Season 2: Ep. 1: Son Jarocho, Community, and Liberatory Imagination: An Interview with Martha Gonzalez
Imaginations in peacebuilding and the arts are seen by many as almost a universal good. This podcast episode adds complexity, exploring how imaginations of a “modern” Mexico led to indigenous persecution and how imaginations of fame and prestige may be destructive to relationship. In contrast, Martha Gonzalez of Grammy-nominated Quetzal, explores liberatory imaginations of community, belonging and women’s testimonio within the fully embodied, communal practice of Fandango and Son Jarocho. Exploring indigenous relationality, Fandango Fronterizo, and Chicana feminist scholarship, this conversation opens new perspectives of activist activism.
Martha Gonzalez is a *Chicana artivista* (artist/activist) musician, feminist music theorist and Associate Professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o Studies at Scripps/Claremont College. Dr. Gonzalez’s academic interests have been fueled by her singer/songwriter and percussionist role for the*Grammy Award* winning band *Quetzal*.
Gonzalez and her partner Quetzal Flores have been instrumental in catalyzing the transnational dialogue between Chican@s/Latin@ and Jarocho communities. Gonzalez has also implemented the /collective songwriting method/ in schools, correctional facilities,detention centers and college classrooms throughout the western US.
Dr. Gonzalez’s book, *Chican@ Artivistas: Music, Community and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles*in published by the University of Texas Press.
Keywords: Fandango, Son Jarocho, testimonio, Chicana, Indigenous, Menchu, imagination, testimonio, relationality, Fandango Fronterizo, Tarima
1) How/when does our search for more within structures of capitalism become a form of violence? When does music become an object for consumption? When is music a practice of togetherness?
2) What is Indigenous relationality? What are the structures within our language that reinforce mindsets of domination and consumption?
3) Drawing on traditions of testimonio, what are practices of truth-telling and storytelling that hold power to account? What is the power of story when an oppressed person or group seemingly has very few opportunities for voice? (Idea: read Rigoberta Menchú's book and discuss the impact of this testimonio)
4) Many forms of imagination across history imagined notions of "superior races," "pure people," or a "great nation" that led to genocide, slavery, or colonization. How have our imaginations led to violence or destructive tendencies?
5) Working from the model of Fandango Fronterizo, when can imagination become liberatory? How might liberatory imagination be constructed in community?
6) Fandango and many African and Indigenous traditions are fully-embodied traditions. Gonzalez notes that these senses of embodiment were able to construct practiced, artistic spaces that stood against violent practices of disembodiment and the extraction of capital from enslaved bodies. How does communal (musical) practice represent a restorative or "artavista" practice through embodiment?
Bonfil Batalla, G. (1996). Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization. University of Texas Press.
Gonzalez, M. (2020). Chican@ Artivistas: Music, Community, and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles. University of Texas Press.
Fandango Fronterizo: https://folklife.si.edu/talkstory/fandango-without-borders
Menchú, R. (E. Burgos-Dubray, ed.; A. Wright, trans.) (2009). I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Verso.
Smithsonian Folkways: Puentes Sonoros: https://folkways.si.edu/quetzal/puentes-sonoros
Wilson, S., Breen, A. V., & DuPré, L. (2019). Research and Reconciliation: Unsettling Ways of Knowing through Indigenous Relationships. Canadian Scholars.
Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Fernwood Publishing.
Martha Gonzalez & Quetzal: NPR Tiny Desk Concerts
Gallo Films: Fandango Fronterizo
Quetzal Puentes Sonoros: Smithsonian Folkways
How are you going to influence with dignity? How are you going to without really imposing your thought or your own aesthetic on to the practice? As a musician who loves to do this and value songwriting? How can I be a good facilitator, but also a good instigator, finding ways of influencing also thought and getting people to not alienate people that you don't agree with, but trying to find ways of, of also including them in this dialogue that you may not change their mind in that instant. But you might influence them or plant a seed in such a way that walking away and humming to that song that they help right. Make gives them an aha moment it says, I've been wrong. You were listening to the music and peacebuilding
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 0:48
podcast a professional development network at music peacebuilding.com exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness, community, creativity and imagination through research and story. Martha Gonzalez is a Chicano art Avista feminist music theorist and Associate Professor in the intercollegiate department of Chicano Chicano Latina Latino Studies at Scripps Claremont college, Dr. Gonzalez his academic interests have been fueled by her singer songwriter and percussionist role for the Grammy Award winning band Quetzal Gonzalez and her partner, QSL florists, have been instrumental in catalyzing the trans national dialogue between Chicanos, Latinos, and hiroto communities. Gonzalez has also implemented the collective songwriting method in schools, correctional facilities, detention centers, and college classrooms throughout the western United States. Dr. Gonzales, his book, to kind of RTV stess music community and transporter tactics in East Los Angeles, is published by the University of Texas press. I noticed throughout the book and throughout the album covers that there is a central passion for you. And I interpret that there's a central passion for you about bringing people together, whether it's through Fandango, or your use of the term competencia. Can you talk about, like, what forms this love of community for you?
