Alexandra T. Vazquez is an assistant professor in the Center for African American Studies and the Department of English at Princeton University. She is the author of Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music and, with Ela Troyano, a coeditor of La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul. She has published in women and performance, The Journal for Popular Music Studies, Social Text, and the books Reggaeton and Pop When the World Falls Apart.
"Swamp Things: The Viscosity of the Miami Sound"
Zora Neale Hurston once wrote of Florida, “There is still an opportunity to observe the wombs of folk culture still heavy with life.” My paper will take up this lingering opportunity and heaviness with life and offer some critical arrangements for hearing Miami. Heaviness with life is a condition not easy to carry. It is a downward force that requires a more concentrated pushing back. And yet, in heaviness is also a condition of exuberance; of joyously pushing through constraint. South Florida has been locked up and down: Krome detention, sugar plantations, mangrove removal and urban renewal have made it sob. It is also porous: its wetlands, pine to tropical continuum, shore refuges and refugees have allowed it to breathe.
As a site that carries influences from African America, Latin America, the U.S. South, and the Caribbean, the greater Miami area has long been a delta of protopunk sensibility and dance music. The heaviness of landscape, history, and industry during the 1970s and 1980s made for an especially rich era of musical activity. The rumblings from studios—both makeshift and formal—across Dade county made palpable, if elusive effects on local constraints and American popular music. The contributions of these out-of-sight but felt presences beg to be examined for their bold experimentation across genre, geography and technology that exceeded the industry standards of New York and Los Angeles. “Swamp Things” will include close listenings of the Miami sound as performed by Betty Wright, Little Beaver, Foxy, and Charanga 76.
Street Dreams: Blackness on the Move
90 minute panel with three presenters, moderated by Alexandra T. Vazquez From Louis Armstrong's Basin Street “where the line and the dark folks meet,” to Martha and the Vandellas’ originary invitation to occupy all streets through dance, through Jay-Z’s stash spot on 560 State Street, the unit of the city street has been a long-standing marker of urban sociality and a measure of black authenticity. But as much as the street designates both the local and the real, the street also acts as a relay that connects the block to the nation and beyond, linking up with and around other infrastructures of exchange.
This panel troubles the idea of the city as a final destination by reconsidering the unit of the city street as blackness' primary musical axis. The street never merely encloses, but marks an opening out, exceeding its status as the hard, the real, and the down. This panel reclaims other relays and movements in, on, out, and through the city, connecting street dreams to global visions