The Sounds of Latinidad

Immigrants Making Music and Creating Culture in a Southern City

304 pages

10 halftones

June, 2015

ISBN: 9781479860425



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Samuel K. Byrd is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Hunter College (CUNY).

All books by Samuel K. Byrd

The Sounds of Latinidad explores the Latino music scene as a lens through which to understand changing ideas about latinidad in the New South. Focusing on Latino immigrant musicians and their fans in Charlotte, North Carolina, the volume shows how limited economic mobility, social marginalization, and restrictive immigration policies have stymied immigrants’ access to the American dream and musicians’ dreams of success. Instead, Latin music has become a way to form community, debate political questions, and claim cultural citizenship.  
The volume illuminates the complexity of Latina/o musicians’ lives. They find themselves at the intersection of culture and politics, often pushed to define a vision of what it means to be Latino in a globalizing city in the Nuevo South. At the same time, they often avoid overt political statements and do not participate in immigrants’ rights struggles, instead holding a cautious view of political engagement. Yet despite this politics of ambivalence, Latina/o musicians do assert intellectual agency and engage in a politics that is embedded in their musical community, debating aesthetics, forging collective solidarity with their audiences, and protesting poor working conditions.  
Challenging scholarship on popular music that focuses on famous artists or on one particular genre, this volume demonstrates how exploring the everyday lives of ordinary musicians can lead to a deeper understanding of musicians’ role in society. It argues that the often overlooked population of Latina/o musicians should be central to our understanding of what it means to live in a southern U.S. city today. 


  • "A ground-breaking study of Southern Latinidad that brings to the fore the political, cultural, and social pressures shaping the everyday lives of immigrant musicians. Under the weight of anti-immigrant legislation and public backlash, Latinas/os of the 'Queen City' are exerting a sense of community, belonging, and cultural citizenship through music making and dance. This book is detailed in its analysis, theoretically nuanced, and richly documented based on Byrd’sextensive fieldwork in this global city. It will inspire much needed scholarship on current Latina/o music and dance not only in the global South but wherever new Latina/o communities are remaking the musical landscapes of cities and towns across the United States."

    —David Garcia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • “Understanding the place and influence of Latinos in the New American South is the challenge of the next generation of scholars concerned with migration from Latin America. Byrd finds the greatest evidence of their transformative presence in the music and poetics they contribute to their adopted land. This book expands our interpretation of border music and, in the process, shows how immigrants have re-made notions of race and belonging in the United States.”

    —Matt Garcia, Arizona State University

  • "A timely and exciting book offering a fresh look at the growing significance of Latino/a musicians in Charlotte and their role in the making of Southern latinidad.  Byrd offers insight into different musical communities in Charlotte through the experiences of Latino/a musicians and illuminates issues related to politics, community, social class, belonging, and immigration. . . . Makes a valuable contribution to anthropology, sociology, and Latino/a studies and is a must-read for anyone interested Latino expressive culture, especially in the U.S. South."

    —Kimberly Eison Simmons, University of South Carolina

  •  “In this wonderful book, Byrd looks at how a music community in Charlotte, North Carolina—a relatively recent destination for undocumented immigrants—is forming a sense of place….In telling the story of the Latino music scene, Byrd reveals a struggle represented by generation, race, and class, as well as ethnicity.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.” 


  • "Samuel K. Byrd offers an insightful musical snapshot of what statistics, policy think tanks, and others rechristened twenty years ago as the ‘Nuevo Latino South’… Sounds of Latinidad demonstrates how the demographic shifts in southern states are heard as an intercultural fusion of Latino music, signaling a southern form of Latinidad. Byrd brings Charlotte and Las Carolinas to our attention as an exciting immigrant gateway to listen to.”

    Journal of Popular Music Studies

  • “The author adds another important dimension to the still expanding literature on Latinos in the South and the critical role of popular music.”

    Journal of Popular Culture