REVISTA UMBRALojs.uprrp.edu/index.php/umbral Universidad de Puerto Rico Recinto de Río Piedras
N.7 Septiembre 2013, p.44 ISSN 2151-8386 Recibido: 3/06/2013 Aceptado: 8/08/2013
Taking back the music: the aesthetic proposition of the Puerto Rican New Song
Zoraida Santiago Buitrago
University of Puerto Rico
El artículo examina las prácticas y significados políticos de la música de la Nueva Canción Puertorriqueña, en el contexto de la crisis del proyecto modernizador de los años setenta. Plantea que la práctica musical de la Nueva Canción pudo haber sido el comienzo de un esfuerzo de reapropiación del quehacer musical como proceso creativo y creador de relaciones sociales de solidaridad, contrapuesto a la continua cooptación de las músicas emergentes por la industria musical. Examina además las prácticas y significados políticos de la música de las nuevas generaciones, que se dan en medio de un control cada vez mayor del paisaje sonoro por parte de las corporaciones de la industria musical.
Palabras clave: Nueva Canción Puertorriqueña, música y poder, identidad, paisaje sonoro, estética, cultura.
The paper examines political meanings and practices in the music of the Puerto Rican New Song Movement, in the context of the crisis of the modernizing project of the 1970’s. It argues that the New Song practices could have signaled the beginnings of a process of reappropriating music making as a creative process and as creator of social relations of solidarity, against the current of the continuous cooptation of emergent musics by the recording industry. It also examines political meanings and practices of music by the new generations, which emerge in the midst of an increasing corporative control of the sonic landscape by the music industry.
Keywords: Puerto Rican New Song Movement, music and power, identity, sonic landscape, aesthetics, culture.
Partimos de fuentes muy específicas, de lo que es el canto y lo que es el instrumento que utiliza el pueblo para expresarse, el campesino, el indígena de la cordillera, el indígena nuestro del Sur. Partimos de allí porque ese es el único surco de donde nos nutrimos para florecer. (Victor Jara) 1
…the refusal to go along with the crisis of proliferation created ‘locally’ the conditions for a different model of musical production, a new music. But since this noise was not inscribed on the same level as the messages circulating in the network of repetition, it could not make itself heard. It was the herald of another kind of music, a mode of production outside repetition – after having failed as a ‘takeover of power in repetitive society’ (Jacques Attali)
The relationship between power, politics and music has been a topic of discussion in academia from the perspective of many disciplines and interests. It is also a lived experience and a continuous debate among artists themselves, their critics and their audiences. In colonial contexts, such as the one I will be examining, there is an added element of complexity: the colonial issue tends to set the tone when discussing politics and power with regards to music and the arts, when discussing cultural politics. Colonialism also permeates the creative process with which people to communicate lived experience and build a sense of place and belonging through an activity that humans have categorized as art.
The Puerto Rican New Song Movement (PRNSM) formed part of a worldwide wave of singer-songwriters that worked very much alongside political and social movements in different contexts and historical processes. It flourished during the sixth decade of the twentieth century, into the seventies and probably mid eighties. They were difficult times, times of dictatorships, cruel and violent repression, the cold war, the threat of nuclear holocaust. But they were also times of solidarity, of the struggle for the “new man” and the utopia of equality and justice that was rapidly approaching and that would rise from the chorus of voices united all around the world. Difficult times indeed, but also full of hope.
It is now 2013 and we live in times when that utopia seems to have been lost. Capitalism seems stronger and crueler than ever, and there always seems to be a new front to cover in the struggle for justice and equality, the ideals that guided and still guide many social and political movements. Young people are denied the right to an education; they face a life of unstable jobs; they have become victims of violence, corruption, a degraded environment and poverty. They live in an increasingly troubled and violent planet, constantly struggling to survive. Out of this precariousness and confusion, some kind of sense will undoubtedly emerge through their musical practices.
