The aestheticization of tradition: professional Afroperuvian musicians, cultural reclamation, and artisitc interpretation



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For the last two decades, professional Afroperuvian musicians have had to ask themselves how to best maintain the musical legacy they inherited from an earlier generation of individuals who were invested in the rescue of traditions, many of which were at the verge of being forgotten. Today, contemporary performers move about a complex space, often crossing what appear to be conventional boundaries that differentiate between artists, academics, and culture bearers. The question then becomes, why and how is it that these individuals seek to assume these various roles and to what extent do these help further the development of musical practices that were in the process of being forgotten half a century ago? This is the central question that will guide this dissertation, a question that will most often be couched in terms of the different types of strategies that are available to performers as they assume these different roles, the authority that each of these can afford, and the limitations and contradictions between them. To this end, I chronicle the various strategies that contemporary Afroperuvian musicians have inherited from their predecessors as the project of developing a new sense of Afroperuvian identity underwent its own historical and ideological transformation, from a modernist movement concerned with the delineation of cultural distinctiveness to a variety of strategies that invoke the notion of art as means of elaborating complimentary, although still imperfect alternatives. First, I will discuss the authority that musicians can still find in the invocation of culture, history and academic research and how these have informed social hierarchies within the Afroperuvian professional musician community. I will also focus on critiques by musicians regarding how the more recent institutionalization and commodification of Afroperuvian music has led to the reification of musical practice. Finally, I will discuss how reactions to the aforementioned process of commodification have led to the invocation of new strategies that invoke the notion of Afroperuvian music as an artistic endeavor that amount to more than the mere reproduction of revived musical practices from the past.