Unknown Speaker 2:18
That's a great question, that it's something I've never been asked before, what forms of love I think that as human beings, I'm going to go on to, from a cellular cellular memory level, right? Where I believe that as human beings, we and we know this very well today, due to the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and we have to keep, you know, distant from each other, how much we need each other, right? It's in our DNA, to make connection, to be heard, to be seen, understood, held, right, when we are brought up, you know, in a safe environment, when we are learned to be nurtured in this way, I think that we have that. And even when we don't, right when our families have had to endure, you know, war, you know, we've seen mass migration, my family is one such family that, you know, they were basically economic refugees, and really came from Mexico to find a better life because it was becoming more and more difficult to sort of lead a human life in Mexico. And so I think that even when we are uprooted in those ways, connection and community and that first, of course begins our understanding of it begins and family is something that is important to our DNA, to our sense of self. And I would say that I have in answering your question that I have no choice, it's part of being human. That's my first instinct to say that, that it's just part of who we are. But I think that the other part is sort of having experienced adversity early in life, having experienced violence and sexual abuse, and, you know, disenfranchisement, having been homeless so many times, having I mean, things that I didn't write about in the book, I think that those things were very traumatic. But the things that always brought me solace and, and peace of mind, and comfort, were always in community. And most of the time, they were connected to music and music practice. So I think that this not only reinforces the idea that I think that it's part of just who we are as human beings. You know, every living creature on the earth works in families, even this virus, that we are avoiding something Frankly, you know, his works in community, right. And so I think that that's just part of who we are at the, in the most fundamental way.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 5:14
consoles, his father translated his love for music into relentless dreams of, quote, respect, wealth and prestige, or at the very least, a way out of poverty. Dreams of professional fame became a haunting as his quest for more replaced relationships, and solace rights. My father held on to his dreams and sanity a few years before he spun into his deepest, darkest moments. But his longing for music slowly made him distant from us. Nothing and no one could take the place of his dreams, in the grip of a distorted longing for fame, music can become a destructive object that is bought, sold and consumed. When music is no longer a practice of community, it becomes one more piece in a systemic haunting for more that damages relationships, and ourselves a systemic haunting of maternities violence. Let's talk about some of the disruptions to community because you write really well about the violence in many ways of capitalism. So maybe we can start there. You write about how there's this pervasive tension, in which music is always trying to be something that can be like an object that can be bought, sold and consumed. And in contrast, you know, that there's this fundamental participatory nature for so many different types of musics? How have you experienced this tension as maybe an act of violence or something that's pulled things apart?
