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Heard in the Echoes of African Drums

The three main nodes in the ebb and flow of transcultural tides; Rio, Havana, and Buenos Aires actively embraced and contradicted the neo-African dance, tradition, and merriment that lurked in the heat of the Latin American sun and the heat of dance halls, carnival parades, and brothels. Sharing some key aspects of heritage, the dance and rhythms found in these three ports really explain the strange relationship that dances have in transmitting culture to both continents, races and social castes, fueling retribution and nationalism at different times. In this book, John Charles Chasteen does a great service, and in style, to illuminate the Pygmalion-like rise of neo-African dance in Latin ports.

National Rhythms, African Roots states from the beginning (pages 5-6) that it tells the reader “How the transgressive became the official national rhythms” and seeks to answer how these lowly infantile dances came together in the very from seemingly lowly dances. the original movements are integrated into the national theater. Chasteen builds great interest on these questions and more throughout the pages, supplemented by personal accounts from direct observers, written views of contemporary moralists, and period accounts. Chasteen energetically connects the dots with culturally immersed peoples who have faced “strange and almost savage” assaults on their respectability and responsibility (154). and as part of the religious tradition, at the same time they exemplify anti-dogmatic themes and postures.

It would be difficult to find a culture as dichotomous as dance in any region. This conspicuous honor, I believe, belongs in part to the geographic/political/economic forces that brought many different cultures into contact outside of the traditional environment within which tradition and limitation could not defeat amalgamation. The meeting of the European, the native, the European born in the New World and the African gave birth to a new culture. As the book mentions, the slaves started the dance, not in the usual way in Africa, but in a slightly new way. Where there, on the new continent, the dances of non-mixed-sex groups were dominant, and perhaps thanks to contact with Europeans, the “dance of the two” was created. In and around all three ports, the African drum and cadence, as well as wind, string and other percussion instruments were connected with the dance. The cross-pollination of African drums and European dances and instruments gave birth to a dance unknown on any continent.

These dances moved from fields, forests, and beaches to brothels, dance halls, and low-profile private gatherings. Another secretly exciting nature of the dance was that it attracted people from the upper classes. Although they “seemed to encourage insolence … among the blacks, making it difficult … to properly understand their humility.” (101) Middle- and upper-class men found themselves both observers and participants in the dances, which conspired to suppress the propriety and education of the “bad boys” who mingled with the morenas. These men would learn the dance of the blacks, neo-African roots entwining their bodies with darker races, mixed or otherwise, offering an entertaining contradiction. In a world based on caste and social structure, these young men are educated and long for the guilty pleasure of dances, and some encourage interracial mixing. So it is that the stitching together of classes and races has become more than servant and master, more than geographical.

Újvilág received so much applause and applause for blackface performers, it held up the style and élan of darker cultures to imitate them in caricature and mime, but at the same time it wanted to stand above them. This was not to last, as the allure of the dancers and their movements lured more and more members of high society into his realm…effectively drawing them onto their own stage.

Most of the book is poignant for the reader, but for the sake of brevity I will try to outline only some of the more favorable aspects, evidence of how dance became a temporary migrant in Latin American mixed culture. world. That the dances of slaves, blacks, and mixed races, long hidden or subjugated by the powers that be, church or state, became national symbols is a great feat. Over time, Samba, Danzon, Tango, and others all became pawns in politics (as in rallying the darker races into a movement or side during times of revolution or upheaval). To support a certain population, dance and performance were needed to gain momentum and also to make them stick in classes and competitions. In order to later become the cultural symbol of the nations, they are tailored to the individual wear of different countries and represent the people of different countries today. Whether it’s Rumba, Samba, Tango or Bolero, the many styles and movements or the dance nickname of the country in question. I found it funny that neo-African dances sometimes lost their European masters because of their popularity…see Fado

Dances move up the social ladder; from the beginning in brothels and dance halls, in the homes and streets of the middle classes, and finally in the splendor and graces of the social and political elite, he comments on the occasional transience of cultural states and statuses. I would be remiss if I did not liken the rise from depravity to the exuberant life of the roots and rhythms of their offspring, American blues, jazz, and rock and roll, which were similarly bred from cross-cultural flirtation in bad circumstances and then thrown out of it. the folk culture of the Americans. What better proof of what time and cultural shifts do to the cultural embrace of song and dance (and the reflection and nurturing of mixed races) than the presence of (rap star) Kanye West on Barrack Obama’s top ten list of music. choice?

Carnival lies in that strange space that co-exists in the Latin world where behavior goes against the tenets of religion and church and tsk tsk. Here embigada and masked Diabo are mixed with the spirit of a religious holiday. Where the masked white elite tries to embrace the feverish rhythms and mingle with the mestizos, Indians and blacks… imitating the undulations and swings of their steps. In nations where impiety is condemned, and where the church has great power over the politics and policing of the population, it is not fitting to host such orations and sultry greetings.

Yes, the deep history of Latin American folk dance contains an incongruous story that only a human could write. The birth of the neo-African dance medium, woven together by the intermingling of races and cultures, gave momentum in time and space and eventually became a symbol of nationalism, pride and Latino identity. Chasteen showed the world more than she needed to prove her point. All he had to do was show examples from modern day popular culture to get the audience to see that where there is a passing on of people and cultures, those cultures also merge into a terrifying neo-culture of its own, capable of changing the perspectives, politics and plight of the peoples who choose to sweep them away in their own “dances”.

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