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Musica Nortena: Mexican Migrants Creating a Nation Between Nations (Studies In Latin America & Car) Paperback – May 28, 2009
"Sing to Me" by LA Reid
My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who's Next | Check out "Sing to Me".
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“Ragland’s ethnomusicological approach to música norteña's evolution and its contemporary relevance, brings the topic to life. The music is clearly a prism to examining a broad swath of social, political, economic, cultural, and communications issues. Her musical analysis is fresh, rare, and valuable.”—Daniel Sheehy, Director and Curator, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Música norteña, a musical genre with its roots in the folk ballad traditions of Northern Mexico and the Texas-Mexican border region, has become a hugely popular musical style in the U.S., particularly among Mexican immigrants. Featuring evocative songs about undocumented border-crossers, drug traffickers, and the plight of immigrant workers, música norteña has become the music of a “nation between nations.” Música Norteña is the first definitive history of this transnational music that has found enormous commercial success in norteamérica.
Cathy Ragland, an ethnomusicologist and former music critic, serves up the fascinating fifty-year story of música norteña, enlivened by interviews with important musicians and her own first-hand observations of live musical performances. Beyond calling our attention to musical influences, Ragland shows readers the social and economic forces at work behind the music. By comparing música norteña with other popular musical forms, including conjunto tejano, she helps us understand and appreciate the musical ties that bind the Mexican diaspora.
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Overall, the theme of Tejano versus Norteno structures the book. The author gives a solid social history of how the two music styles developed side-by-side, as parallel styles but representing distinct social allegiances. This analytic framework makes for a very coherent study of popular culture as a reflection of identity and political position. This seems like a Gramsci-inspired study of "style wars" in popular culture, waged between the followers of Tejano music and the followers of Nortena. However, the author never mentions Gramsci nor Stuart Hall for that matter.
The upshot of the book is that Nortena wins--the biggest fan base, the most bands, and the widest network of listeners on both sides of the border. The author's data is mostly limited to interviews with musicians, fans, composers, music promoters, record company execs, and other music insiders, but she nevertheless does deliver solid analysis of the cultural and social dimensions of international migration that enabled nortena to oust tejano.
On the downside, the author could have (should have?) discussed some of the other aspects of the style wars, such as dance styles (quebradita vs duranguense?) and clothing styles (cholo vs vaquero?) which would have made her social analysis pack more punch.Read more ›