Styling Afro-Descendant: Connecting with Africa in Latin American Music-Dance

Eugene/Springfield–Many of the Latin American music styles that are most familiar to people in United States—salsa, samba, cumbia, and even tango—exhibit expressive connections to Africa. In this talk, UO Assistant Professor of ethnomusicology, Juan Eduardo Wolf, begins by highlighting those shared performance characteristics that are commonly associated with music styles of African heritage. He will give examples from various regions in Latin America to illustrate how different populations of African descent (Afro-descendants) have historically used these characteristics as resources to address their local musical and political challenges.

Wolf will then turn to the subject of his book project, Afro-Chile?! Styling Blackness in Music-Dance. Since Chile’s independence and expansion northward, its elite has downplayed and overlooked the role of Afrodescendants in the country’s history. At the beginning of the 21st- century, however, an organization of Afrodescendants demanding government recognition appeared along Chile’s northern border. They danced their way into the headlines, grabbing both national and international attention. Since 2006, Wolf has visited the city of Arica, documenting Afro-Chilean performances to understand the creative processes that this community has participated in. Wolf focuses on the process of styling—how performers frame themselves in relation to other performers—to discuss how and why Black people in Chile have used music-dance: first to blend in, and now to stand out. The result is to ask ourselves to rethink the connections between music-dance and the African Diaspora.