Absolutely. I think that capitalism, that's what it does, right? it extracts it individualizes, it competes it up groups, right, the entire aim. We know, of course, as an economic force, and most people think of it this way, but my goal was to really get us to think about how capitalism has fundamentally altered how we think about our daily needs are our own bodies, you know, our own labor. Right? And, and how, due to the fact that like, if we tap into something that we love, and enjoy the fact that our minds immediately go to, how can I monetize this capitalize on this, I think is, is a real, it's almost like a disease, right? That you have to actively try to think your way out of, like addiction, right? And, and, and do all you can to experience the other side of it, right? What we originally came with, as human beings, what was most natural to us, and that is that we are part of a larger system, a larger social system, that all our cultures have this in its foundations, where we cooperate with each other, where we share things where we support each other. And when these thoughts transfer to music, we, we sing and play together, singing and dancing are not separate, they're together, they're learning together, right? That everybody sings in dance. It's not just the and you don't have to professionalize to enjoy it. Right? You can actually, you're part of it, you're responsible for conducting the sound or being a part of the group that is dancing. And you know, it's just, it's part of the value system in our cultures, right? All all cultures have this. And before the industrialization of music happened in our world. And before we could, we started slowly arranging and rearranging our cultures to fit into a capitalist value system. We understood this very, very well. You know, and I think that over time, it has capitalism and the value system that it consistently espouses in other areas of our lives, has changed this. And I think that unless you experience otherwise, like I have, in Fandango, in collective songwriting method processes that we've engaged in, you don't realize just how how violent that change has been, and how affect how your how much your life has really been affected by this. This thing that is very unnatural. And you realize how natural it is when other people I've seen people just be totally blown away by a foreign language like I was the first time I saw one and the kind of like, I'm being allowed Music more generally, right and having music had been transformed my life in so many ways, but I had never experienced something as collective as Fandango, where there was a protocol, it's not a free for all. There's a there are protocols, they're kind of like a game, right? There's rules to the game. And I was just completely moved and just like I would have solved, but I would not want to cop to tension to myself, but I really like tears rolling down my face. And I was just sitting off to the side and watching and I realized my life had changed at that point. And it was beautiful. And and it's something that I think, as myself now as another TV star, as somebody who recognizes the importance of processes, right music, process music and dance processes. These are the things that I like, and I enjoy it. And that I've been transformed by the more my job now as an activist in these times, is to share it with as many people as possible, the thoughts, the practices, the practices themselves, to share it with other artists that have the skill sets and the want and the desire and see the value in it as well, so that it outlives me so that we can keep, you know, we need to also build the appetite of these participatory practices in our in our society, because that's what's gonna save us quite honestly. And we realized we really need each other again, in these times, right in these biblical times we're living right now.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 11:34
participatory practices are embodied ways of being informed by Rich African and indigenous traditions of participatory practice. Artistic communal practice stood in opposition to slavery and persecution. Gonzalez writes that slavery was a project of disembodiment as a project to extract as much capital from enslaved bodies in opposition to the disembodiment project. The arts constructed quote, a different kind of history, a different kind of knowledge, a different kind of body that is outside the control of the dominant history and knowledge production. Gonzalez introduces the fully embodied participatory practice of Fandango.
Fandango is a participatory music and dance practice and poetic practice as well actually, in native to the state of Veracruz, Mexico. It has since proliferated and so many other sites but Fandango is an actual Fiesta, where the Sankara Cho is born. So music, dance poetry come together and these rhythms it's 400 year old tradition that gives rise to this as we understand it, and when we if we have to categorize it, it's a genre of music that is born in this family, and and a fiesta called it the song carajo. Most people know the song carajo because one of the most popular saunas, which is one of many saunas in the repertoire of phenomenal is la bomba. Right. And Richie Valens, of course, in the 50s, made lavaca world famous, right, it's a rock and roll hit. Los Lobos recorded it later. So it's people know that music right as a result of the industrialization of music. But what few people don't know is that that is one of many Sony's in the sankaracharya tradition, there are over over 150 saunas, I would say that in fandangle tradition, when we're practicing it and the fiestas going on, we may practice maybe a total of 20. What happens here it's a it's a beautiful Fiesta, it's intergenerational, meaning that a baby can participate or be in the, the fold of it, as well as the eldest member of the of the community. And it's, there's a protocol, you know, the Sonia's are not songs, they can last they're improvised. Oftentimes, there's a lot of improvisation in it. There's a lot of interaction, there's a lot of common response, as well, because this tradition is 400 years old. And in the, in the coast of Mexico, you had indigenous African and the Spanish on the Lucien more specifically, influences in the music. Mikiko was part of the slave trade. So you have a lot of these characteristics in the practice that are very have a lot of African influences, you know, like the column response, a lot of progressive, there are some songs that seemed a lot more African than others, some seem more indigenous, like you really see the here if you understand the song as you hear the range of, of the influences in the music. As you can tell, I'm completely passionate about it. It's I can You need to study it again, you, you know, the beautiful part about Fandango as well is that if you just you're just learning, you can actually participate by knowing just three chords, three chords. And so you can have a novice standing right next to a master musician of the tradition. And they're both sort of riffing off each other and and, you know, of course, the master musician is, you know, or the master practitioner for lack of better word is really carrying the weight of it of course along with other ones around this study man it's it's a taking place in a circle around a wooden platform, and it's just this Fiesta that that is so it's not a performance it's a gathering of people that are it's almost like a ritual practice people sweat people are singing people are eating drinking, it's a sauna, Fiesta you know, better, but it has these the roots and the value system that are most important and it is not how well you sing, what a great dancer you are or what a wonderful musician you are. The most important aspect of your participation has helped present you are in the practice. The company events here, what kind of come events here are you giving, which is we could talk about home events and other times
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 16:51
would actually be excited to talk about competency because I would love to know what that word holds for you is a special meaning that maybe goes deeper than the English words of coming together convening. What's what does that word hold for you?
