but the Palladium and the music of its principal protagonists have constituted a dominant place in...

  8. 4 Remembering the Past with El Ciego Maravilloso
    (pp. 93-116)

    The final decade of Arsenio’s career and life has been the subject of much speculation. As can be observed on many Web sites and in liner notes to CDs, Arsenio, it is widely believed, died “in poverty” and an “almost forgotten figure.”¹ To be sure, by 1960 the forty-nine-year-old bandleader and his conjunto of mostly middle-aged Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians were struggling to capture the attention of young Latin music dancers whose tastes in music spanned doo-wop, rock and roll, and Motown as well as the newest Latin dance craze, pachanga. By the end of the 1960s this repertory...

  9. 5 Salsa and Arsenio Rodríguez’s Legacy
    (pp. 117-140)

    From the time it was coined in the early 1970s by Fania Records, the termsalsahas been used to market a stylistically diverse and historically broad repertory of music under one name. Although most agree that salsa has since the 1980s developed into a transnational music, incorporating musical genres and styles from various regions of Latin America and beyond, some musicians, dancers, journalists, aficionados, and scholars continue to debate salsa’s national provenance and maintain that the music has either a Cuban or Puerto Rican essence. Patria RománVelázquez has, I believe, justly described this ongoing debate as a “fruitless attempt...

  10. Conclusion: Remembering Arsenio Rodriguez/Remembering Son Montuno
    (pp. 141-146)

    On July 9, 2000 I attended Recordando el Mamoncillo, a Cuban festival that takes place annually in Astoria, Queens. This festival, marked by traditional Cuban music, dance, and food, commemorates the dances that used to take place at the salón “Mamoncillo,” one of several popular dance floors that were located in the beer gardens of La Tropical in Havana and where Arsenio’s conjunto performed regularly throughout the 1940s. It also celebrates the Club Cuban Inter-Americano and its importance to the history of Cuban music in New York. Although people of various ethnic and national backgrounds as well as age groups...

  11. Discography
    (pp. 147-166)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-182)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-202)
  14. Index
    (pp. 203-210)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-212)