¡Maldito Coronavirus! - Mapping Latin American Musical Responses to the Pandemic Moment - Daniel S. Margolies

¡Maldito Coronavirus! - Mapping Latin American Musical Responses to the Pandemic Moment - Daniel S. Margolies

Las Cumbias del Coronavirus

¡Maldito Coronavirus! - Mapping Latin American Musical Responses to the Pandemic Moment - Daniel S. Margolies

Daniel S. Margolies [+-]
Festival of Texas Fiddling Sonté-New Orleans
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Daniel S. Margolies, Ph.D, is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Festival of Texas Fiddling and a Director at Sonté in New Orleans, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting musical interventions for wellbeing. Margolies runs Zarza Records, which releases new recordings of traditional music and historical reissues, and produces the Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio. He has written dozens of articles and book chapters on musical and historical topics and has written or edited four other books, including Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations: Extradition and Extraterritoriality in the Borderlands and Beyond, 1877–1898 (2011). More information at DanMargolies.com.
J.A. Strub [+-]
University of Texas, Austin
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J.A. Strub is a researcher, performer, and multimedia producer. He holds a Bachelor's degree in economics and statistics from Hunter College, CUNY and is completing a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include music and participatory social life, user-generated platform media, and the role of improvisation and creative agency in musical performance. His work has been supported by the United States Department of Education, the Tinker Foundation, Humanities Texas, and the Rainwater Foundation, among others. More information at JA-Strub.com.


A Mexican quick hit writer named Mister Cumbia understood the commercial potential of a song about the coronavirus very early, and released his catchy and ubiquitous “La Cumbia del Coronavirus” on YouTube on January 22, 2020, a week before the World Health Organization even declared a public health emergency. Soon, countless songs about coronavirus were being released throughout Latin America, many of which were built around catchy samples, pre-made beats, and other hallmarks of viral content creation. This chapter begins by asking why the earliest manifestations of coronavirus music from Latin America most frequently took the form of a cumbia, a rhythm and style with roots in coastal Colombia that has since been regionalized across Latin America. The transnational cumbia sound serves as a “blank slate” a danceable, instantly recognizable, and easily remixed format that, like a global, airborne virus, is privileged by its adaptability and infectiousnesss. This chapter charts the history of popular topical cumbias about tropical diseases (ebola, zika, chikungunya, dengue) while framing the spread of the transnational cumbia in epidemiological terms. It also examines the ways in which two non-musical recordings of the human voice uploaded to personal social media accounts by recording artists Cardi B and Anuel AA took on lives of their own as they were remixed, sampled, and circulated around the world in new musical contexts. By interrogating and unpacking the increasingly-significant metaphor of “viral media” in the context of cumbias about disease and the schizophonic memesis of the human voice via social media, this chapter demonstrates how the interconnected world-system that facilitated the global coronavirus outbreak simultaneously facilitates the unpredictable spread of hybridized cultural products.

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Margolies, Daniel; Strub, J.A.. Las Cumbias del Coronavirus. ¡Maldito Coronavirus! - Mapping Latin American Musical Responses to the Pandemic Moment. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 78-107 Jul 2024. ISBN 9781800503977. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=43037. Date accessed: 24 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43037. Jul 2024

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