Yeah, so combi Valencia is, I guess, almost like a compound word it's that means gone comes from the word gone and vv con meaning with vvr meaning to live. Right. But can be Valencia can be V or can be Valencia is really the central value system of Fandango. That's the first time I've ever heard this word reiterated over and over again. As first a fun when one of my teachers was saying the undiscovered need on Fandango you have to come to find out you have and he would describe it and describe it and describe it. I could never imagine what he talked what he meant. And I'd ask questions and I'd ask questions. And he's like, No, no, no. pls Kevin II. And it wasn't till he would say but combivir tn escape combivir en el Fandango, combivir, Camille, and so and everybody, every master I've ever had is constantly reiterating that. So by the time I saw it, and I saw how Gombe WNC has enacted, it made me realize that it was more than just them trying to describe it. To me it's a value, right? It's a human value. It's it goes beyond this Fiesta itself. It's about how we think about life, how we think of ourselves, and it really dissenters, what capitalism has told us our entire lives, right? That we are in competition that we are that we must Excel beyond others that we that are right. That's what capitalism does combi Valencia and this reiterate to word and not more importantly, the act of being in community with others, making music in community and, you know, being in community with music, you know, it's getting your mind and your body back into the act of understanding that you were part of the larger structure of society and community, you are just one person in the greater world, right? And so that means that it doesn't mean that you yourself are an insignificant, as a matter of fact, you yourself are so important to the greater whole of the earth, of the community of your family, right across up to the world, you have impact. In my opinion, it's really getting us to think about our communal ourselves as communal beings and not as individuals competing with others.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 19:41
In the book on research and reconciliation, Wilson Breen and do pray, speak to the ethics of research and the depth of indigenous notions of relationality and belonging. Wilson notes that as we become accountable to a heightened sense of ethics, Quote, we become agents of reconciliation. We become the peacekeepers with an in relations responsible for the restoration of harmony in all our relations. indigenous knowledge systems build, quote, upon relationships between things, rather than on the things themselves. in a rush to extract resource potential from minerals, land and human bodies, Modern Languages strengthen destructive subject object relations through linguistic structures. A comparison of indigenous and modern language structures may illuminate a return to relational balance, and healthy ecosystems through patterns of language, that center relationality instead of command and extraction.
indigenous languages are intersubjective, in that they don't have a construct for subject, they are a part of everything, and everyone else is a part of them. So object, an object is almost like not part of the lexicon of how they understand the world, in relation to themselves. I think that Western languages like the English language, and the Spanish language has a different kind of value system embedded in it, where the object exists. And as a matter of fact, you construct, you can construct language in such a way that anything can be narrated into an object. And I think this was possible. This is the reason that the objectification of indigenous peoples was possible, because they knew what they'd have to do, to take a hold of these lands, and to create and inflict mass genocide across the Americas, in order to take hold of the riches that were here. This is the same idea that manifest destiny as espoused, that the people that were already inhabiting these lands, the original people of the Americas were not to be seen as human. And therefore, the language itself and the construct of the language and the narratives that they had to produce, were important in subjugating them, making them seen as objects or as or as property like slaves, where you had to construct these human beings as objects in order to be able to subjugate them, to let your conscience you human conscience, be able to subjugate them. This is the worst kind of violence that you can do. But again, indigenous language are as intersubjective languages never uproot the humanity in even the simplest things like a rock, for example, even a rock has humanity has a purpose has value. So, to me, this is the important work that terms like Rene relationality, do, they help us think about these things in a deeper sense, and that is, you know, inherent in our language in our in our way of being our way of seeing the world and ourselves in it.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 24:12
bonfield batea writes up the suppression of indigenous voice under the crushing, relentless weight of colonization and modernization. bonfield betye as describes the invention of the notion of an Indian, a word that flattened diverse Mesoamerican identities into a single, obsolete and persecuted identity. This was the brutal effect of violent imagination, one that imagined progress and a modern nation that required systems of domination and extraction. He writes, civilizing has always meant D and demonizing imposing the ways of the West stories progress. Imagine the triumphant Mexican Revolution that sprung from the rich, but declared dead heritage of indigenous be? What are the stories that we imagine? Who become the heroes? And who become the dominated objects? What are the means? And what are the ends?