In this paper I will address the question about political meanings and practices of music within the PRNSM in the context of the 1970’s crisis of the modernizing project in Puerto Rico, and about new political meanings and practices of music as new social struggles take form in a country that is facing its most critical financial and social crisis in decades. As a singer-songwriter who participated actively in many of the processes described here, my lived experience and memories are obviously the basis of the accounts and reflections contained in this article. As a social scientist, on the other hand, I am looking back and attempting to interpret the social relations and the histories that I, and many others, lived and helped produce. In this looking back, I will not be able, in the context of this paper, to apprehend the full complexity of the processes described. But my intention is less ambitious: I expect to provoke questions that will open up the space for much needed research on the PRNSM. Although some efforts have been made in this direction, mainly in Master or Doctoral dissertations, no comprehensive research that resulted in publications has been produced.
I will also attempt to propose an interpretation of the PRNSM that will illuminate theoretical discussions around the creative processes within capitalism and modernity. Specifically, I want to think about the inequalities brought about by globalization and the “free market” of the music industry, that disguises social relations of domination and control, such as that exerted by the same multinational music corporations that control the soundscapes –music stores, radio and TV shows, MTV’s, Grammy’s and the like. The fragmentation of the everyday experience of the independent singer-songwriter serves to reproduce these inequalities, since rarely does he-she have the opportunity to participate actively in the construction of sounds and texts that serve to create a community of meaning. That construction needs to feed itself with a constant communication through the musical and poetic language shared by musicians and audiences. The artists will then attempt to construct such community through the institutionalization of collective efforts. The creation of the Comité de la Nueva Canción Puertorriqueña and Taller Cé could represent two examples of these efforts.
I intend to do this in two parts. In Part I, I will discuss the “rise and fall” of the PRNSM between the sixties and eighties. In Part II, we will look at the efforts of a younger generation of singer-songwriters, with which I became involved around the start of the new century, that resulted in the creation of a singer-songwriter coop: Taller Cé. By the use of this particular periodization, I do not, in any manner, attempt to suggest that “nothing happened” in the late eighties and nineties; as a matter of fact, this period witnesses the popularity of “rock en español”, as well as other musical manifestations that are an important part of our musical experience. However, my methodological choice is based on my perception of these two particular periods as witnessing efforts by musicians to organize and institutionalize independent music making that would open up spaces for artists’ unbound creativity, outside of specific canons. My intention is to pay particular attention to the different ways in which these attempts were conceived and executed, and the differences in the contexts in which these efforts were made. Therefore, more than a historical narrative of musical practices, I wish to produce an interpretation of these two processes that will allow us to observe the manner in which singer-songwriters of both generations respond to their historical circumstances and attempt to break the limits imposed on their creative efforts.
Part I – 1960-1985
In 1969, I began my freshman year at the University of Puerto Rico. I was one of many students around the world that got engaged in struggles that would forever change the face of the world. Or so we thought. Looking from the global perspective, the Viet Nam War was a major issue of student revolt. From the local perspective, the particular relation between Puerto Rico and the United States forced our youth into military service, even though we did not have the right to vote for the President who declared that war. I had just graduated from a catholic all girl high school, but my upbringing in a family deeply rooted in nationalist traditions, a minority within the dominant populist pro-American majority, allowed me to situate myself easily among the rebellious youth that exchanged nylons for Jaycees and pants, and attracted me to Anthropology: I wanted to understand my culture and my roots. In search of an identity that would give some sense to my being an involuntary American citizen and yet speak Spanish as my vernacular language, I became interested in Latin America.
Music played a big part in my encounter with the South. Soon I was listening to Violeta Parra, Mercedes Sosa and Víctor Jara, from Chile and Argentina. I had never in my life heard anything like it. The Cuban Revolution, on the other hand, brought me close to Nueva Trova’s Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés. In my freshman year, I attended a memorable concert by Joan Manuel and learned about Francisco Franco and the struggle against fascism. I was discovering a new world –of music, poetry, and politics. My sonic landscape was changing from The Beatles, pop ballads and boleros to this new universe of sounds.2 And it turns out I was not alone.
