The “Grace” of Latin Music

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  An overview of the growth and history of Latino music in American culture
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    January 2019 The “ G race” of Latin Music    An overview of the growth and history of Latino music in American culture Sandra de la Riva «Para bailar la bamba. Para bailar la bamba. Se necesita una poca de gracia” ( To dance la  bamba. To dance la Bamba. You need a little grace). The year was 1987, the setting, the United States. The Mexican Folk band, Los Lobos (The W olfs), released their remake of the song “La Bamba.” A song that played part in the national Latino 1  movement in the United States as noted in the  NBC   article “ The 'Despacito' effect: The year Latino music broke the charts ”  (Arbona-Ruiz 2017  ) . For the first time in United States (US) history, a Latino song hit number one on the music charts  —  something that was unheard of in “the land of the free.” Nine years later, another Latino explosion occurred; “La Macarena”  (Arbona-Ruiz 2017  ).  The second Latino song to hit number one on the US music charts. Fast forward eleven years, Justin Bieber, a non-Latino, is singing “slowly” with Puerto Rican artists, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, to the most viewed video in the world, and third Latino number one in the US; “Despacito” 2  (Arbona-Ruiz 2017  ). But how where these songs, and Latino music in general, able to break through and make a mark on the rigid and prideful culture instilled in America? To understand this phenomenon, we must go back in time to the start of the Latino music movement in the US, and analyze the roles  played by marketing agencies, the economy, and streaming platforms. 1  Individuals who are from or descendant from Latin America.  2   “ Despacito ”  in Spanish means, slowly.     Latinos were, and still are to an extent, seen as foreigners; a lower hierarchical class that was not  part of the US “norm/culture”, including those of 2 nd  generation  —  descendants of Latinos born in the US. French sociologist, Michel Foucault, described that the “norm s ” in a society was an instrument used to maintain power within a certain group while avoiding the rise of power in another   —  such as the case with Latinos in the US music scene (Foucault, 1977, P.184). Due to this lack of  being seen as the “norm”  by the American population, Latino artists struggled to break through, and gain respect and power in the popular music scene  —  despite the heavy influence of Latino rhythms in “American music.”  This influence can be noted early on, specifically in Jazz. Known as of the founder of Jazz by international culture magazine  PopMatters , Jelly Roll Morton, described the essence of Jaz z as the “Spanish Tinge” from Cuba; “ the tresillo , a long-long-short rhythmic cell, and …  the  habanera , where the tresillo  is fit against an even, two-beat march ” ( Kjorness 2013). This “Spanish Tinge”  began from the constant immigration of Latinos, mainly Hispanics 3 , that increased with the Cuban emancipation in the late 19 th  century and the extension of US citizenship to Puerto Ricans in the early 20 th  century as noted in the article by the  Huffington Post  , “ 18 Major Moments In Hispanic History That All Americans Need To Know ”  (Planas 2015). The  PBS   documentary, “ Latin Music USA ” ,   explained that Afro-Cuban immigrants, Mario Bauzà and his brother in law Miguelito Valdés, and their band “ Machito and his Afro Cubans ” , were one of the first to introduce Cuban music to the New York City Jazz scene in the 1930’s (PBS 2009). This influence of Cuban music, allowed for Latinos to perform for all types of classes and races, while setting the stage for the era of the Mambo craze. Mambo was srcinally formed in the 1930’s in Cuba to spice up Latin ballroom  music and gained popularity in the US in the 1940 ’s and 19 50’s  (PBS 2009). During this post World War II era, New York had over half a million Puerto Rican Americans, but it was out of the norm, and looked down upon, for Latinos and white Americans to associate with one another, let alone dance together (PBS 2009). Afro-Cuban artist, Damaso Pérez Prado, played part in  breaking this racial barrier through Mambo music (PBS 2009). The Palladium, a popular dance hall in New York, was the place for Mambo in the 1950’s  and is where Prado frequently played. At the Palladium, people of all different ethnicities and cultures came together to dance. Mixed 3  Individuals who are from Central America.     race dance couples performed here, something unheard of in the US at this time  —  a judge free space for the mix of races (PBS 2009). After Mambo, Prado brought a new type of Latin music to the stage , the “Cha Cha.” D ifferent from Mambo, the Cha Cha is a “one, two, cha cha cha”  beat, and played in a slower rhythm. The Cha Cha was seen as an easier dance to learn and is one of the reasons it gained such popularity in the 1950’s . The Latino craze had hit the West and the East of the US by storm.  PopMatters  magazine explained that, “ By the late '50s, America had Mambo fever and Cuban musicians could easily be seen and heard on American television and radio”  (Kjorness 2013). This integration of the Latin influence could also be seen in musicals such as “West Side Story” 4  and the tv series “I Love Lucy” 5 , where the main characters showed interracial relations between Americans and Latinos (PBS 2009). On the other side of the country in Los Angeles, during the 1940’s,   the “zook suit” fad and Mexican folk music, made an influence on American country music. Mexican Folk music such as, “… corridos, ballads , and rancheras  could be heard from Oklahoma to California, inspiring country and western musicians like Marty Robbins and George Strait ” ( Kjorness 2013). The zook suits, Mexican American immigrants who associated with Mexican folk music, had a well-known attire. The zook suit attire was something unique and described by  Encyclopædia  Britanica , as having bell bottom pants, a broad shoulder jacket, both made of wool, and occasionally a flamboyant hat (Coroian 2018). These zook suits and their music were seen as  being “cool” and gained popularity quickly. Despite this influence on American music and this popular fad, Mexican American and Latino immigrants in Los Angeles were in general not accept by Americans, particially those of military service. Zook suits were continuously portrayed in the media as dangerous criminals, feeding into the animosity towards them and their music. In 1943, riots and attacks on zook suits arose in the Los Angeles area. On, “… June 7 … thousands of servicemen and citizens prowled the streets of downtown Los Angeles, attacking zoot-suiters as well as members of minority groups who were not wearing zoot suits …    police arrested hundreds of Mexican American youths, many of whom had already been attacked by servicemen … very few sailors and soldiers were arrested during the riots ” ( Coroian 2018). The riots and attacks eventually stopped, but Mexican 4  A musical that shows the racial tensions in New York between Latinos and Americans. 