For a long time, and even today, being indigenous is not something that make equal in those times and even even now, is is encouraging, right? It's something that is not part of the modernist project. So terms like modernity, and progress are part of a capitalist system, right? It's part of their terminology of their lexicon, right in pushing, again, this value system that anything indigenous is of no use to us, that's like old school stuff, stuff of movies and poems, perhaps, maybe great quotes, but not a way of life, it's not going to get you anywhere, it's not going to get to the house, it's not going to get to the brand new car, it's not going to get, you know, it's not something we want to espouse. as, you know, as a first world country, if we want to come out of the first world country, right, into a first world, out of the third world into a first world country, these countries need to do this, right. And so of course, Mexico follow suit, along with many other Latin American countries, in trying to follow that carrot that Western paradigms are setting, modernity is here, and all Western, you know, all of Latin American countries are trying to follow that example. And ridding themselves of all the original peoples of their lands, all of them do it right. colonization started that, of course, but then of course, economic systems, social systems and, and systems as disease. Capitalism is really doing that. Right. And what happens in Mexico and then both feel bataya identifies is this D and deionization of a people where that value system reaches the roots of which are the people and it's like, if you're gonna, you know, the India is dumb, the India is stupid and backwards, he wears no shoes, he wears watches, like he To this day, even in my own family to be an Indian pan India, but there are hella like, there are word phrases in the Mexican community that exist. And the more Indian you look, the least opportunities you have, oftentimes, unless you can really perform whiteness, you know, even in Mexico, so there's a lot of racism. And, and this happens in Mexico and all over Latin America, there's racism towards Indians and racism towards black, black people. Of course, black people, Africans were all the all of Latin America mostly was part of the slave trade as well. You know, there are African communities all over, maybe they don't identify this way. Some do, some don't. But they're part of this, you know. So, one feed about that is urging in this book, this wonderful book, called Mikiko profondo, urges us to really think about indigenous populations as not extinct, that we are, that they are still here, that they are present that their their value systems and their ways of being and understanding and their connections to the Earth would be extremely valuable. And that Mexico would thrive much better if he they considered the vast amount of indigenous groups and populations within their nation state. And that is where they fail. He says because they have never considered them fully, that a ruling class took over and you know, became independent of Spain, but not independent of the of the colonial mindset. Right? And so it's part of it's a postmodernist project right in that regard.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 29:13
In her book, Gonzalez writes of the formative importance of her interactions with SEPA teesta communities, Zapatista communities have resisted the destructive force of modernity, seeking to remain connected to identities and relationships. hiroto communities also encountered forces in the 50s that sought to remove authentic practice in the name of an essential lized identity of progress, reclaiming pride in African, indigenous and rural roots. Practitioners sought to revive Fandango as an authentic practice of identity and community. Arrest Scott day, or rescue of practices led to a youth movement that is brought life To musical celebrations of community, from Seattle to Veracruz,
people, we need each other in these ways people begin to sort of like wow, and they, you know, and the learning curve is huge, right? You can start really simply and get better and better. And then there's something else to learn and something else to learn. And, you know, it's just, it's a never ending learning cycle. And more importantly, it's generative, right? It doesn't, it takes energy to learn, but it never drains you. It's always inspiring. You know, it's always a beautiful in that way. And, and it builds critical consciousness. That's another thing I talk about folks as they're begin to practice more and more, and they're having dialogues with other community members that they get to know more and more and people start talking and it leads to other kinds of organizing, community organizing, right? Because people are thinking and being creative together. And that to me, only, you know, gives birth to all kinds of critical thinking.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 31:10
The entre mu Harris project sought to document women's musical practices, and engage women in musical dialogue and fighting head race to their small rented flat and Halawa. Gonzalez recorded and dialogue in these intimate spaces. She states, the most intimate moments of creativity in the collective songwriting process, broad discussions pertaining to participants experiences as women, life lessons, and general life philosophies. Most participants shared and learn from other testimonials. And this process bound the group in an intimate way. The outcome, an album that offered new voices centered women's testimonials and perspectives.
Talk about the gathering of women in a kitchen. So when you went down to Mexico City, and you worked on this, this album on trauma headaches, and I particularly want to get at how you encountered testimonial and the importance of embodiment and how this relates to the trauma. Can you talk about how this song roadshow project became Kevin Nachman of this feminist work to reclaim women's stories?