I begin with this story about myself because it allows me to follow the threads that tie my personal experience to that of others and to local and global processes, at a moment in history that witnesses the birth of what would later be called the Puerto Rican New Song Movement. Counter cultural, social and political movements everywhere in the Western world engaged my generation, from the University students who opposed the Viet Nam war, to the children of middle class families disillusioned with industrial consumer society, to working class and left militants who strived for social equality. Students in Cataluña reclaimed their ancestral language as they shed the fear of persecution by the Franco regime and started singing their poets. Others in Spain followed their lead. In France, in May of ’68, students joined labor unions and left organizations in one of the largest strikes in the history of Europe; sit-ins in the universities were the audiences for singer-songwriters singing songs of freedom. In the United States, the Civil Rights and anti-war movements mobilized millions accompanied by the songs of the folk revival movement that produced singer-songwriters such as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
And in Latin America, students, workers and peasants organized effective opposition to oligarchies accompanied by songs inspired by folk traditions and questioning long-standing social injustices.Daniel Viglietti
In Puerto Rico, as elsewhere, students during the mid to late sixties were making and sharing songs that denounced imperialism, colonialism, inequality and war. They also made songs of love, but songs that sounded so different to the boleros of my childhood, or to the mariachi songs of the Mexican films that were still very frequent in our national television. These songs were a new form of expression, because they spoke of my love and my rage, of the new world I was struggling for. And they were mine more that The Beatles’ ever were. As I became involved in student struggles, I also picked up the guitar and attempted to learn and play as many of these songs as possible. We formed groups to sing at marches, we made poetry and theater. A creative explosion was taking place all over.
At the same time, people were organizing land rescue movements that created new communities upon seized private or public lands3; others were mobilizing to struggle for labor rights. The populist project that in the 1950’s had promised the utopia of modernization was in crisis. But dependency on federal aid and social assistance grew, as did consumption levels and the invasion of commodities bought thanks to credit cards and loans. Corporations took a stronger hold on the Puerto Rican consumer market. Capitalism was being questioned and at the same time was seducing us into believing the crisis would be overcome through consumption. But singer-songwriters were making songs that fought against that seductiveness.A desalambrar, Daniel Viglietti
Songs accompanied social and political movements as singer-songwriters performed on the streets, at rallies, picket lines, in café-teatros that proliferated throughout the geography of Puerto Rico. The solo singer and the Spanish nylon string guitar was the center around which musical groups were organized that resulted from collaborations between artists of different genres and musical traditions. Some of these groups were promoted by political organizations and used as resources to mobilize and organize, such as Grupo Taoné and La Puerta. The Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP) founded the record label Disco Libre (1970-1976), and published Yo protesto, (Brown, 1971), De rebeldes a revolucionarios (Hernández, 1971), Canción del Pueblo (Brown et al., 1972) and others, for a total of 18 albums that included individual and collective works from Roy Brown, Antonio Cabán Vale, Andrés Jiménez, Noel Hernández, Carlos Lozada, Pepe Sánchez and Flora Santiago, founding members of Taoné. (Ramírez Ruiz, 2007). The extent to which this movement of singer-songwriters influenced other generations of artists is still to be ascertained. But undoubtedly, some of the artists of the younger generation recognize the influence of songs they were brought up with that definitely brought them closer to a new –or different- sonic and artistic experience. One such singer-songwriter expresses it in these words:
La música de cantautores puertorriqueños como El Topo, Andrés Jiménez y Roy Brown me sirvieron de nanas. Desde entonces, desarrollé un apetito voraz por la letra y la poesía que escuchaba en esta música, y un hábito por descubrir manifestaciones artísticas que me sorprendan. Es decir, canciones y poesía capaz de establecer vínculos que antes fueron inimaginables; algo así como golosinas cerebrales y sensoriales que no paran de seducir hasta que se devoran. La Nueva Trova o Nueva Canción provocó ese efecto en mí.4 (Ramírez Ruiz, 2007)
What was new about the New Song was that it was proposing a new aesthetics in popular music. This aesthetic proposition could be roughly described as the intermingling of diverse musical genres and traditions in a repertoire and even in the same song; the use of poetically complex lyrics, as opposed to the simple lyrics expected from popular song; and the way in which musicians, most of which came from rock, Latin and even classical backgrounds started to integrate musical forms and instruments traditionally associated with our rural and black sonic landscapes, forms that had remained marginal to the commercial, mass musics that filled the airwaves and music stores. And as in other places, this return to the traditions did not attempt to copy or reproduce them with fidelity. They would attempt, as Yupanqui did in Argentina, to bring the past to the present, to “retake ancient images and forms in order to give them back to the inspiring communities in the form of new creations”.5 It was a new music, the product of a process of articulation of the various musical discourses that formed their sonic experience. And they were also creating new uses for that music, new social spaces within which it was to be performed and shared: the closed, intimate space of a café-teatro, the center of a plaza or the street corner, the new theater spaces owned collectively by teatreros themselves.
