The Legacy of Cuban Music Performance in Paris: degrees of Latin ‘enracinement’ in mainstream French popular music.
Popular Cuban dance music has had a century-long history of performance in the French capital; together with the transnational flow of Cuban music/Latin recordings, particularly from the 1930s onwards (Denning, 2015), this rich performance tradition has had a strong influence on French popular music. Hiding in plain sight (as scholars Christopher Washburne (2020), Paul Austerlitz (2005) and Anaïs Fléchet (2013) have highlighted), Cuban, Caribbean and Latin American musical elements are ingrained in many French popular music forms. The long lasting influence of Paris’s very own Buena Vista Social Club scene in the form of La Cabane Cubaine, La Cueva, Mélody’s Bar and La Coupole is here investigated in terms of degrees of inflection, appropriation and integration in the work of ‘French’ artists Jean Constantin, Serge Gainsbourg and Dario Moreno. Further investigations into Hispanic and Francophone Caribbean exchange reveal complex relationships, and demonstrate how exoticism, racism, sexism and various other aspects of France’s ‘échappatoire tropicale’ (Fléchet, 2013, p.209) play out musically in the Latin performances and recordings of mid 20th-century Paris. Degrees of ‘enracinement musical’ are shown to reflect, negate or subtly undermine the colonial ideologies of the times depending on how French artists worked with fellow Caribbean and Latin American musicians within inequitable social performance contexts. The legacy of musicians from Cuba, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other Caribbean countries in France needs further research not least in terms of how their performances and recordings.
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About the speaker
Pr. Sue Miller (Leeds Beckett University)
Sue Miller is Professor of Music at Leeds Beckett University. Her research interests include Cuban music (history, analysis and performance), Latin music in the USA, performance aesthetics, improvisation studies, music and dance relationships in animation film, music education, and French popular music. Her books Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation (Scarecrow Press 2014) and Improvising Sabor: Cuban Dance Music in New York (University Press of Mississippi 2021) document and re-evaluate the history of clave-based Latin music in both Cuba and the USA. Her recent work on the Latin music of Serge Gainsbourg is soon to be published in Serge Gainsbourg: An International Perspective edited by Olivier Julien & Olivier Bourderionnet (London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2024).