Well, part of as we were involved in this transnational dialogue and cooperation between both communities, I think that anytime we would hire a group or or ask a group to come down to play, because oftentimes what what happens with the visits is that we would hire a group who was you know, very accomplished, musically, right, as well. They're not they're members of the community, but they're also very accomplished in the practice. They're amazing musicians. And we'd have them come over the recordings always had women in them, or women present in the photographs, because they're important part of the group, right. They're dancers, and there were also singers and songwriters, and songwriters. and various other US, I mean, and when we gather enough money to bring them down for a week, or something, they'd always show up without the women, and then we'd always see, like, what happened to, to so and so or this person or that person, or who's going to come in? And they'd say, Oh, you know, well, she stayed home with the kids, you know, or, you know, Oh, she got married, she's not with us anymore, or, you know, so, but they were completely and very present in the recordings. And I knew from having visited and been in front angles before that they were very present as women in the tradition. They were the ones who organized they're the ones who would cook oftentimes part of the cooking or organizing a bunch of community right to be a part of this and and they were the intellectual ours, right? They were always present. And, and for me, that was very, always disappointing because I wanted to connect with more women. And of course after a while, one one year, I have to say this, and I don't think I write about it in the book, I read about it in another article, but I was pregnant with my son. And we had a gig. And I invited one of my favorite like singer song saneras from Veracruz to come in, and like, let's write some songs. Like before I pop, basically, I have this baby. And she came down, we wrote some songs we never finished, we had a gig for her to do as well. So it's not like we just have the money to fly people out we have, it's all connected to work that we have ourselves and that we were able to share. And she came down, we worked on three songs we never finished and as my son as I had my son, and she really inspired me to think about myself, post partum as a creative being, and in my head, I thought, okay, my life as a musician is over. It's all about being a mom. Now I'm going to do this. And she was one of the first people in Mickey Ghana saying like, No, no, you can have more inspiration more than you've ever had before. So as an artist, she really inspired me to think beyond myself as a mother. She ended up having three children herself, which made it very difficult for her to keep practicing. But I realized that we could still finish these songs. Most of them were about birthing or motherhood. And then, so when I years later, I was thinking about going back to school having a child is there's nothing like having a job that makes you think about just sort of changing the route of your life. And, and so I decided to apply for a Fulbright and at large and I applied for grad school at the same time, and I got into both my grad school waited, I we took off to Veracruz and we spent about nine months there. And the goal was to finish these songs and interact more with other educators who were willing to participate.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 37:05
As a small wooden box, quote, The tattered eema is the vortex of Fandango Hiroko, we're all musicians gathered around the dancers who strike their feet on the wooden platform in a percussive manner. It is here where women execute their musical contributions to the Fiesta, in the intricate percussive dance, that is the pulse and drive of song legato.
The Theremin itself is a very is a is mostly I would think and I and from my perception is dominated by women in a lot of ways. There's a lot of Sony's Yeah, montone, which is part of the category that is just for women. Some communities are challenging this they're including more men. But I think there's a beautiful thing and just having certain Sony's just for women because a kind of the way in which we dance together and look across each other from the unit before women dance at a time facing each other. If the idea is bigger, you can have six pair, three pairs of women, six women total. And you know, there's a kind of understanding the goal is to create a steady rhythm. There's improvisation, there's people take turns doing improvisation women follow each other steps like they're it's a kind of like, like a very, it's a there's a dialogue in the bodies and in the the footwork and the percussive elements of the practice as well. And so to me, that's a kind of like understanding between these and that's the first connections I've ever had with any of these women. And we ended up developing this whole project, you know, they would come over when they could I had recording, the recording equipment was extremely useful. We recorded what we were able to record. And then we would edit later on, because we knew that not everybody could make it every time. But there were a steady group of women that would come over regularly and found it very cathartic to be able to write about heartbreak, write about what it felt like to have a baby inside your body. I mean, who writes songs or songs like that, right. And this project, I categorize it more as a as a project that has roots of the song carajo but also have other influences Sonic influences as well. And so we didn't necessarily do a traditional project because, again, the community decides what tradition is and becomes right and we didn't really necessarily, we weren't necessarily aiming for that we were just aiming to have a dialogue. And we were able to do this via music and music composition and particularly through the Veta saga or the lyrics that were written for these pieces.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 39:42
qatal Song elvio features of Sonic foregrounding of Sapa piatto on the Petrina
With testimonio you talk about the power of collective songwriting. And one of the quotes I have here is, I have witnessed time and again how the collective songwriting method creates space builds community challenges multiple patriarchal systems, and cook can potentially produce knowledge that is accessible beyond the Academy. Can you talk about testimonio? And songwriting?
