Tiempos de trovar - Contesting and creating spaces for singersongwriters: The role of the nueva trova in Cuba

Monk, Susan Leticia (2007). Tiempos de trovar - Contesting and creating spaces for singersongwriters: The role of the nueva trova in Cuba PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Queensland.

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Author Monk, Susan Leticia
Thesis Title Tiempos de trovar - Contesting and creating spaces for singersongwriters: The role of the nueva trova in Cuba
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Abstract/Summary During the late 1960s the Latin American New Song Movement (NSM) emerged to provide an artistic outlet for many singer-songwriters allowing them to reflect upon the issues of their times. The Cuban expression of the NSM was called the nueva trova. Although it shared a common perspective with its counterparts in the rest of Latin America, it developed in a country which saw a restructuring of society based on socialist ideas following the 1959 Cuban revolution. By the end of the 1980s the NSM struggled to maintain its momentum after the turbulent years of the previous two decades when many of its major exponents had been exiled from their country of origin. The nueva trova in Cuba, however, created a space which has proved to be enduring and with a character quite different from what is commonly known in Western countries as "protest song". The nueva trova incorporated a wide variety of musical influences, imagery and metaphor, taking Cuban song to new levels of poetry while at the same time addressing its unique situation in a developing socialist society. The history of the nueva trova is one of rich melody, unexpected cadences, verses of dissonance and passages of reflection. It bears the marks of both national preoccupations and international pressures in a country which continues to exist in a climate dominated by U.S. hostilities. The nueva trova since its beginnings has had to negotiate a public space for itself, sometimes occupying sites of friction, other times convergence, within the Cuban state. The songs of the trovadores provide an exciting example of a cultural practice based on development, mutual support between its practitioners and relevance to the cultural environment in which it has developed. In this thesis I argue that the nueva trova occupies a significant place in Cuba's musical development. I propose that Cuban trovadores occupy a position as social commentators on the changes within their country and I put forward evidence to show the role of their music as a continuing and developing critical practice. I also consider broader questions about the dynamic relationship between music-making and the Cuban socialist state within the broader global context. I show that the work of the trovadores continues to be relevant, imaginative and challenging. Their desire to push at the boundaries of an understanding of the present contrasts with the stagnant or sometimes nostalgic backward looking idea of Cuban music as a "museum piece", portrayed by some in the Western world. Where inquiry into the place and practice of popular music and its relationship to cultural identity is being debated, the nueva trova offers some unique insights. Incorporating song texts and excerpts from fieldwork interviews I conducted in 2001, I investigate the many "lines of counterpoint" that have shaped the development of the nueva trova. I also consider the work of the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Centre, including its support for many new trovadores, which provides an exciting example of a cultural practice consciously linked to the environment in which it has developed. Finally I draw connections between my own music practice and experiences and consider the implications and links between performance and research as a participant/observer.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 14:55:23 EST