Popular Music


The ‘routes’ and ‘roots’ of danzón: a critique of the history of a genre

Hettie Malcomsona1

a1 Department of Sociology, PPSIS, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK E-mail: hhm22@cam.ac.uk


In this article, I examine the history of a genre that spans several continents and several centuries. I bring together material from Mexico, Cuba, France and the UK to create anew, expand upon and critique the ‘standard’ histories of danzón narrated by Mexico's danzón experts (and others). In these ‘standard’ histories, origins and nationality are key to the constitution of genres which are racialised and moralised for political ends. Danzón, its antecedents and successors are treated as generic equivalents despite being quite different. From the danzón on, these genres are positioned as being the products of individual, male originators (and their nations). ‘Africa’ is treated as a conceptual nation, and ‘Africanness’ as something extra which racialises hegemonic European music-dance forms. Political leanings and strategies determine whether these music-dance forms are interpreted, adopted or co-opted as being ‘black’ or ‘white’.

(Online publication May 27 2011)

Hettie Malcomson completed her PhD (Cambridge) on danzón in the Port of Veracruz, Mexico in 2010. Her research interests include expertise and knowledge production, transatlantic flows, nation and racialisation processes, ageing, sexuality, gender, embodiment, creativity and standardisation. She has worked as a composer for various media for over 15 years.