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Listening to Salsa: Gender Latin Popular Music and Puerto Rican Cultures Frances R. Aparicio Wesleyan 1st edition


30th June 2012 History Books 10 Comments

Two new books on popular music present contrasting approaches to the diverse world of Hispanic music. Aparicio’s (Spanish and American culture, Univ. of Michigan) work, aimed at an academic audience, deals with salsa and Puerto Rican culture in a feminist context. McGowan, targeting a general audience, presents a comprehensive history of popular music in Brazil. Aparicio analyzes salsa, boleros, and other popular musical forms in terms of cultural issues (race, gender, class), drawing on her own experiences, and those of typical listeners, to explore these issues. Readers may find their views on salsa altered by reading this book. A recommended choice for academic Hispanic studies collections and for music collections with a strong Hispanic emphasis. McGowan and Pessanha here update their original edition (Billboard Bks., 1991), bringing their extensive experience writing on Brazilian popular music for Billboard and other magazines to this extensive survey covering local jazz and rock as well as better-known forms. The accessible writing style and lavish use of illustrations help achieve the authors’ goal of inspiring interest in this music. Updates cover recent music and musicians, provide more social analysis, and expand the discography to 1000 titles, adding much to the original edition. The best work on the topic, this is recommended for both academic and public library music collections.?James E. Ross, WLN, Seattle
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

“Deftly explores the cultural politics of Puerto Rican music, revealing how salsa illuminates the complexities of class, race, and gender identity among Puerto Ricans at home and in the continental United States.”–ISAM Newsletter

For Anglos, the pulsing beats of salsa, merengue, and bolero are a compelling expression of Latino/a culture, but few outsiders comprehend the music’s implications in larger social terms. Frances R. Aparicio places this music in context by combining the approaches of musicology and sociology with literary, cultural, Latino, and women’s studies. She offers a detailed genealogy of Afro-Caribbean music in Puerto Rico, comparing it to selected Puerto Rican literary texts, then looks both at how Latinos/as in the US have used salsa to reaffirm their cultural identities and how Anglos have eroticized and depoliticized it in their adaptations.

Aparicio’s detailed examination of lyrics shows how these songs articulate issues of gender, desire, and conflict, and her interviews with Latinas/os reveal how they listen to salsa and the meanings they find in it. What results is a comprehensive view “that deploys both musical and literary texts as equally significant cultural voices in exploring larger questions about the power of discourse, gender relations, intercultural desire, race, ethnicity, and class.”

“Deftly explores the cultural politics of Puerto Rican music, revealing how salsa illuminates the complexities of class, race, and gender identity among Puerto Ricans at home and in the continental United States.”–ISAM Newsletter

Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures (Music Culture)

My Music Is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities, 1917-1940

Ruth Glasser is a public historian and part-time Lecturer in American Studies at Yale University.

Puerto Rican music in New York is given center stage in Ruth Glasser’s original and lucid study. Exploring the relationship between the social history and forms of cultural expression of Puerto Ricans, she focuses on the years between the two world wars. Her material integrates the experiences of the mostly working-class Puerto Rican musicians who struggled to make a living during this period with those of their compatriots and the other ethnic groups with whom they shared the cultural landscape.
Through recorded songs and live performances, Puerto Rican musicians were important representatives for the national consciousness of their compatriots on both sides of the ocean. Yet they also played with African-American and white jazz bands, Filipino or Italian-American orchestras, and with other Latinos. Glasser provides an understanding of the way musical subcultures could exist side by side or even as a part of the mainstream, and she demonstrates the complexities of cultural nationalism and cultural authenticity within the very practical realm of commercial music.
Illuminating a neglected epoch of Puerto Rican life in America, Glasser shows how ethnic groups settling in the United States had choices that extended beyond either maintenance of their homeland traditions or assimilation into the dominant culture. Her knowledge of musical styles and performance enriches her analysis, and a discography offers a helpful addition to the text.

My Music Is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities, 1917-1940 (Latinos in American Society & Culture)










  • 10 responses to "Listening to Salsa: Gender Latin Popular Music and Puerto Rican Cultures Frances R. Aparicio Wesleyan 1st edition"

  • xucrutao
    9:48 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    “Listening to Salsa” is a scholarly wake up call to anyone who is interested in this genre. After reading it, you will probably never listen to Salsa the same way and it is probably just as well! What I discovered by reading this book is that I was hearing the music but not really listening. “Listening to Salsa” will give you a deeper appreciation of the nuances, intricacies and gender issues that comprise Salsa.

    As an aspiring writer on the subject, I know that I will be referring back to this book time and time again. Congratulations to the author and I look forward to reading and enjoying more of her work in the future!

  • Brats
    12:45 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I wrote a paper in Graduate School on “The Impact of American Colonialism on Puerto Rican Music.” Ms. Glasser’s book served as a principal resource. I was totally unaware of the existance of such notables as Rafael Hernandez and Pedro Flores. The story behind the orgins of the song, Preciosa, was fascinating. It has become my personal anthem. Today, there is a new version of the song being played on the radio by Marc Anthony. It always brings a tear to my eye. In Ms. Glasser’s book I have found a part of my heritage that I didn’t know existed. I was born and raised in New york City. My parents came to this country from Puerto Rico in 1948. They, like many of the self exiled musicians in the book, came to New York from Puerto Rico seeking a better life and economic prosperity. This is a wonderful book, with plenty of anecdotes and heart warming narratives. I intend to buy a copy for my parents and my brother. It is a part of our history that must be told. Bravo, Ms. Glasser.