In Spain, Argentina or Chile, as in Puerto Rico and all of Latin America, the New Song flourished as political organizations and social movements engaged its potential for mobilization. After all, as Margaret Dorsey explains, “using music to create identification is crucial to the formation of political publics (and the lack thereof).” (Dorsey, 2004) Music was thus essential in creating and expanding political action. The New Song everywhere shared an internationalist, anti-capitalist spirit, a spirit of solidarity and hope for a “new man” that was reflected in the way songs were composed, arranged and performed. However, the colonial character of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States imbued its lyrics with a strong nationalist and anti-colonialist discourse. Political resistance movements called for the construction of a national project that brought us closer to Latin America and the Caribbean, to our ethnic history of African and Hispanic heritage, and away from what was perceived as the threat of cultural assimilation. This led musicians in Puerto Rico to become enthused with Andean sounds, themes and instruments. Our closeness to the Cuban Revolution, a strong defender of Puerto Rican independence, brought us Nueva Trova. Much earlier, a strong tradition of patriotic songs within our popular music in the 1930’s and 1940’s had been muffled by the rhetoric of modernization, the strength of the Populist project of the “Estado Libre Asociado”, and later, the “Nueva Ola” of the sixties, with its versions, translated to Spanish, of the “teenager” fad of pretty girls and boys falling in love. The PRNSM was, in a sense, retaking the patriotic tradition in song.Nuestra bandera, Davilita
But the analytic emphasis on the nationalist discourse of the PRNSM could prevent us from looking at another political act that is happening, not in its lyrics, but in its musical practice. The New Song made an open and conscious effort to return to the basic, most human musical act. The quote by Víctor Jara epitomizes this search for humanity in music: using earth as its main metaphor, he expresses the urgency of going “back to the roots”. Not in order to go back to a past that was not all that good after all. On the contrary, the music of the highlands will be giving birth to a new humanity, “because that is the only furrow from which we can start to blossom”. Nothing more political than envisioning a future to be constructed departing from the histories of those who were silenced by European domination. This would be accomplished by bringing their voice to the political forefront, through songs, and by denouncing the coloniality of power that erased their histories with such violence (Quijano, 2000). It is no wonder Jara’s own voice was so violently silenced.
