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Title:The capital of carnival: Alibabá carnival music and dance in Santo Domingo as social enterprise and performance complex
Author(s):Hajek, Jessica C
Director of Research:Solis, Gabriel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Solis, Gabriel
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Buchanan, Donna; Goldman, Dara; Silvers, Michael
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Carnival music and dance
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic
Social enterprise
Performance complex
Ethnography of listening
Cultural policy
Theories of value
Anthropology of ethics
Applied ethnomusicology
Abstract:Every February and August, carnival groups known as “Alibabá” parade in the streets of Santo Domingo, giving a spectacular performance with equal elements of sonic and visual display. Unlike other carnival groups in the capital, Alibabá groups perform unison dance routines while dressed in stylized Middle-Eastern inspired costumes that are accompanied by a unique marching rhythm on percussion and brass instruments. This rapid-fire rhythm is referred to as “el ritmo llamativo” (the attention-getting rhythm) because of the incessant wall of sound that draws people toward it. The popularity of Alibabá among its fans is not surprising, as Alibabá musicians have been deeply influenced by the varieties of musical and environmental sound that have permeated Santo Domingo over the past four decades. Alibabá has remained so vital to the neighborhood groups who continue to perform year in and year out that daily rehearsals now take place from August until February in advance of the parades and competitions. Moreover, its music has found its way into other realms outside of carnival activities—including at baseball games, political events, and birthday parties. Nonetheless, Alibabá has not gained significant attention outside of its immediate neighborhood surroundings and many in Santo Domingo are still relative strangers to the practice. This is true in spite of a desire on the part of Alibabá leaders to be accepted as executors of Dominican culture and a concerted effort by the Ministry of Culture in presenting Alibabá as a central genre of carnival music. My dissertation is a social history of the performance of Alibabá music and dance during carnival in Santo Domingo’s working class neighborhoods. At a theoretical level, my dissertation considers the social, political, and economic choices of everyday Dominicans living in inner-city neighborhoods, in relation to intersecting local and regional policy and economic structures, and a larger world. I show that Alibabá is essential to these communities because it represents one of the few opportunities for some of the city’s residents to learn to play music and to dance, and because it is capable of meaningful change in the lives of its performers and fans. This is because the social cohesion and sense of belonging generated by participating in Alibabá is an important way that these residents overcome economic shortages and youth delinquency and cope with the daily risk of accidents, health crises, and death. In doing so, I demonstrate that performance practices like Alibabá can remain vital to the neighborhood groups who continue to perform year in and year out even without the intervention of commercial artists, government policy makers, or folklorists at the national level. At a theoretical level, my dissertation analyzes the production of perceptions of music and sound that determine the politics of everyday musical life. I ask, how do negative perceptions of life in inner-city neighborhoods in the local context of Santo Domingo impact the social life of its residents within the city’s public realm in the twenty-first century? At a national level, how do social, political, and economic processes dictate what has historically been heard in Santo Domingo? What role could CD recordings, social media, and Alibabá groups in New York City play in reshaping these perceptions in the capital? The answers to these questions may reveal that Alibabá’s story is the key to understanding how Dominicans within the urban environment find a voice within an ever increasing national and global dialogue. As an application of my research, I recommend various strategies so that cultural organizations and government entities in Santo Domingo could adapt their cultural policies and inclusion strategies to better address the needs and goals of performers, organizers, and the audience. I demonstrate that encouraging cultural practices like Alibabá is one way to challenge common negative perceptions of inner-city social identity by offering alternatives to both the realities of and anxieties about the urban environment.
Issue Date:2017-07-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Jessica Hajek
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-09-29
Date Deposited:2017-08

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