Mambomania!: Perez Prado and Pan-Diasporic Dialogues on Africanity in the 1950s

Amy Ongiri (University of Portland)

Damaso Perez Prado’s “mambomania” took US popular culture by storm in the 1950s. The mambo is a style of dance and music that developed in Cuba during slavery as a continuity of West African cultures. When it was refracted through US popular culture it became part of a larger dialogue between people of African descent throughout the diaspora. This presentation will examine the ways in which “mambomania” troubles the conceptualization of “diaspora” and the boundaries of blackness, especially in relationship to the privileging of US popular music culture as a primary and self-contained site for the production of Black identities. It will argue that the dialogue between Afro-Caribbean and African American musicians in the 1950s represents a moment of what Walter Mignolo has called “subaltern border thinking” as one of “the moments in which the imaginary of the modern world system cracks” and ideas are able to travel across national borders and defy genre boundaries.

Part of 01-08 Mambomania, Birthworkers, and Onomastics: Activating Cultural Memory , Thursday, November 02, 8:30 am–10:00 am