  • O James Samson
    18:59 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As a young Puerto Rican woman, I loved reading about the politics, passions, and obsticles my people faced in the early 1900′s. This book tells how the music/entertainment industry played a big role in society and gives a great vision of that era and the beauty that was made through Latino sound. This is definatley a book to get started if one wants to learn about there history and struggles, along with reallizing their are many things to be proud of.

  • notachance
    4:29 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I wish i could had reviewed this book when i got it; but we must wait till Amazon lets us in the indicated “date.” This book arrived no later than 2-3 days after i purchased it! It is in PERFECT condition and the price was great too! I needed this book for class and was worried i wouldn’t receive it on time. – Instead i received it before it was even required! Great SELLER! Highly recommended!!! <3

  • imayer
    12:46 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The reason I say that is that many of the race and segregation issues which Latinos had to deal with, and how they dealt with those issues is largely unknown by the public at large.

    These include the proliferation of “white” and “colored” latino bands, the role Puertoricans had in mainstream US bands based on their high chart reading skill, and of particular insterest to Puertoricans is the section on the history of the Plena.

    The writing style is a little bit too academic. Even though it was written as an academic study, I still think the author sometimes used more ink than needed to make philosophical logical arguments to academia.

  • geminiman
    4:11 on July 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book is everything other reviewers have said, and more. For it doesn’t cover some encapsulated mono-ethnic phenomenon. Long before Diz, Puerto Ricans were a permanent part of mainstream jazz. They made up almost half JR Europe’s WWI Hellfighters band, and were present in some of the most famous black swing bands (and you thought it was just Juan Tizol!) Moreover it was largely PR music and musicians who added to Cuban roots what turned them into US salsa. As anybody who has read my LATIN JAZZ knows, I couldn’t have written parts of it without Glasser and I’m glad to acknowledge the fact publicly. JOHN STORM ROBERTS

  • Yuko Riblett
    16:05 on July 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As both a musician and anthropologist, I find this book helps fill a tremendous gap in the musical history of US Latinos, and Nuyoricans in particular. It is also an excellent example of how to conduct ethnomusicological research with concienza. I’m using it as a required in my MUSIC FOLKLORE course.

  • waxwing
    19:20 on July 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    “My Music Is My Flag” is a rare and genuine contribution, as well as a very provocative and insightful analysis, of the history of Puerto Ricans and their music in New York City during the period of 1917 through 1940.

    However, this book “failed” to mention the enormous contributions and the importance of “Pregones”(Musical cries of street vendors used to attract customers…in many cases they were bawdy, double entendre compositions. Lyrics patterned after the “pregon” also appeared in many compositions by Puerto Ricans). Many of these “pregones” were recorded in New York. A perfect example was “El Botanico”, done on a 78, inspired by Manuel Jimenez “Canario”. He recorded it with his band on June 8, 1929. Pedro Flores, Rafael Hernandez, Mirta Silva, Johnny Rodriguez and many others also recorded “pregones”. Johnny Rodriguez did them all from New York. These “pregones” were very important, as they reflected much about the economic and social conditions of the Puerto Ricans.

    Nevertheless, Ruth Glasser has made an important contribution to our understanding of the role Puerto Rican musicians have played in the development, growth and evolution of Latin music today.

    Highly recommended!

  • Russell White
    22:21 on July 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Frances Aparicio’s work is a powerful blend of critical analysis of lyrics, styles of performance, and ethnography on the reception of listeners to salsa’s meanings. She relies on an obvious and powerful training in literary analysis to consider the history and multiple uses of salsa as a form of expression, communication, and community formation. However, the most important contribution of this work is its concentration on gender and on the ways in which desire, identity and language are negotiatied upon music. It is clear that years of research went into the production of this monograph, especially since it manages to balance historical exploration with critical analysis. The benefit to this multidisciplinary approach is that the book can serve a variety of purposes, from providing basic information, to offering complex textual analyses. This makes the book useful for non-academic readers, as well as the academics for whom it was intended. However, since the book doesn’t come with a CD, those not well-versed in the songs discussed might need to do extra research. With the increasing popularity of Latin music, it is imperative that everyone who listens to salsa be involved in analyzing why we like it, and what we do with the music we consume. This book can help lovers of salsa start to frame these questions. Hopefully, it will also encourage other listeners to write their own perceptions on salsa and how it connects with other aspects of daily life and with self-identity. It is time to value popular culture in terms other than dollars and cents, which is what this project begins to do. Now, if only someone wrote a book on West Coast salsa my library would be complete.

  • Adella Lenling
    6:11 on July 3rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Ruth Glasser illustrates how the political circumstances, the particular situations of some of the social sectors, and the geographical settings of the Puerto Rican population produced the musicians that created a musical corpus which in turn identified Puerto Ricans as a people in the first half of the 20th century. The text gives an account of how those musicians forged the template of popular Puerto Rican music for the century, while contributing to the popular music of other Latin American cultures. It helps us comprehend, from a music perspective, how the interaction of innumerable conditions and situations and their consequences sculptured the elements of a national culture.

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