Activism, Authority, and Aesthetics: Finding the Popular in Academies of Música Popular


  • Michael O'Brien College of Charleston Member of IASPM Latin American Branch (IASPM-AL)



música popular, popular music education, Argentina, tango, cultural politics, ethnography of music education


"Música popular" in Spanish comprises an overlapping but distinct category from its English language cognate popular music. Latin American scholars and musicians alike recognize the category as fundamentally linked to subaltern or counterhegemonic subjectivities, and música popular occupies a complex relationship to hegemonic institutions (the state, educational institutions, and the culture industry) in populist democracies like that of contemporary Argentina. Perhaps nowhere are these tensions between populism and hegemony more apparent than in state-sponsored schools of popular music that began to emerge in the 1980s. Based on an ethnographic study of the oldest and one of the best known of these schools in Latin America, this article explores the conceptual tensions inherent in the notion of a populist and counterhegemonic school of music, and provides evidence of the ways those tensions are expressed and partially resolved through discourse and musical performance in and outside of the classroom.

Author Biography

Michael O'Brien, College of Charleston Member of IASPM Latin American Branch (IASPM-AL)

Asst. Professor of Ethnomusicology Department of Music College of Charleston


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Popular Music Education: Articles