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Researching música folclórica in Argentina

Theresa Abalos flutist writer teaching artist

I met indigenous musicians from Salta, Argentina, who taught me how to sing and drum in their tradition.


The project "Who are the 'folk' of música folclórica? Indigeneity, Ownership, and the Performance of Belonging in Argentina" was my first experience of independent research. 

In the summer of 2018, I traveled to Argentina supported by the Jennings Family Brave Companion Award to conduct research on a topic of my choosing, which I would present at Carnegie Mellon University the following spring.

Before leaving the USA, I located my research interest at the intersection of music, society, and cultural identity, which led me to dive into scholarly literature on Argentine history, sociology, and ethnomusicology.

While in Argentina, I spoke with many musicians, whether spontaneously, in formal interviews, or through connections from my flute professor.


With each musician, I had the opportunity to connect across different backgrounds, styles, forms of artistry, and languages (my Spanish improved, and I developed an Argentine accent!).


I met and interviewed musicians Pablo and Mauricio in Córdoba, Argentina.

Returning from Argentina, I spent most of my junior year at CMU struggling to piece together a coherent project out of my conversations with Argentine musicians, convincingly backed by the dense ocean of scholarly literature.

At the same time, I was taking a class on the history of ethnography, which happened to problematize the exact type of research I was working on.

To fast-forward through a messy, confusing process (as research often is), I found a way to reconcile what felt problematic — extracting knowledge from marginalized communities to satisfy an intellectual elite that had no stakes in supporting these communities.

I focused my project on folk and indigenous musicians in Argentina, especially singer, songwriter, and activist Mariana Carrizo, as a celebration of their voices, impact, and artistry.

"Humbling" is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this project.

I was humbled by the immensity of conducting research, and by how unexpectedly invasive it felt to learn about the histories of communities, people's identities, and a nation's identity — only to pull it all into a project that I was to call my own.

Each time I presented my research, I played recordings of these people's music to share their work in light of their sociopolitical and cultural histories. 

Special thanks to Dr. Alexa Woloshyn for her patience and insight in guiding me through this project. 

For another angle on my research, you can read this feature by Haley Nordeen on CMU News.

Photo credits to Teresa Brickey.

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