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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Los Angeles Latinx Ska: Subaltern Rhythms, Co-optation of Sound, and New Cultural Visions from a Transnational Latin America

  • Author(s): Alvarez, Denny
  • Advisor(s): Walsh, Casey
  • et al.

Ska is a Caribbean born musical genre that was originally created from oppressive conditions and from where Caribbean slaves had used music to preserve African culture during colonial times. Such a context gave way to the emergence of a Rastafarian culture that created Ska, and even though it is a music of past times, it is now adopted, transformed, and rearticulated by Latinxs in Los Angeles into new conditions and into new dialogues. By drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s theories of common sense and subalternity, I advance that through the musical realm the racially oppressed create spaces of solidarity where they identify collective antagonisms and articulate inherited social symptoms. The racially oppressed organize spaces that push away from the antagonisms of social life and dance to rhythms that have historically developed in relation to structures of power. While not all songs express a relation to structures of power, the dialogical process that takes place in the Latinx Ska space is articulated from a community that has a history of inequality, displacement, and a policed existence; it is the cultural perspective of the historically oppressed. This thesis explores Los Angeles Latinx Ska as a cultural formation that articulates contemporary contradictions through a rhythmic common sense that in turn creates the avenues to articulate and struggle for hegemony.

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