Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo/Cuban Music from A to Z/Cubano Be, Cubano Bop: One Hundred Years of Jazz in Cuba/Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santería

By García, David F. | Notes, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo/Cuban Music from A to Z/Cubano Be, Cubano Bop: One Hundred Years of Jazz in Cuba/Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santería


García, David F., Notes


CUBAN MUSIC: A REVIEW ESSAY

Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. By Ned Sublette. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2004. [xv, 672 p. ISBN 1-55652-516-8. $36.00.] Illustrations, index, bibliography.

Cuban Music from A to Z. By Helio Orovio. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. [xi, 235 p. ISBN 0-8223-3212-4. $24.95.] Illustrations, appendices, bibliography.

Cubano Be, Cubano Bop: One Hundred Years of Jazz in Cuba. By Leonardo Acosta. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2003. [xvi, 288 p. ISBN 158834147X. $29.95.] Index.

Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santería. By Katherine J. Hagedorn. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001. [xvi, 296 p. ISBN 1-56098-947-5. $24.95.] Illustrations, index, bibliography, discography, glossary, compact disc.

The Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, which continues to thrive with every new solo release, has marked the latest Cuban music craze in the United States and internationally. In fact, for well over a century now Cuban music has continued to attain widespread dissemination and popularity, first through sheet music in the nineteenth century and then touring musicians and recordings beginning in the early twentieth century. The genres and styles that Cubans and others have popularized internationally have included the habanera (mid-nineteenth century), son (beginning in the 1920s), mambo (late 1940s through the 1950s), cha cha cha (1950s), charanga-based son music (1950s through the 1960s), and timba (1990s). These repertories, while firmly rooted in Cuba's musical landscape, also became transnational musics, contributing significantly to the formation of related musical styles such as salsa, soukous, and mbalax in other parts of the world. Given the tremendous impact that Cuban music has had internationally and, in particular, on popular music of the United States (e.g., Latin jazz), it is important to note that before the 1990s scholarly, let alone general books on Cuban popular music, were not readily available in English. Cuban historians, anthropologists, and others, of course, wrote extensively on Cuban music throughout the twentieth century. Alejo Carpentier's La música en Cuba (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica), originally published in 1946, continues to be an important historical source for mostly pre-twentieth-century Cuban popular and art music. It was translated into English by Alan West-Duran and published as Music in Cuba in 2001 by the University of Minnesota Press. Cuban ethnologist and anthropologist Fernando Ortiz produced numerous works on Afro-Cuban music and culture throughout the first half of the twentieth century, yet his extremely important works remain untranslated.

It was not until the early 1990s that North American ethnomusicologists and anthropologists began to research and publish critical and scholarly work on Cuban popular and folkloric music and dance. Peter Manuel's Essays on Cuban Music: North American and Cuban Perspectives (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991) is particularly notable for bringing together the work and theoretical perspectives of Cuban and North American musicologists and ethnomusicologists. Robin Moore's Nationalizing Blackness: Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920-1940 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997) studies issues of race, national identity, music, and the arts in pre-Revolutionary Cuba, while Yvonne Daniel's Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) traces the development and social transformations of rumba music and dance in Cuba. In the last four years several more books on Cuban music have been published for scholarly and general audiences. Accordingly, the four works reviewed in this essay represent an increasing interest among North American publishers in providing translated editions of previously published Cuban books as well as historical and ethnomusicological work by North American writers.

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