Popular Music


Latin Down Under: Latin American migrant musicians in Australia and New Zealand

Dan Bendrupsa1

a1 Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia E-mail: d.bendrups@griffith.edu.au


The global significance of Latin American popular music is well documented in contemporary research. Less is known about Latin American music and musicians in Australia and New Zealand (collectively termed ‘Australasia’): nations that have historically hosted waves of migrants from the Americas, and which are also strongly influenced by globalised US popular music culture. This article presents an overview of Latin American music in Australasia, drawing on ethnographic research, with the aim of providing a historical framework for the understanding of this music in the Australasian context. It begins with an explanation of the early 20th-century conceptualisation of ‘Latin’ in Australasia, and an investigation into how this abstract cultural construction affected performance opportunities for Latino/a migrants who began to arrive en masse from the 1970s onwards. It then discusses the performance practices that were most successfully recreated by Latin American musicians in Australia and New Zealand, especially ‘Andean’ folkloric music, and ‘tropical’ dance music. With reference to prominent individuals and ensembles, this article demonstrates how Andean and tropical performance practices have developed over the course of the last 30 years, and articulates the enduring importance of Latin American music and musicians within Australasian popular music culture.

(Online publication May 27 2011)

Dan Bendrups is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology and Popular Music Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He has published extensively on the music of Rapanui (Easter Island), and has a particular interest in migrant music in Australia and New Zealand, where he has engaged in long-term research relationships with migrant communities from Latvia and Latin America. Dr Bendrups is currently chair of the ICTM Regional Committee for Australia and New Zealand, New Zealand representative for the Australia/New Zealand branch of IASPM, and recording reviews editor for The World of Music.