Shaping a global concept of Cuban music

Thomas M. Scruggs (right), professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Iowa, is the featured speaker at this year’s Lise Waxer Memorial Lecture. The lecture takes place Dec. 2 at York University.

Scrugg’s multi-media presentation, titled “Music and Cuba’s (Re)Insertion into a Corporate-dominated Global System”, will examine the Buena Vista Social Club project, and how its immense popularity has shaped global conceptions of Cuba’s music and impacted the musical culture on the island.

“This phenomenon is placed within the context of the post-Soviet ‘Special Period’ in Cuba and the new role of music as a potential export product,” said Scruggs. “The popularity of the Buena Vista Social Club, as well as contemporary Havana-based timba bands, has created new dynamics for Cuban musicians both on the island and in the growing diaspora.”

Scruggs’ interdisciplinary research focuses on ethnic and social identity, nationalism and political transformations, and the relation of local music to global cultural flows, particularly the musical cultures of Central America, in audio, video and print format.

He is principal contributor on Central American music for major reference works, including the latest edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (encyclopedia of music) and the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music.

Scruggs plays accordion, piano and several Latin American folk instruments. Carlos Mejía Godoy, Nicaragua’s leading musician, affectionately refers to Scruggs as el marimbero gringo in recognition of Scrugg’s proficiency on the Nicaraguan marimba de arco, also known as the bow marimba.

The lecture commemorates musician, ethnomusicologist, author and educator Lise Aerinne Waxer (left), a 1991 alumna of York University’s Graduate Program in Ethnomusicology and Musicology, who passed away in August 2002. Waxer’s pursuit of ethnomusicology included producing and hosting one of Toronto’s first world music radio programs on CIUT 89.5 FM and conducting fieldwork on salsa music in Cali, Colombia. She also authored two books: Situating Salsa: Global Markets and Local Meanings in Latin American Popular Music (Routledge 2002) and The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia (Wesleyan University Press 2002), which received the 2003 Alan P. Merriam Prize and the 2003 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for popular music.

At the time of her death, Waxer was a faculty member in the music department at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, where she was not only an inspiration to her students but also actively worked to forge links between the university and the city’s Hispanic community.

Waxer’s family, friends and colleagues established the Lise Waxer Memorial Lecture to celebrate her love of music of all cultures and her joy in sharing that passion with others.

The lecture will be hosted by Rob Bowman, director of the Graduate Program in Music at York Univesity. It will be held Thursday, Dec. 2, at 3pm in the Senior Common Room, 021 Winters College on the Keele campus. For more information contact ext. 77122.