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Orkestra Rumpilezz : musical constructions of Afro-Bahian identities Diaz Meneses, Juan Diego

Abstract

This dissertation examines the relationship between music and politics of black identities in Salvador, Bahia (Brazil), an epicenter of Afro-Brazilian culture. It focuses on discourses of blackness and on the role of grooves, instruments, symbolism, and perceptions of carnival music, candomblé, and jazz in the contruction of black identities in Bahia. I propose a model that integrates discourses of black primitivism and empowerment with seven notions commonly associated with black and African music: rhythmicity, percussiveness, spirituality, communalism, embodiment, traditionalism, and closeness to nature. My contribution uses a Foucauldian interpretation of these notions to explain how they work together to form discourses of blackness, not on the notions themselves for they are all widely known. The model accommodates a wide range of interpretations of these themes offering more flexible views of blackness. A Bahian big band called Rumpilezz that blends jazz with various forms of Afro- Bahian music (such as candomblé and samba-reggae), serves as my laboratory for applying this model. Aspects of public self-representation, performance practice, music structure, and musical reception are analyzed. Taking a constructivist approach, this study aims to respond to the following questions: 1) How do the most influential preconceived ideas about “African” music and culture impact musical activity in Bahia?; 2) What opportunities emerge when musical forms perceived as Afro-Brazilian encounter others seen as foreign?; and 3) How does music in Bahia express discourses of blackness? This work, based on ethnographic research, historical, cultural, and musical analysis, demonstrates that, in promoting black empowerment, Rumpilezz emphasizes the themes of rhythmicity, percussiveness and spirituality, and downplays the notions of closeness to nature and embodiment. In doing so, the orchestra reinforces the place of Bahia, and particularly of Bahian candomblé, as diasporic centers of black tradition. Finally, Rumpilezz is located in a broader tradition of jazz bands in the diaspora that appropriates African-diasporic music to promote black pride.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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