Sources: Latin Music: Musicians, Genres, and Themes

Latin Music: Musicians, Genres, and Themes. Ed. by Ilan Stavans and Joshua Stavans. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2014. 3 vols. Acid free $189 (ISBN 978-0-313-34395-7). E-book (978-0-313-34396-4) available, call for pricing.

Latin Music: Musicians, Genres, and Themes is a two-volume encyclopedic work edited by Ilan Stavans and Joshua Stavans that comprehensively covers the historical, traditional, cultural, and thematic topics of Latin music. With entries from nearly fifty contributors from Spain, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States and almost 1,000 pages of information in total, these two volumes took approximately eight years to complete. Through these expansive entries that are both highly informative and interesting, the editors and contributors also manage to highlight the beauty of Latin music and its impact over the course of the five centuries covered in this publication.

The topics covered in these volumes range from biographies of famous musicians such as Plácido Domingo to the traditional Spanish dance the Flamenco. However, the editors also make an effort to provide information on less well-known figures and topics within Latin music history that nonetheless had an impact. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this work that sets it apart from other publications is its coverage of ideas like societal countercultures or historical institutions, such as slavery, and how they have affected Latin music as a whole. It is reflections like this one on the topic of slavery from contributor Ruthie Meadows that take these volumes from being merely informational to academic: “In regions such as the Caribbean, northern South America, and Brazil, music and culture strongly reflect the fusion and syncretization that occurred within the context of European colonialism and African slavery” (735).

Another positive attribute of this work is that it is the rare volume that covers the topic of Latin music as a whole as opposed to examining it from the perspective of a single culture. Many works that are of a comparable size and content level fall short in terms of scope. However, one area of weakness with the set is that there were very few companion photographs to the entries. In several of the entries, the authors discuss unusual musical instruments such as a twelve-stringed guitar called a tres that non-musicians may have never seen. An accompanying visual aid in these instances would only enhance this already excellent resource.

Overall, this work provides thorough and thought-provoking information that is useful not only in reference situations but would also be valuable to researchers as each entry provides a list of further readings. Given these volumes reasonable price, I would recommend them for purchase as the coverage is expansive and the information could be applicable to multiple disciplines.—Marissa Ellermann, Public Services Librarian, Shake Library, Vincennes University, Vincennes, Indiana


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