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Paulraj, Kavin D (2013) JAMAICA BRASILEIRA: THE POLITICS OF REGGAE IN SÃO LUÍS, BRAZIL, 1968-2010. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Residents of São Luís like to say that reggae music reached their island city in Maranhão state in northeast Brazil “through the back door,” into makeshift venues deep in urban slums. In time, audiences in São Luís cultivated a cosmopolitan music scene and an innovative cultural industry that earned their city the title of Jamaica Brasileira, or the Brazilian Jamaica. Based on interviews, archival research, participant-observation, and material sources including musical records, this dissertation explores how and why reggae developed local roots in São Luís and its subsequent role in local socio-economic and political developments.

This study finds that Jamaican rhythms of the late 1960s and 1970s arrived primarily through the global music industry via the economic metropoles of the north Atlantic and southeast Brazil alongside other popular international styles. However, as audiences experimented by dancing in couples, they drew upon a range of Caribbean styles including merengue, cumbia, and boleros that had arrived through maritime trade in the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, electrical engineers and entrepreneurs in São Luís independently developed audio arrays known as sound systems resembling similar institutions in Jamaica; these sound systems in turn spurred the growth of the Jamaican-based music scene in conjunction with audiences. Beginning in 1990, people from São Luís made direct contact with Jamaica, initiating a new movement of people, material goods, and culture.

The working-class music scene of São Luís also played a crucial role in negotiations between popular sectors, elites, and police during the military dictatorship, and reggae was even briefly criminalized in the public eye by association with violence, poverty, and marijuana. However, activists in the local black movement defended reggae and began to see the music as a primary weapon in their struggle for black liberation, leading to vigorous debates about nation, region, and culture. As the reggae scene moved from the informal to the formal sector, its sheer economic clout transformed the socio-cultural landscape of São Luís. Sound system owners also mobilized their audience bases into voting blocs, resulting in the election of one “reggae politician” to federal congress through a new complex of political-cultural patronage.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Paulraj, Kavin
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.eduLEP12
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee Memberde la Fuente, Alejandrofuente2@pitt.eduFUENTE2
Committee MemberAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.eduREID1
Date: 1 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 March 2013
Approval Date: 1 July 2013
Submission Date: 19 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 295
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Popular Music, Sound System, Maranhão, Caribbean, Jimmy Cliff, Popular Culture
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2013 18:33
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12

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  • JAMAICA BRASILEIRA: THE POLITICS OF REGGAE IN SÃO LUÍS, BRAZIL, 1968-2010. (deposited 01 Jul 2013 18:33) [Currently Displayed]


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