In Puerto Rico, some critics interpreted our own “return to the roots” as a nostalgic, even reactionary, glorification of our rural past. The “vida campesina” and the exaltation of the peasant, a common theme of many songs, was said to hide the exploitation and hardships of peasant life before modernization. But in the context of the violence with which we entered and lived the first half of the twentieth century, and then rushed into “modernity” (Díaz Quiñones, 1993) while eradicating all vestiges of our histories, this shift of attention to our rural past and our African heritage could have been, instead, our way of connecting with a history that had been denied us.La vida campesina, Haciendo punto en otro son
Elsewhere I have commented on the work of Juan Antonio Corretjer, pointing to his use of the taíno theme in his poems, and how he explains it as a way to promote the construction of an identity of resistance to U.S. colonialism and imperialism (Santiago Buitrago, 2008). Oubao Moin, the poem that serves as lyrics to one of the emblematic songs of the PRNSM, is taíno for “island of blood”. The poem historizes the conflicting process of colonization that subjected taínos, blacks and whites alike to brutal exploitation, while praising working hands past and present for building the future, free homeland. History was being rewritten; we were constructing a more powerful voice, emerging from our reinterpreted past but pointing to a future of justice, a necessary task that would allow us to flourish.Oubao Moin
The response of many music critics to this aesthetic proposition is revealing. Their uneasiness with the New Song speaks of the political and aesthetic discourses that are precisely those questioned by the PRNSM: that politics should be left out of popular music, and that songs should remain within the existing styles and canons of popular songwriting. Attack came from all fronts. The most nationalist voices regarded the use of rock and jazz influences in the musical arrangements as little less than treason for using sounds that represent “the antithesis of Latin American musical affirmation” (Díaz Díaz, 1985). From the conservative side, critics considered the songs to be of little musical value, too political, or too long, and the use of different rhythms and styles was considered a mistake attributable to amateurship and carelessness in composing. Foreign influence, such as that of Brazil and Cuba, was also criticized, as was the use of poems to make a song. And the PRNSM’s version of traditional sounds was considered a mockery of the “authentic” campesina music. This curiously visceral negative reaction even led a critic to say in one of his columns: “the Puerto Rican New Song does not exist” (Analfa, 1985). I believe that this response reveals to what point the new songwriters and musicians were threatening to open a fracture in the social fabric that sustained poverty, inequality and colonialism.
Of course not all critics were so radical; but even the most sympathetic urged songwriters and groups to consider making commercial, lyrically and musically simple, saleable songs in order to be successful (Alvarez, 1983). They missed the point: the PRNSM was proposing a way to create songs that were an alternative to mass music, undisciplined by the dictates of the music industry. This is not to say they would renounce to being heard. They would in fact walk the steps toward creating the conditions to manage and distribute their own productions, independently of the music industry. It proved to be a difficult road.
What circumstances made it possible for all these people to come together and create a community of artists with a sense of belonging to a common endeavor? Apart from the local processes I have briefly described above, global processes contributed to this. The Cold War and Viet Nam created the circumstances for alliances to be formed between the international organized left and anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. Central to this were the numerous youth festivals organized by communist parties and the Cuban Casa de las Américas, where many artists from different countries met, performed and composed together, and forged important professional and affective ties. It is important to study in detail the flows that placed particular artists in circumstances that allowed for them to become icons and to be identified as representatives of social and cultural movements of resistance. For the purpose of this paper, suffice it to say that a complex and intricate scenario promoted the formation of a community –local and translocal- that allowed for artists to build a sense of purpose and of practice that not only influenced their music and lyrics, but also allowed their work and their personal stories to become musical and affective references of a period that has remained as one of our most creative and active in music, theater and arts in general.
The question remains, however, about how solid was that “community of sense”.6 Its fragmented and unstable character came into view in 1985, when an attempt to organize the Puerto Rican New Song Movement Committee ended in a sudden dissolution (“Documentos de trabajo,” 1985). We had recognized a crisis, an inability to penetrate the media and make our music available to the general public. We proposed a way to transform this reality, but were unable to build a solid structure that promoted our musical work. The various attempts for collaborative works were continuously laden with accusations, suspicions and internal conflicts. The crisis of the PRNSM seemed to mirror a social process where individual, more than collective success was more valued. The alliances that had previously built a sense of community had proven to be fragile.
Part II – 2000-2013
Around the start of the new century I was approached by a group of young musicians and asked if I could talk to them about my experiences as a singer-songwriter. I was intrigued at this request and went to talk to them. They held their meetings in a humble wooden house in the countryside surrounding San Juan, where they were guests of a Buddhist community that let them use a house on their grounds. They were a group of singer-songwriters in the process of organizing into a cooperative.
As we passed the guitar around, each singing a song for the group, I discovered something I had not seen for a long time: musicians engaging in close collaboration. And they did even more. They held songwriting workshops, on a regular basis, where each one would bring a song and others would comment on it. They had a very rudimentary recording studio, where they had already produced a first collective album soon to be released. They explained how they started: by participating in a song writing workshop organized by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and offered by Roy Brown, one of the founders of the PRNSM. When the workshop ended, they decided to continue meeting, while also doing gigs to raise some funds for a future recording project. They had already formed a community with strong affective bonds. Eventually, they formed Taller Cé Coop, opened a café teatro and recruited me as a member of the board.