Yeah, um, in Latin American traditions, and particularly in academia, testimonial has been a term that is, was really brought about by, you know, if it's been written about extensively by Chicana Latina scholars, as well, as you know, other scholars, but testimony is what we have when the academy isn't listening, or the mainstream media, right.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 41:14
The song so viviendo was birthed from the Andre Muir Paris project, it speaks of struggles of migration and immigration, for those who depart and those left behind.
a testimonial is something that is, is a place of comes from a place of urgency, and a place of that person's voice, right. It literally means testimony, of course, but testimonial to me has much more weight, political weight, because when you give it the testimonial, or you're sharing what you've lived, right, number one, everybody has a testimonial, if you've lived anything in life, you have an opinion about what you've lived. What caused your living, right? Pain, or triumph, right? What you think about it, why it's important to you, right? Those things are really important for human beings to be able to express themselves right now when somebody else is listening one person or a community, it becomes even more it's it's a healing process, right? People are listening to you. They are witnessing your words, your thought, your body language, your tears, perhaps right your laughter. And then they're taking it in as witnesses and they're witnessing your testimonial. That exchange is part of the common events here. Right. It's it's kind of rooted in a common events here that is healing for both parties. Because if you've ever been part of a circle of of a therapy circle, for example, even if you don't speak, you can learn from somebody else's experience and what they're going through, right. I've been part of therapy circles a lot. And that was always really it kind of reminds me of this. And that's kind of like the the structure that when I think about collective songwriting, and as these women were talking about, Well, you know what, you know, what I've had in my heart, a lot of them would just start like crying and talking about what they experienced, or how alienated they felt in their mothering, you know, or how the hopes they have for the world and their kids, or it depends on, you know, and the kinds of things that they would talk about with each other, was extremely cathartic, right. And as we wrote down lyrics as we formulated them, and even if not, everything was used in the actual compositions themselves, the process of even talking about what to write about, and all of these moments were really important, right? They were cathartic for both all parties involved. Right. And, and this became part of this, these moments were what got me to just even talk about the different things that are happening throughout
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 44:05
an inspiration to Gonzalez, his work, Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu testimonio is a counterweight to us governmental and machismo forces of domination. In revealing the fullness of embodied story testimonio holds forces of power and domination to account.
And, you know, and all of the wonderful the way she talks about her experience was a very one of the most prominent testimonials you could ever have. She wrote herself, somebody you know, and, and in a lot of people learn from it. That was a political act, you know, who else would have paid attention to a Mayan woman, right? Who was a nobody, quote unquote, right? So when you take a testimonial and you put it in music, write music, who other people are meant to hear and listen to these. These are the ways in which you know Music When I state that has a potential to reach people beyond the Academy. Music has always done that, right? People listen to it, they don't think they're listening to anything political sometimes. Other times they're listening, maybe never really listening to the lyrics. But one day, they stopped to think, like, wow, that was really profound. What is that, you know, they might look it up, they might, I mean, music we know can be informative, can be inspiring can be, you know, life altering, like all of those things. And so if we think about how we can utilize this demonios, and people's stories in music, where other you know, where the industry is focusing on something else completely, artists like ourselves, can focus on those stories that nobody ever bothers to even listen to.
I think that our minds, when we are asked to be creative, our minds go to another place, they are not linear thoughts, they are erratic, mixed with emotion. And, and these other things, I think our mindsets are left brain right is, is inactive. And so many things can happen in that in that regard and new connections, new ways of thinking, new realities or, or a different kind of dreaming can happen. And in that sense, through testimonials, and new propositions for a better world.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 46:33
I think back to a conversation I had with a with a peacebuilder, down in Colombia, and she was talking about sexual traumas and violence. And her comments me was one of the first things that we lose, and trauma is our ability to dream. And one of the first things I want to get back is my ability to dream and how story is such a pathway back to that sense of dreaming and recovering from trauma?
