Forwarded from Anthony (on Celtic invasion)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jun 23 15:53:54 MDT 2000

Hi Lou

Regarding the Celtic Invasion of Buenos Aires

I think that you have to look at three global phenomena if you want to
understand the Celtic invasion of Argentina.

1. World population growth, including the growth of populations among
nations and cultures which had been nearly - but not quite - destroyed by
19th century imperialism. This includes the Celtic populations on the
western fringe of Europe, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas,
Australia, and the South Pacific.

2. The quasi nationalist intellectual movement which gained momentum in the
1960's and 1970's as people in the United States and elsewhere who were not
wholly assimilated members of the dominant nationality of their country,
looked for their "roots". The most obvious symptoms of this were political
phenomenon like Black and Chicano nationalism in the USA, but this search
for "roots" has had other products, including cultural revival movements,
like those that have occurred in the Gaelic cultures of Brittany (France),
Galicia (Spain), Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Great Britain) - and
of course in the Republic of Ireland. These cultural revivals were often
interlinked with "root seeking" in the Irish, Jewish, Palestinian, etc.
diasporas elsewhere in the world - often int he imperialist centers.

This phenomenon cross pollinated with older political nationalisms,
including the revival of the IRA in Ireland. (but also Palestinian
nationalism, and others.)

In leftist pubs throughout the USA, especially those owned by Irishmen -
and often in just any old bar owned by an Irishman, the revival of Celtic
music began in the 60's and continued without much let-up throughout the
rest of the 20th century - despite the ups and downs of the struggle in

(I imagine this was also going in Great Britain, Austrlia, New Zealand, and
wherever else the Irish diaspora had a significant presence - although
British imperial chauvinism against the Irish reaches into the working
class and the left - whereas in the USA anti-Irish chauvinism met its final
defeat in the election of Jack Kennedy to the Presidency in 1960 - and now
hangs on only among Anglican church ladies, and others like them.)

3. The commercialization of something called "world music" - which is the
cultural side of globalization, and a product of what you might call the
cultural left wing.

This is in some ways a continuation of the phenomenon of the nationalist
composers of 19th century Europe going back to the roots of "national" folk
music to search for the rhythmic and melodic themes for their symphonies,
operas, etc. This was part of the cultural side of the formation of nation,
and quasi-nation states.

In the USA when this process got going with people like Aaron Copeland and
Leonard Bernstein (a little late historically, but still part of the same
process as the one that occurred earlier in European music) they were faced
with a problem - the USA's folk music is not exactly the product of one
clearly defined nationality - but of several groups. Copeland drew on what
is called "folk" music - largely a mixture descended from Gaelic and
British music, with influences from other sources; and upon jazz, blues,
and gospel - black American music derived from a mixture of African music,
British and Scottish Protestant hymns and drinking music, 19th century
military marching music, and others.

This process in the USA however, got out of control, and produced rock and
roll - which became the first truly global cultural phenomenon.

Rock and roll always borrowed from any source at hand. The most famous
example probably being the Beatles borrowings from classical Indian (as in
the subcontinent: Ravi Shankar, ragas, tablas, sitars, etc.) music.

By the end of the 20th century there were rock bands in virtually every
country of the world - most of them playing in someone's apartment or
garage. And most of them incorporating rhythmic, tonal, and melodic
elements from the traditional music of their own country into rock - even
when they don't know they were doing this.

A related and parallel process began to take place, as rock and roll
orchestration - especially electric guitars and the American drum battery,
were introduced into bands and orchestras of the popular music of Latin
America, then Asia, the Arab world, black Africa, and into European pop music.

The new musics produced in this process were commercialized in the USA by
artists like Ry Cooder and Paul Simon. Their success inspired the music
industry to search for more interesting and new musics that could be
popularized, and thus commercialized.

Two of the biggest successes of this movement were Selena - a Norteno/pop
cross over, and Celine Dion, a French Canadian/pop cross over. And Celine
Dion, in singing the hit theme song of the movie Titanic - fueled the
Celtic revival in music.

These interrelated phenomenon have a complex, and contradictory trajectory
- on the one hand the creation of a global cultural market has been
produced by the revival of once isolated, and sometimes nearly dead
cultures, as global population growth outpaced imperialisms' efforts at
cultural destruction and assimilation. On the other hand, the new growth of
these cultures is - albeit unintentionally on the part of the artists and
participants, being coopted and made a part of the growth of global media

I imagine that the immigration of people from Great Britain to Argentina -
especially Southern Argentina, as I understand - during the late nineteenth
and early twentieth century, may have something to do with the Celtic music
fad in Buenos Aires. Most of that immigration to Argentina probably came
from Scotland and Northern Ireland (Celtic country, and sheep country). I
imagine by now that some of the grandchildren of those people, who probalby
listend to some kind of celtic music with their abuelos y abuelas, have
moved to the big city, speak only Spanish - but still remember the music of
their childhoods.

Here in Bogota, Celtic music is played regularly on one University radio
station, and occasionally on others.

Louis Proyect

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