5  A popular US sitcom that portrayed a Cuban American couple.    Americans, and Latinos in general, were still seen in a negative connotation and given little respect  —  as shown by the majority of arrests made on Mexican Americans in the zook suit riots. Returning to the other side of the country, the ending of the Mambo craze in the late 1950’s  with the rise of Fidel Caster in Cuba, lowered the value of the Latino influence among American culture. In 1959, Cuba became a Communist government and suddenly in the US, everything Cuban, including music, was seen in a negative light because it was not part of American values (PBS 2009). The negative view of the new leader and government in Cuba, killed the Mambo and Latin craze. Once again, Latinos were looked down upon and no longer valued for their music. However, their beats were not rid of that easily. Masked in the form of Rock n Roll and Hip Hop, Latino music continued to influence the American music scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but in a less apparent manner  . The internationally renowned British group, “The Beatles”, had many Latino beats in their music  loved by Americans. This was due to the fact that many songs by the Beatles, such as “Twist and Shout”, were written by Mambo producers in New York   who called this genre “Jewish Latino music” (PBS  2009). It was common for Rock n Roll bands, and for rock bands today, to use the Cha Cha, one, two, cha cha cha beat, in their music, such as seen in the song, “Louie Louie” by the band The Kingsmen (PBS 2009). From Rock n Roll rose the popular Latin blues band, Santana. The founder, Carlos Santana, srcinally from Mexico, formed the eclectic band in Los Angeles. The group made its debut playing for the legendary American Woodstock festival in 1969 (PBS 2009). Playing for this festival and being accepted to play, a group of artists mainly Latino, was a huge step for the Latino music movement as becoming once again accepted into society. This festival is what  broke their blues, Latin rock fusion of music into the music scene. During this time, the beginning of the 1970’s, came the rise of the Hip Hop s cene. In  New York, the Bronx was the stomping grounds for gangs and crimes. Of these gangs, the Ghetto Brothers, a Puerto Rican gang, helped promote the Hip Hop music scene through their Latin dance Rock fusion (Kjorness 2013). This gang started the idea of promoting peace through their music, “… the Ghetto Brothers started playing block parties that were open to everyone, regardless of gang affiliation ” ( Kjorness 2013). This acceptance of all, in the music scene, evolved into disk jockeying  —  a popular music style in Hip Hop. Many, disk jockeys, such as    Afrika Bambaataa, used Latin songs or beats in their music (Kjorness 2013). Yet again, the Latino influence was on full force in the United States. Towards the end of the 20 th  century, Tejano, Texan Latino srcin, Chicano, American  born but of Mexican decent, and other types of music arose to the popular music scene in the US. The immergence of Chicano bands such a s the, “Los Lobos”, and  a little "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" 6  from American Tejano singer, Selena Quintanilla, helped skyrocket the Latino music movement in the 1980’s . Latino music and Latino immigrants became more and more accepted in American culture and were losing the negative connotation baptized on them by the US. This evolution opened the doors for different types of Latino genres, such as Reggaeton, Latino pop, and Urban music. Puerto Rican Artists such as Ricky Martin and Daddy Yankee, gave more “Gasolina” , fuel, to the popularity of the “vida loca” of Latino music with their upbeat and easily danceable hits. However, the article   “ Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar: the godfathers of Hispanic advertising ” , by the San Antonio Express-News , showed how the booming Latino movement in the end of the 20 th  and beginning of the 21 st  century, would not have not had such succes without the economic driven demand for Latino Artists by multimillionaire consumer corporations such as Bud Light, Burger King, and Coca-Cola (Hendricks 2017). By the end of the 1980’s, Latinos , foreign and US born, made up more than 20 million of US inhabitants  —  today they account for almost 60 million, as showed by the  Pew Research Center   (Flores 2017). In order to draw and cash in on this rapid growing population, while making their culture be seen as a norm, multimillion-dollar companies used Latino artists to attract this up and coming group. Selena, was one of the first well known artists to be part of the “Latino demand.”  As presented by the  National Museum of American History , t he “godfathers” of Latino marketing, Lionel Sosa, Ernest Bromley and Al Aguilar, and their marketing firm, “ Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, & Associates ”, one of the first and largest Latino marketing companies in the nation, joined forces with Selena and Coca-Cola in 1989 (Smithsonian National Museum of American History 2017). Lionel Sosa described the Latino phenomenon as, “… a hidden talent that was not recognized ”, proving that Latinos  could also compete in the US big leagues and create masterpieces (Hendricks 2017). With the support of “ Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, & Associates ”, Selena was a spokesman for Coca-Cola until her death in 1995, but her legacy lived 6  « Bidi Bidi Bom Bom » is one of Selena Quintanilla’s most well known song s.
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