Popular music, globalization and economy. Introduction

Receipt: April 13, 2021

Acceptance: April 24, 2021

With increasing force, popular music has become a window for the study of social issues. Let's see: in Sinaloa, a musical group produces "in real time" a narcocorrido about the failed capture of the son of the Chapo Guzmán Loera and, when a U.S. television station broadcasts the news the next day, it actually broadcasts two versions: the journalistic and the corridistic, because the musical background of the story is the corrido that describes the experiences of what happened. In Monterrey, an accordionist opens the only academy of its kind in the northeast, a repair shop and an import business of Chinese accordions, which surpass the hegemonic western brands in their quality/price ratio. Social spaces where nostalgia is cultivated as an economy can be observed in restaurants and flea markets in Houston, USA, where migrants revitalize the memory of the community of origin and negotiate meanings with their current situation, using music as a catalyst. These and other landscapes, as well as their respective analyses, which make up the present dossierThe authors address issues related to the thematic convergence between globalization, popular music and economy, whose distinct and unequal universes require the help of different disciplines, such as history, sociology, social psychology and, importantly, social anthropology and ethnomusicology, with their ethnographic methods. The authors also rely on audiovisual records and other formats that this journal rightly allows to include.

The social spaces of northern Mexico and the United States are the protagonists of most of the proposals and stage cross-border and transnational cultural flows, armed violence, creativity and innovation, and adaptation to the impacts of the global economy. All these phenomena are crossed by digital contexts of production, circulation and consumption of symbolic forms and, as new forms of social life, of subjectivities and intersubjectivities that the social scientist is just beginning to study. In these spaces, northern accordion and bajo sexto and Sinaloan banda music have a long trajectory, wide social acceptance and a global expansion that is not equivalent to their artistic-academic recognition, nor to their analysis from the social sciences, as several scholars have highlighted (Simonett, 2001; Ragland, 2011; Montoya, 2014; Díaz-Santana, 2018).

Most of the papers presented here are ethnographic approaches arising from a collective research project.1 Their developments were presented at the Music and Society Seminar of the ciesas-The event was held in the city of Monterrey, where the theoretical and methodological advances of researchers and graduate and undergraduate students were discussed in dialogue with artists and cultural promoters. With this multidisciplinary and intergenerational perspective, the aim was to build a line of research for the socioanthropology of popular music in Northern Mexico. Some of them contributed their work from their double condition of musicians and academics. Several of them had to live for months in a community of high international migration, develop for one or several years the ethnography of an instrument that included learning how to play it, or travel through cities in the northeastern region looking for instrument makers, tracing family trajectories, routes of knowledge circulation, work routines and strategies to survive in the different markets they serve.

This selection of articles gives continuity to and expands on the reflections contained in Economics of northern music,2 whose purpose is to analyze the structuring social relations aimed at generating value and valuing a myriad of activities around the production, circulation and consumption of popular music. In both academic efforts, most of the works deal with music as a highly mediatized urban and rural-urban popular expression, transnationalized, strongly linked to technological development and with emphasis on its mercantile expression, in the broad and dynamic sense given by Arjun Appadurai (1991: 28) and Igor Kopytoff (1991: 118).

On the other hand, musical mobility is driven by hegemonic processes that privilege certain flows of people, goods and capital throughout the world, structuring and institutionalizing relations of domination. But in tense interaction with the former, there also appear those other networks and flows of material and symbolic goods, constructed by individuals and groups through diverse migrations: labor, forced, temporary or permanent displacements. The transnational processes "from below", or "from the grassroots" (Portes, 2005: 4), the other globalizations (Lins Ribeiro, 2018) tell us about the agency to build culture in transnational communities by subjects and groups with less power, circumventing economic inequalities and negotiating the relationship with the otherness, particularly between Mexico and the United States for the case of this dossier. Thus, in order to explain the mobility of human groups, their music and instruments, the authors apply different approaches to migration to global or specific contexts.

In studying the role of music and emotions in the construction of transnational ties from the economic dimension, Hirai and Ramos use the transnational perspective (Glick-Schiller, Basch and Szanton, 1992) that recovers and analyzes those daily practices of community building between different nation states, as well as the cross-border flows and infrastructures that facilitate them (Sandoval, 2012). They understand the role of music as a fluid entity between different social spaces, which is susceptible of being valued by containing and triggering emotions, acting as a testimony of reality and building senses of belonging. For her part, Helena Simonett, in her article on the history of the accordion, explains how, during the 20th century xixThe impulse to interconnect European countries through travel and trade facilitated the circulation of a musical instrument such as the accordion, and its appropriation, first, in capitalist and pre-capitalist social formations in Europe, and later throughout the world.

