Talk – 'Negotiating Tradition: Syrian Musicking and the Right to Play in Buenos Aires, Argentina'
Andrea Shaheen Espinosa, assistant professor in Ethnomusicology and Oboe Studies at University of Texas, El Paso.
The Arab music scene in Buenos Aires is currently experiencing a renewed vitality largely due to the popularity of relatively recent mediums such as telenovelas, dance trends and pop song hits that invoke, at best, orientalist notions of Middle Eastern culture and music. The gross misconceptions that these mediums and recent media portrayals of the Syrian refugee crisis engender have nonetheless provided for an increased interest in perceived Arab music practice. As this has led to an escalation in the performance activities of Syrian-Argentine musicians and dancers in Buenos Aires, it has also repositioned the parameters of the Arab music field, instigated new interactions between all of those involved in the Arab musicking process, and redistributed relations of power. In seeking to interpret negotiations of cultural, political, and economic capital amongst Syrian-Argentine musicians and dancers, the examination of diasporic subjectivities and discourses of homeland, migration, exclusion and displacement reveals the effects of such circumstances on concepts of tradition, performance practice, and one's perceived "right" to perform Syrian music. By employing Mette Berg's concept of "diasporic generations," I classify performers' self-positioning and classifications of others in order to evaluate the ways that Syrian-Argentine musicians negotiate space and capital within the Arab music field. While the subjectivities expressed by individuals reveal diverse perceptions of tradition between diasporic generations, ideas about the transgenerational nature of musical concepts provide unifying threads amidst a culturally, religiously and generationally divided community.