Musicians in transit : Argentina and the globalization of popular Music
Karush, Matthew B.
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In 1994, on the eve of his appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Argentine rock star Fito Páez was asked to consider the place of Latin American popular music in the world. In response, he claimed that musicians from the global South had a distinct advantage over those from the North: “I could enjoy the Beatles, but they never heard [Chilean folksinger] Violeta Parra. They have missed out on a part of the world.”1 Páez’s wry observation is a reminder of the inequality that structures global cultural exchange. Popular music produced in the United States and Britain has been elevated to universal status, a cultural product that is consumed and emulated everywhere in the world. By contrast, the music of other societies is of more particular, local significance; when it circulates internationally, it is often packaged as a novelty. North American musicians can indulge a taste for the exotic or they can simply ignore the music of the rest of the world, a choice that is typically not available to musicians from elsewhere who want to attract even a local audience. In other words, while Latin American musicians like Páez have been forced to compete directly against Elvis Presley, the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, the reverse has never been true. Páez interprets this apparent weakness as a strength: Latin American musicians have greater resources at their disposal. They can and do draw on local, regional, and global styles in order to forge their own music.
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