Tropical Riffs

Latin America and the Politics of Jazz

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 13 illustrations Published: March 2018

Author: Jason Borge

Cultural Studies, Latin American Studies, Music > Jazz

In Tropical Riffs Jason Borge traces how jazz helped forge modern identities and national imaginaries in Latin America during the mid-twentieth century. Across Latin America jazz functioned as a conduit through which debates about race, sexuality, nation, technology, and modernity raged in newspapers, magazines, literature, and film. For Latin American audiences, critics, and intellectuals—who often understood jazz to stem from social conditions similar to their own—the profound penetration into the fabric of everyday life of musicians like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker represented the promises of modernity while simultaneously posing a threat to local and national identities. Brazilian antijazz rhetoric branded jazz as a problematic challenge to samba and emblematic of Americanization. In Argentina jazz catalyzed discussions about musical authenticity, race, and national culture, especially in relation to tango. And in Cuba, the widespread popularity of Chano Pozo and Dámaso Pérez Prado popularity challenged the United States' monopoly on jazz. Outlining these hemispheric flows of ideas, bodies, and music, Borge elucidates how "America's art form" was, and remains, a transnational project and a collective idea.


"A welcome and much needed extension and elaboration of jazz as an American cultural product on a hemispheric scale." — Eugene Holley, Jr., DownBeat

"A superb history of Latin American jazz's artistic and societal evolution." — Kevin Canfield, New York City Jazz Record

"Recommended." — K. R. Dietrich, Choice

Tropical Riffs offers a wonderful introduction to jazz in Latin America in the early- to late mid-twentieth century, tracing and following jazz in Latin America, and Latin jazz in the U.S. as an evolving hybrid art of musical expressions." — Moshe Morad, EIAL

"With Tropical Riffs, Borge has provided an extremely helpful survey that unites and expands upon scholarship that was, until now, largely contained in isolated country studies. The author convincingly shows how jazz figured prominently in the driving political and cultural debates of twentieth-century Latin America." — Victoria Broadus, The Latin Americanist

"This publication should move readers . . . to be aural consumers, both first-time and return listeners, on whatever media they can access, of the North American and Latin American musical artists who have played and continue to play on this shared stage." — Charles A. Perrone, Latin American Literary Review

"The study of music in Latin America is a robust field, and this book is an instructive contribution." — Alejandra Bronfman, Journal of Popular Music Studies

"Perhaps the book’s most important contribution is the detailed look into emerging discourses of national identity and its entanglements with complex, and sometimes contradictory ideologies of racial inclusion. Throughout the entire book, Borge’s narrative brings to the fore the many connections between black musicians across the hemisphere that were made possible through jazz." — Marcelo Boccato Kuyumjian, Journal of the Society for American Music

"... This strong survey comprehensively investigates notions of jazz and its perceived potential to corrupt or diminish central genres of national expression throughout Latin America." — Eric A. Galm, The Americas

"Tropical Riffs offers a thought-provoking insight into the impact of jazz in Latin America, not only on musical styles and discussions but also on political and cultural debates throughout the region during the twentieth century. In examining how jazz music provided Latin American intellectuals with resources with which to negotiate changing attitudes toward race, sexuality, national identity, US influence, and mass con-sumption, Borge provides a well-written and informative study of a much-neglected topic." — Hazel Marsh, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Jason Borge has managed to synthesize large and diverse bodies of literature to produce a thoughtful, well-written monograph.... It is a pleasure to enthusiastically recommend it for any collection supporting research in ethnomusicology, jazz studies, or twentieth-century Latin American culture and history.” — Carlos E. Peña, Notes

"Tropical Riffs is a dazzling transnational cultural history destined to galvanize the next generation of both jazz studies and Latin American studies. Erudite, stylish, and every bit as cosmopolitan as its subject, Jason Borge's book brilliantly conceives of Latin American jazz as a thick cultural matrix connecting the music, film, journalism, criticism, and visual art communities of Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, and Los Angeles. Few books have taught me so much." — John Gennari, author of Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge

"Elegantly written and insightfully argued, Jason Borge's book considers the shifting local meanings surrounding jazz for Latin American critics and intellectuals of the 1920s and beyond, often framed by larger debates surrounding racial tension, US foreign policy, modernization, and cultural nationalism." — Robin D. Moore, coauthor of Danzón: Circum-Caribbean Dialogues in Music and Dance


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jason Borge is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of Latin American Writers and the Rise of Hollywood Cinema.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Kindred Sounds and Latin Cats  1
1. La Civilizada Selva: Latin America and the Jazz Age  13
2. Dark Pursuits: Argentina, Race, and Jazz  51
3. The Anxiety of Americanization: Jazz, Samba, and Bossa Nova  89
4. The Hazards of Hybridity: Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mambo, and Revolution  131
5. Liberation, Disenchantment, and the Afterlives of Jazz  163
Conclusion. The Cruelty of Jazz  195
Notes  201
Bibliography  237
Index  261
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner of the Robert M. Stevenson Award, presented by the American Musicological Society

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6990-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6987-5
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