Transatlantic Cartographies of Popular Music in the Americas

Dr. Marcos Napolitano (History Dept. – Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)

Popular music is frequently analyzed through national ‘musical genres,’ consecrated through specific aesthetic and socio-cultural conventions, and usually formed over various decades. It is enough to think of the most traditional music genres in the Americas, such as samba, jazz, rumba, bolero, and tango, for our cultural memory to relate them to their country of ‘origin:’ Brazil, United States, Cuba, Mexico, and Argentina, respectively. For some time, the historiography of music has been problematizing this approach based on a national focus, but in social memory and mass culture, the identification between musical genres and certain national identities is still very strong. Not by chance, the history of these large musical genres is confused with the process of modernization and cultural massification of the countries in which they originated.
Is it possible to construct another cartography of popular music of the Americas?
This plurality of connections and hybridisms, multidirectional and polyphonic, does not impede us from trying to map these historic processes and suggesting parameters of analysis, even at the risk of some generalizations to be verified and problematized in future research. This is one of the objectives of this cartography, centered on intersected musical exchanges between Europe, the Americas, and Africa, responsible for the formation of the principal musical matrices in the Americas.


Marcos Napolitano is PhD in Social History at Universidade de São Paulo, where currently teach Brazilian history. He was full professor at Universidade Federal do Paraná (1994-2004) and visiting-professor at IHEAL, Université Paris III -Nouvelle Sorbonne (2009). He has published a number of books and articles on contemporary Brasilian History, with focus in political and cultural aspects, including:

“Seguindo a canção: engajamento político e cultural na Música Popular Brasileira” (Annablume, FAPESP, 2001, 389 p.),

“1964: história do regime militar brasileiro” (Contexto, 2014, 364 p.),

“Musique populaire et dictature militaire au Brésil : dynamiques contestataires et logiques de marché (1964-1985). Nuevo Mundo-Mundos Nuevos, v. 2015, p. 1-20, 2015 (with Anais Flechet);

“Political activists, playboys and hippies: musical movements and symbolic representations of Brazilian youths in the 1960s”. In: Pablo Vila. (Org.). Music and Youth Culture in Latin America. 1ed.Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, v. 1, p. 204-224 ;

“The era of song festivals: a fundamental moment in Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB), 1966-1968”. In: Anaïs Fléchet; Pascale Goetschel; Patricia Hidiroglou; Sophie Jacotot; Caroline Moine; Julie Verlaine. (Org.). Une histoire des festivals xxe-xxie siècle. 1ed.Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2013, v. 1, p. 79-88.;

“The Brazilian Military Regime (1964-1985)”. In: William Beezley. (Org.). Oxford Research Enciclopedia of Latin American History. 1ed.New York City: Oxford University Press, 2018, v. 1, p. 1-29.


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