A Musical Journey Across Latin American History

History 103E.003

Fall 2009
Instructor (text): 
Day & Time: 
Thurs 12-2
A doctoral student in History, Pablo Palomino is developing a transnational perspective on Latin American popular music during the first half of the 20th century­precisely when modern popular music emerged. He studied and taught history at the University of Buenos Aires for several years before coming to Cal, and wrote a thesis on the modernization of his hometown Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro by comparing tango and samba. He loves music, traveling, and history.

This seminar will cover a century of Latin American modern music from the first recordings around 1900 to hip-hop songs produced in 2000­ in order to understand some key aspects of Latin American social and cultural history, such as the making of the modern cities, ethnic and national discourses and identities, and populist and radical politics.

It will focus on:
- The meaning of ";popular culture"; throughout the century,
- The analysis of ";Latin American"; music as a crossroad of Iberian, Mediterranean, Indigenous, African, Jewish, Anglo-Saxon, Eastern European, Middle-Eastern, and Asian traditions,
- The links between music and politics, identities, urban experience, and global capitalism.

Most meetings will combine the analysis of a song and the discussion of either a recent academic work or a written primary source. We will also analyze a few films as ­a great meeting point of cultural discourses and popular songs. Students are expected to write some brief papers, with the aim of practicing analytical writing, learning library research techniques, analyzing primary sources, learning how to listen to music historically, and optionally ­preparing a thesis pre-prospectus. Previous knowledge or background in music (popular, classical, or contemporary) and Latin American history is welcomed but not required. Here is a sample list of the readings:
Lawrence Levine, ";The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences";
Simon Collier, The Life, Music & Times of Carlos Gardel
Hermano Vianna, The Mystery of Samba
Robin Moore, Nationalizing Blackness. Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920-1940
Eric Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture
John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge, The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States