Episodes

Is there something we could call Latin American music? And if there is, does this mean there is also something we might call Latin American identity? In this three-episode documentary, we explore the history behind some songs, dances, and instruments from this region. Through interviews with historians, musicologists, and musicians, we try to understand how musical genres became national symbols, which voices were silenced in this process, how music became a channel for resistance, and how music moved beyond the borders of the region via travels, migration, and exile.

Intro – Does Latin American Music Exist?

Who is Caliban? In the early twentieth century, intellectuals turned to one of the protagonists of William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest in their quest for an answer to the question: is there a Latin American identity? This question leads us to explore the history of this region, its people, and its music.

Episode 1 – Music Goes National

We speak of Argentine tango, Brazilian samba, Uruguayan candombe, Chilean cueca, and Dominican merengue. But how did we get to this point? Through these examples, this chapter explores how certain musical forms became national symbols.

Interviewees

  • George Reid Andrews, Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh
  • Leonardo Iván Domínguez, Director of Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center, New York
  • Florencia Garramuño, Director of the Humanities Department, Universidad de San Andrés, Buenos Aires
  • Christian Spencer Espinosa, Director of Center for Research in Arts and Humanities, Universidad Mayor, Santiago

Episode 2 – The Sounds of Silence and Resistance

Black soul music in a “racial democracy”? African rhythms in a “white” country? Indigenous sounds in a “European” nation? This episode accounts for some voices excluded from national canons in a quest to understand how music became a channel for resistance.

Interviewees

  • Ezequiel Adamovsky, Professor of History, Universidad Nacional de San Martín and Universidad de Buenos Aires 
  • Paulina Alberto, Associate Professor of History and Romance Languages, University of Michigan
  • George Reid Andrews, Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh
  • Christian Spencer Espinosa, Director of Center for Research in Arts and Humanities, Universidad Mayor, Santiago

Episode 3 – Beyond Latin America

Tango in Paris, protest songs in Rome, merengue in New York… Is the idea of “Latin American music” an invention of United States diplomacy? This episode examines what happened to music when it traveled beyond the borders of the region.

Interviewees

  • Florencia Garramuño, Director of the Humanities Department, Universidad de San Andrés, Buenos Aires
  • Jhensen Ortiz, Librarian, Dominican Studies Institute, City University of New York
  • Pablo Palomino, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Emory University
  • Ignacio Ramos, Research Assistant, Universidad Mayor, Santiago