The reconfiguration of subjectivities in the context of the strong transnational circulation of Mexican popular music, particularly banda and conjunto norteño music, is addressed in the work of Urrecha, Sánchez and Burgos, who analyze the construction of couple ideals through the deconstruction of their lyrics. The relevance of the analysis lies, first, in the fact that it allows us to observe how myths and prejudices are reinforced around the relationship of dominance and harassment of women and, second, because the study is of a music that in the last three decades has gone from the marginal to the marginal. mainstreamif not that she is now our real music. pop.3

In another dimension of social life, digital systems of production, circulation and consumption create new ways of being/being, of meaning and socializing, of expressing ourselves and being controlled (Lasén, 2019), which interact in tension with non-digital forms. Both are analyzed by César Burgos and Julián Almonacid in the particular conjuncture of collective panic and anguish of October 17, 2019: the failed attempt of the federal forces to apprehend Ovidio Guzmán López and the armed confrontation that grew throughout the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa, until the son of the Chapo Guzmán was released. The production of meanings in the form of narconarratives (Zavala, 2020), hegemonic and non-hegemonic; the new "states" of the person trying to portray their emotions of fear or anxiety; the collective management for self-protection; all of this emerging and circulating through social networks, gave material to different groups to produce music about the event. For Burgos and Almonacid, the musical ensemble selected for the study is relevant not only because it produced the corrido "Ovidio Guzmán. El rescate" shortly after the end of the event, but also because their creative process accounts for the new flows experienced by symbolic forms and goods. First, they analyze the production practices of the corrido, which demand, in addition to the appropriation of a certain collective experience, resources and skills of musical composition (lyrical, melodic, harmonic) and the knowledge to handle a recording studio. Subsequently, they show its unpredictable trajectory once it is placed in cyberspace, to then show how it can reach an American television station, be used as background for the news and be seen in another country, 24 hours after the event occurred. As an example of creative agency of musicians (Malcomson, 2019) it is shown that, at each step, there is also a management, calculation and negotiation of the possible risks or consequences for them, for the work produced and for its dissemination. As a phenomenon of a transmedia narrative, which evades the controls of nation-states over content, the work contributes to the study of
new interactions, frontiers and social convergences around the world.

In two of the articles presented here, the ethnography of the musical instrument proved to be an effective methodological tool, based on the proposal developed by our research group in the past years (Olvera, Godina, Díaz-Santana, & Ayala, 2017), to obtain information and analysis on the material production and social reproduction of the instruments that form the heart of northern conjunto music: accordion and bajo sexto. These approaches to the instruments correspond to what Appadurai (1991: 19-20) called "methodological fetishism" and allow us to describe their social life4 and their historical trajectories.

By describing and analyzing the modes of economic survival, instrument-oriented ethnography can account for relevant aspects of social life: the economy surrounding the musical object, the life of the musician and the surrounding community. Important clues for understanding key phenomena -of the structure/agency relationship and of cultural reproduction itself- can be obtained by following the social life of musical instruments, paying attention to the relationship with their performers and repairers, as well as to the specific context surrounding them, which can vary throughout their existence and easily exceed the average life of a human being.

Olvera and Peña's work on accordion repairers draws on approaches from the cultural study of musical instruments and the anthropology of labor to explore the practices and meanings surrounding accordion repair. The authors highlight the craft/technical dialectic that is established in the work of the repairer, as his work unites the pre-industrial and industrial worlds to extend the social life of a musical instrument and thus contribute to the reproduction of the cultural memory of the communities. In passing, it offers another example of how musicians use the resources at their disposal to take advantage of the processes by which the world is shrinking and accelerating, even if they do not belong to the contexts of hegemonic globalization. Here it is shown how a repairman from Monterrey uses Facebook and YouTube to share knowledge and position himself as a reference in the field; he exchanges knowledge with academics from Europe and America, thanks to whom he obtains important information for his work, such as the specific tunings for Colombian music, so popular in Monterrey, which uses the same instrument, but in a different tuning.5

Supporting David Laing's proposal (2012: 289), to recover the study of the music market in all its diversity, beyond the definition of it in classical economics, we argue that the dialogue and negotiation of industrial, artisanal and alternative economic practices around the construction and repair of musical instruments demand to be carried out in a systematic way, because they allow us to observe the particularity of countries like ours, where to a large extent the diversity of economies is what defines the economy itself.

The instruments speak of the community and its physical environment. If the bajo sexto was a musical invention out of the need to solve an acoustic problem, as Díaz-Santana (2018) says quoting musician Carlos Cadena, then it does nothing more than what musicians always do: innovate, modify, invent. In a community where there would be no electric light, the sonority of a specific instrument can make the difference between playing four or just two musicians. Economically it also makes a difference.

The inventions and modifications in the instruments, the inclusion and exclusion of them in the ensembles also tell us about the technical evolution of the communities to which they are due, the degree of their material progress, as well as the generational differences. Using the notion of field In this issue, Ramiro Godina addresses the tradition/innovation tension in the construction of bass sextos in three cities in northeastern Mexico. He concentrates on the visual image of the instrument to show the strategies of the "newcomers" who do not possess the capital of the established and renowned lute players; strategies of signification and differentiation through innovation, to position themselves against the strategies of conservation, stigmatization and self-legitimization of the dominant ones. In Simonett's article, mentioned at the beginning of this introduction, such strategies also appear throughout the evolution of the diatonic accordion and its appropriation by the elites and the working class and rural environments of Europe and the United States in the centuries of the 19th and 20th centuries. xix and xx. All of them are symbolic dimensions of human activity that converge visual and sound aesthetics, with hegemonic and alternative economies, in an endless tension that alters the valorization of musical instruments and the practices around them. We invite the reader to explore, through this monographic issue, musical practices as socio-cultural processes that allow us to observe social life from new angles.


