Was it the hand of God that reached into my brain yesterday afternoon? Or was it the passionate beckoning of a street musician asking me to throw my hands up, not in despair, but to dance and clap and jump with him? Whoever it was that showed me the way, I finally feel like I have a reason, a thesis, some inspiration. Yesterday, walking the craft-packed side streets around the antiques fair in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego my friends and I were drawn in to a circle of spectators jumping and clapping and dancing along with a group of street musicians. Hand drums, trombone, trumpet, acoustic guitars, all playing together and then singing together over the guitars and drums. It was like ska, marching band, drum circle, salsa, reggae all mixed together into this incredible sound; you couldn’t help dancing. And with lyrics about peace, beauty, culture, a new world, music, life, love… I was hooked.
OK. Rewind. Back up.
Rome, 1965. Old men in robes sitting around trying to figure out how to revive the Catholic Church and make it relevant in contemporary culture, also known as Vatican II. Blah, blah blah, lots of Latin, blaaaah blah blah blah. Got it! Make Catholicism more accessible to people worldwide! Include all languages, forms of expression, and hey, let’s start using new kinds of art, literature, and music to communicate with people around us!
Skip to 1960s Latin America: home to intense social stratification, Liberation Theology, and claves. Frustrated people looking for answers, a powerful institution willing to provide needed social services, and a killer music scene.
Now we’re in Argentina. Buenos Aires, to be exact, the year is 2009. The city is practically devoid of Catholic practice. What’s that you’re asking about holy week? Religious festivals? Ritual?
No. Nada. Vamos a la playa.
Step back. Freak out. Go chill at the antiques fair in San Telmo. Typical South American tourist crafts, woven bracelets, leather goods, street food. Aaah, that’s better. There’s a little more to this place than ham and cheese after all...
Here come the street musicians. They were a group called Radio Roots, and for me, they gave me something to believe in, or at least to think about a little more. Seems to me that the spirit, and maybe the spirituality and faith too, of Liberation Theology is still around. You just have to wander down a side street to find it, or hear it, I guess. These guys are singin and dancin to spread a message about peace, equality, and beauty… all the things that the Church claims to be about. They seem to have a vision of a better world and society. And what’s more, they’re young and they have the energy and the ability to communicate that the old guys in the robes lack. And it seems like Buenos Aires is listening. At least this chica is!
So maybe this is what I’ve been looking for. To inflict some religion major lingo on this idea (which is inevitable if I’m looking to get a grade out of it), I could even call it postmodern. Sounds fancy, right? Mensajes por Música (I do love a good alliteration): Expresiones Postmodernas de Espiritualidad y Fe en Buenos Aires.
Commence head scratching. Maybe it’s just some BS. But it sounds a lot more fun than papal documents.
What do you think?