That brought me closer to a generation of singer-songwriters as I not only listened to their songs, but also saw how they worked, listened to their personal stories and discovered and shared some of their dreams. Musically, they all had different sounds and preferences, and uneven musical abilities. Some of them mastered the guitar more than my generation’s singer-songwriters ever did. As a result, they were able to build harmonies and modulations that produced beautiful, well-constructed and provoking songs. And they composed romantic songs, songs about their own experiences, and about the world around them. Some sounding very much like pop ballads, some with a heavy Brazilian influence; many of them very much coming from the rock scene, others from the profound and diverse musics of African origin we inherited from slavery. Notwithstanding their musical differences, they admired each other’s work, or at least recognized and respected each other’s right to their own sonic choices.
The solo singer and the Spanish nylon string guitar were still the center of the musical proposition in live performances. They would accompany each other and add more complex arrangements in some of the recordings. But above all, the way they approached this music making process, the way they searched for their own music, and then established the practice of sharing not only their music but also music making itself, was to me, a signal of a new way to make music. To see themselves reflected in the other, to open themselves up to others through a song, is a generous and subversive act in a world where individualism, self-gain and self-validation are the elements needed to sustain the alienation of the author from his work.
Singer-songwriters in Puerto Rico today make music in a difficult and confusing context. I like the way Jaume Ayats describes it: “(o)ur society is hyperbusy in sound”(“Jaume Ayats: music is a notion of European societies’',” 2013). This may be a problem or a blessing. Too many, more than I would like, commented one singer-songwriter when asked about her musical influences.7 All of them, when asked the same question, answer more or less listing so many different sounds and traditions that one is surprised at the coherence of some of their projects. This hyperactive world of sound has turned into “a means of silencing, a concrete example of commodities speaking in place of people, of the monologue of institutions.” (Attali, 1996:115)
But in the midst of all the immense variety of sounds, rhythms, instruments and voices that appear to have no relation to one another, musicians and audiences are drawn to what Tumas-Serna calls sonorous communities, “those that produce sound and are immersed in sound from within the depth of the community in which each individual member resonates with other members of the community” (Tumas-Serna, 2004). I cannot speak for all of the young people making music today, for there are obvious differences in experiences and histories. But I can say that I see them bringing their own histories, memories, traditions and cultural practices and making sense out of the fragmented sonic landscape they work in. They seem to be able to “find a groove, a sound that is their own” (ibid.). The New Song may be one of those traditions they relate to; even an important one, or it may not. It may be that they are more involved with reggae –also with profound non-conformist roots. They might be more in tune with Argentinian rock, or with hip-hop. But what is important is the manner in which they participate in the opening up of possibilities for a new era of social relations where community building starts with a song. And they do that by bringing each other’s experiences, through a song that is shared, to the community that supports them. So, instead of writing about certain “themes”, they attempt to establish connections. As one female artist explained about her songs,
Más que temas son prácticas o maneras de abordar un proceso. Los temas suelen ser diversos, aunque nada ajenos; parto de mi propia experiencia y de un deseo de conectar con los demás y de asumir un espacio de riesgo mediante el reconocimiento de la propia incomodidad. Muerte, poder, sexualidad, querencia, magia, trascendencia…luego está todo el rollo político, social y espiritual que media nuestra identidad, que no es evidente en los temas pero está bien presente en mí. 8
Are there continuities? Can we trace, through this whole process, a continuum of a rebellious attitude, a resistance to the cooptation to which the market subjects emergent musical propositions? Are young musicians today recognizing the need to assume control over their own musical production, fighting the current that leads a composer today to be merely “the supervisor of an uncontrolled development” (Attali, 1996)?