Appadurai, Arjun (1991). “Introducción: las mercancías y la política del valor”, en Arjun Appadurai (ed.). La vida social de las cosas. Perspectiva cultural de las mercancías. México: Grijalbo / conaculta, pp. 17-87.

Díaz-Santana, Luis (2018). Historia de la música norteña mexicana: desde los grupos precursores al auge del narcocorrido. México: Plaza y Valdés Editores.

Glick-Schiller, Nina, Linda Basch y Cristina Szanton Blanc (1992). “Transnationalism: A New Analytical Framework for Understanding Migration”, en Nina Glick-Schiller, Linda Basch y Cristina Szanton Blanc (ed.), Towards a Transnational Perspective on Migration: Race, Class, Ethnicity and Nationalism Reconsidered. Nueva York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, pp. 1-24.

Kopytoff, Igor (1991). “La biografía cultural de las cosas: la mercantilización como proceso”, en Arjun Appadurai (ed.). La vida social de las cosas. Perspectiva cultural de las mercancías. México: Grijalbo/conaculta, pp. 89-122.

Laing, David (2012). “Music and the Market. The Economics of Music in the Modern World”, en Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert y Richard Middleton (ed.), The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction. Nueva York: Routledge, pp. 288-298.

Lasén Díaz, Amparo (2019). “Lo ordinario digital: digitalización de la vida cotidiana como forma de trabajo”. Cuadernos de relaciones laborales, vol. 37, núm. 2, pp. 312-330. https://doi.org/10.5209/crla.66040

Lins Ribeiro, Gustavo (2018). Otras globalizaciones. Barcelona: uam-Gedisa.

Montoya Arias, Luis Omar (2014). La norteña en Latinoamérica o el transnacionalismo musical cosmopolita en las periferias. Tesis doctoral. Mérida: ciesas Peninsular.

Malcomson, Hettie (2019). “Negotiating Violence and Creative Agency in Commissioned Mexican Narco Rap”. Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 38, núm. 3, pp. 347-362. https://doi.org/10.1111/blar.12977

Olmos Aguilera, Miguel (2020). Etnomusicología y globalización. Dinámicas cosmopolitas de la música popular. Tijuana: colef.

Olvera, José Juan, Ramiro Godina, Luis Díaz-Santana y Alfonso Ayala (2017). ¿Por qué una etnografía del bajo sexto y del acordeón para entender su economía? Documento de trabajo.

Portes, Alejandro (2005). “Convergencias teóricas y evidencias empíricas en el estudio del transnacionalismo de los inmigrantes”. Migración y Desarrollo, núm. 4, pp. 2-19. https://doi.org/10.35533/myd.0304.ap

Sandoval Hernández, Efrén (2012). Infraestructuras transfronterizas: etnografía de itinerarios en el espacio social Monterrey-San Antonio. México y Tijuana: ciesas-El colef.

Ragland, Cathy (2011), Mexican Migrants Creating a Nation between Nations. Filadelfia: Temple.

Simonett, Helena (2001). Banda. Mexican Musical Life Across Borders. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. https://doi.org/10. 2307/3595232

Zavala, Oswaldo (2020). “La narconarrativa después del juicio del siglo”. Confluenze, Rivista di Studi Iberoamericani, vol. 12, núm. 1, pp. 5-28. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2036-0967/11326

José Juan Olvera Gudiño. Professor-researcher of the ciesas-Northeast. Sociologist, PhD in Communication and Cultural Studies from Tecnológico de Monterrey. Member of the National System of Researchers, level 1. His current areas of research revolve around the economy and sociology of culture, particularly popular music. He has directed the project "Procesos regionales de construcción de la cultura en el noreste de México y sur de Texas: Los casos del hip hop y la música norteña" (Regional processes of cultural construction in northeast Mexico and south Texas: The cases of hip hop and northern music), funded by the conacyt. He has published Economies of rap in northeastern Mexico. Entrepreneurship and resistance around popular music. (2018, Mexico, Casa Chata), and coordinated. Economies of northern music (Mexico, Casa Chata, currently in press).

Shinji Hirai. Japanese anthropologist living in Mexico. He holds a PhD in Anthropological Sciences from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Iztapalapa, and is a member of the National System of Researchers level 1. His areas of research are transnationalism, anthropology of emotions and international migration. He is the author of the book Political economy of nostalgia. A study on the transformation of the urban landscape in transnational migration between Mexico and the United States. (uam/Juan Pablos Editor, 2009) and the article "La nostalgia. Emotions and meanings in transnational migration", New Anthropology 81 (2014).


Inline Feedbacks
Ver todos los comentarios


ISSN: 2594-2999.


Unless expressly mentioned, all content on this site is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Download legal provisions complete

EncartesVol. 7, No. 13, March 2024-September 2024, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: encartesantropologicos@ciesas.edu.mx. Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at https://encartes.mx. Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: March 25, 2024.