'O Monstrous! O Strange!’ Culture, Nature, and the Places of Music in the Mexican Leeward

Authors: Diego Astorga De Ita*, Durham University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Cultural Ecology, Latin America
Keywords: music, place, nature, enchantment, otherworld
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Son Jarocho is the music of the Leeward region in south-eastern Mexico; it is he result of the mixture of European, African and Indigenous cultures over the three centuries of Spanish colonial rule in a region of wetlands, rivers, fluvial plains and tropical forests. In this paper I explore how culture and nature are presented in Leeward fandangos –the communal parties in which son Jarocho is played, and a transient fiesta-site akin to Bakhtin's carnival. I will look into the stories of non-human characters of the Jarocho otherworld rooted in nature, and of their participation in music; particularly those collected by Moreno Nájera in his book Presas del Encanto ('Prey of Enchantment'). I will also delve into the lyrics and the material objects that link these stories and beliefs, to the music, to the different physical spaces (the forest, the village, the road, the river), and to the fandango as a non-cartesian musical place of carnivalesque ephemera. This exploration of the network of relationships that is woven through musical practices will show how the Modern's divisions between culture and nature are deconstructed in Leeward fandangos. Furthermore, it will showcase the 'monstrous and strange' aspects of music as a way for us to survey the social world of song, and will suggest new understandings of Latourian hybrids beyond (or before) the technological and cybernetic innovations of our age.

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