With its ups and downs, failures and achievements, the New Song movement could have signaled the emergence, somewhat tentative and insecure, of a social process of taking back the music. As capitalism became the dominant force around which social relations were reproduced, and every human activity or product was transformed into a commodity, so was the experience that we now recognize as music. What was once a human experience of sharing and feeling became private property first through musical notation, later through recording. Music making was taken away from people and given to specialists. The capacity to sing and dance, to have a voice through music, was taken away from people and given to a few.
Around the mid twentieth century, a group of people came up with a different idea. Music was to be lived, was to reflect the living experience of everyone, not just the few; from the most humble peasant to the urban poor, from North to South, East and West. They took to the guitar, the lone singer with the simple song. No orchestras were needed to validate that voice. The discovery was important; it was pointing the way towards the retaking of the commons. Although there were clear ambivalences along the way, they reflected the place from which the artist was struggling to construct her or his identity as a musician, a constant push and pull between autonomy and the desire to “succeed”. The opposition between what was perceived as “commercial music” versus “música comprometida” (engaged music) was only one of the ways in which this personal and social struggle happened and still does. But more than that, the imaginary of success, fame and fortune so forcefully imposed upon young artists created a pressure to decide between personal success and creative autonomy. And it was so, precisely because it preconized the need to surrender the role of the specialist, a personal choice that implied the end of the dream of “making it” as a musician. Probably, this was one of the circumstances that led, and still leads, to the fracture that brings the demise of many musical and organizational projects past and present.
Today, in Puerto Rico and everywhere, musicians are challenged to find ways to keep their creativity in tune with their humanity, and we are all challenged to become conscious sharers, not just consumers, of music. Music should be everywhere, not to make us silent, but to give rhythm and melody to our lives, to help us make sense of our quotidian, and help us live a joyful life. On the other hand, a musician’s creativity is constantly being influenced by the technologies, ideologies and discourses that promise success. But they still have their own experience, that which is more in tune with the circumstances, struggles and demands within which they live. Most of them have part or full time jobs that sustain them, but they don’t give up on a practice that gives them joy and meaning (Hernández-Acosta & Quiñones, 2012). With great efforts, they record their projects independently, doing what they feel best, enjoying their musical practice, but not alienated from other spaces that struggle to propose, with creativity and imagination, a different humanity.Cantautoras
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1 “We start from very specific sources, from that which the song is and what people use to express themselves, the peasant, the Indian from the mountains, our Indian from the south. We start from there because that is the only furrow from which we can start to blossom.” Author’s Translation
2 For a review of the popular song sonic landscape in 1969, see Malavet Vega 1988
3 For a detailed analysis of land rescue movements in Puerto Rico, see Cotto 2006
4 “The music of Puerto Rican Singer-songwriters like El Topo, Andrés Jiménez and Roy Brown were my cradle songs. Since then I developed a voracious appetite for the lyrics and poetry I heard in these songs, and a habit of discovering artistic manifestations that surprised me. That is, songs and poetry capable of establishing unimaginable links; something like cerebral and sensorial treats that do not cease to seduce until devoured. The Nueva Trova or Nueva Canción had that effect in me.”
5 “…prefiere retomar imágenes y formas antiguas para devolverlas a las comunidades inspiradoras en nuevas creaciones.”(Orquera, 2008)
6 “I do not take the phrase "community of sense" to mean a collectivity shaped by some common feeling. I understand it as a frame of visibility and intelligibility that puts things or practices together under the same meaning, which shapes thereby a certain sense of community. A community of sense is a certain cutting out of space and time that binds together practices, forms of visibility, and patterns of intelligibility. I call this cutting out and this linkage a partition of the sensible.” (Ranciere, 2009:31)
7 Demasiadas. Más de las que yo quisiera.
8 “More than themes, they are practices or ways to approach a process. The themes are usually diverse, although not the least extraneous; I start from my own experience and the desire to connect with the others and of taking a risk by recognizing my own discomfort. Death, power, sexuality, love, magic, transcendence…then there is all the political, social and spiritual stuff that mediates our identity, which is not evident in the topics but is very present in me.” Author’s files.