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Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

The Limits of La Onda

2012
Author:

Deborah R. Vargas

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

Explores the resounding musical performances of Mexican American women such as Chelo Silva, Eva Ybarra, Eva Garza, and Selena within Tejano/Chicano music

Deborah R. Vargas discusses the singers and musicians—“dissonant divas”—whose representations of gender and sexuality are irreconcilable with canonical Chicano/Tejano music or what she refers to as “la onda.” Incorporating ethnographic fieldwork, oral history, and archival research, Vargas’s study demonstrates how these singers work together to explore the limits of Texan, Chicano, Tejano, Mexican, and American identities.

With Dissonant Divas, Deborah R. Vargas makes us the gift of a more vibrant and expansive soundscape for hemispheric cultural studies. By broadening and interrogating the archive of Mexican and Mexican American popular music, Vargas restores a pantheon of Mejicana recording artists to their place at the center of a musical scene where artists contested the boundaries of gender, sex and nation through innovative performance and subversive self-styling. Like the music it so artfully engages, Dissonant Divas is a landmark text, beautifully conceived and written, with much to offer a wide range of audiences.

Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Yale University

Musical sound has been central to heteromasculinist productions of nation and homeland, whether Chicano, Tejano, Texan, Mexican, or American. If this assertion holds true, as Deborah R. Vargas suggests, then what are we to make of those singers and musicians whose representations of gender and sexuality are irreconcilable with canonical Chicano/Tejano music or what Vargas refers to as “la onda”? These are the “dissonant divas” Vargas discusses, performers who stimulate our listening for alternative borderlands imaginaries that are inaudible within the limits of “la onda.”

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music focuses on the Texan monument of the Alamo and its association with Rosita Fernandez; Tejano corrido folklore and its musical antithesis in Chelo Silva; the female accordion-playing bodies of Ventura Alonza and Eva Ybarra as incompatible with the instrumental labor of conjunto music; geography as national border, explored through the multiple national music scales negotiated by Eva Garza; and racialized gender, viewed through Selena’s integration of black diasporic musical sound. Vargas offers a feminist analysis of these figures’ contributions by advancing a notion of musical dissonance—a dissonance that recognizes the complexity of gender, sexuality, and power within Chicana/o culture.

Incorporating ethnographic fieldwork, oral history, and archival research, Vargas’s study demonstrates how these singers work together to explore the limits of Texan, Chicano, Tejano, Mexican, and American identities.

Awards

2013, Woody Guthrie Prize for Best Book in Popular Music Studies, The International Association for the Study of Popular Music

2013, Honorable Mention for Best Book in Latino Studies, The Latin American Studies Association

2014, Best Book in Chicano Studies, The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

Deborah R. Vargas is associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

With Dissonant Divas, Deborah R. Vargas makes us the gift of a more vibrant and expansive soundscape for hemispheric cultural studies. By broadening and interrogating the archive of Mexican and Mexican American popular music, Vargas restores a pantheon of Mejicana recording artists to their place at the center of a musical scene where artists contested the boundaries of gender, sex and nation through innovative performance and subversive self-styling. Like the music it so artfully engages, Dissonant Divas is a landmark text, beautifully conceived and written, with much to offer a wide range of audiences.

Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Yale University

This arrival is at a keen theory of musical dissonance, not unlike many of the culturally entwined elevations already in your own music collection. Dissonant Divas is high quality feminist academic scribing, worth it alone for turning the unfamiliar on to the bold, bawdy boleros of Chado Silva, but has much else to offer as well.

KEXP Radio

Vargas’s sustained engagement of race, class, gender, and sexuality with Chicana/o borderlands music is thoroughly new.

Sounding Out!

Professor Vargas provides a new lens into the identities and histories that emerge from the new cultural space Anzaldua referred to as the borderlands.

New Books Network

An accessible and thought-provoking project seeking not only a space and recognition for these musicians without a Mexican-American sonic landscape, but also creating a site for the emergence of alternative genealogies and topographies.

Latino Studies

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

Contents


Introduction: Music, Mejicanas, and the Chicano Wave

1. Forgetting the Alamo, Remembering Rosita Fernandez

2. Borders, Bullets, Besos: The Boleros of Chelo Silva

3. TexMex Conjunto Accordion Masculinity: The Queer Discord of Eva Ybarra and
Ventura Alonzo

4. Sonido de Las Américas: Crossing South–South Borders with Eva Garza

5. Giving Us That Brown Soul: Selena's Departures and Arrivals

Epilogue: The Borderlands Rock Reverb of Gloria Rios and Girl in a Coma


Acknowledgments
Notes
Permissions
Index

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

UMP blog - Selena, Jenni Rivera, Eva Garza—meditations on an author's soundtrack.

Before I could listen to Chicana singers of decades earlier, I had to learn how to listen for them.

Read more.