Yes, absolutely. You know, yes, it really being a, you know, a survivor myself, I think that it really kills your sense of hope, and security, right. And part of being in community with others, and let's say talking about this with others who understand you, you know, and first of all, uttering the words, saying the person's name, you know, saying describing what happened to you to others, like, not only do they take that in, they comfort you and to hear somebody else say it was not your fault, right. That that is is liberating, you know, liberating and and that is part of what I think that happens in any circumstance, right? Where you feel like you want to be heard and want to be understood and recognized seen, right? And, and when you do that through music, that happens in music, right, as we're doing a collective songwriting workshop, folk, the kinds of things that people bring up is just incredible. Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has a story to tell everybody has lived something doesn't matter their age, you know, everything have an opinion, even we've done collective songwriting workshops with five year olds, you know, and, and, of course, their level of understanding is something else. But, you know, some of the kids for example, my son had a collective songwriting workshop in in at the Smithsonian folkways Folklife Festival for kids, and they talked about pancakes, but the end syrup, right, but they talked about pancakes, and how sweet and wonderful they are, when you share them with family, and how the pancake is round. Like a hug. Like I mean, you know, to me, I thought that was really interesting. Their their connections to pancakes, of course, but to the circle relationality a hug, right? All of these things to me, it's like you have to as adults, we have to do the work to see how what deep thinkers these children are right? And how untouched by hopefully, at their age, by trauma and the system, right. And Anyhow, I thought that was really so everybody has
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 49:18
the ability to imagine imagination can create Mexican histories of the ratio of indigenous peoples, and dreams of disconnect of fame. How, however, imagination is also the act of birthing hopes, dreams, and more connective realities. Every April May, musicians come together at the US Mexican border to bring imaginations of human dignity and connection into Sonic being. Fandango fronteriza is a competencia of hope, dignity and belonging
And we basically experience we will the border out of existence for just a slight minute, you know, two hours. It's amazing people have cried as they're playing, because they realize this this border is an unnatural sight or as Lorenza Lewis says una de la vieja, right? an open wound on this earth, that is not meant to be there. It's arbitrary, right? In, in our case, in reality, through our Sonic landscapes, through the ways in which we connect across that we have, we can prove that it is insignificant to connection, right? It definitely affects, right. But it's insignificant to the kinds of connection we can continue to build in order to one day rid ourselves of this unnatural sight. Right. And so that's what happens for two hours, people practice what we usually do, as a whole as a contained group in Fandango, like we will all practice together, it will go for hours at a time we have food, we have hugs, we have laughter, we have drink, you know, and we what we do this in the border for two hours only is because we that's all they give us for the permit two hours, on our on the US side, medical side, you can go on for hours, what happens, the tradition is that you go to the border, if you want to join on the US side you for us who are US citizens are able to do that. And those who are able to cross will go to the dequan aside, and then you'll find on yet all night long. So that's kind of the tradition that's been happening, you know, and that is is something that is is yes, it's super powerful. It's beautiful. It's it's life affirming. It's something that you realize how important this practice is again, and there is no other event, in my opinion, that is more political. That shows how politicized the minds of practitioners of Fandango have become than that, the Fandango from Theresa. It's a very powerful event.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 52:30
Gonzalez writes, I have had music experiences that as a performer were oppressive and left imprints of shame and trauma in my memory. But there have also been moments of hope. Music In this sense was inspiring, a conduit of freedom and a malleable tool for those who envision social change. These moments in particular, have allowed me to see how music could be a laboratory process, a deliberate act of love, and a source of empowerment for self and community. A poem taken from words and inspirations from this conversation. May we have a convivencia of dreams, opening world rejecting ratio, with the names of things lean on the threat of relation holding the breath of connection. We our desire for more says no more. As heels of protest hammer that 100 EMA against the disconnection of our being made dreams surpass the harshest barbed wire, bending to sadness, standing tall for loving, and sculpt, and mold new voices new imaginations of relation. Special thanks to Marta Gonzalez and the performers of entre mooseheads for permission to use their music in this podcast. Special thanks also to Fandango fronteriza for providing sound clips of their celebration. I invite you to watch a film on Fandango fronteriza and read stories of their work. Links can be found on our website. And finally, much gratitude to Smithsonian folkways and kits out for permission to use the recording of Rio in this podcast. their new album point this inaros is available for purchase at Smithsonian folkways. This is the music and peacebuilding podcast hosted by Kevin Shorner-Johnson. At Elizabeth town college we host a master of music education with an emphasis in peacebuilding. thinking deeply we reclaim space for connection and care. Join us at music peace building.com