Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | September 17, 2012

Youth, Community and Music in Barreiro

MYPLACE team member Tiago Carvalho  from Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia, Lisbon, on observations of changes taking place in regard to youth involvement in music scenes in Barreiro, a MYPLACE field site in Portugal.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

After almost a year of making observations, and partly in response to Hillary’s [MYPLACE Coordinatorm Prof. Hilary Pilkington] challenge when she came to Portugal for a site visit to explore music in Barreiro, it is now possible to put forward some initial reflections and research hypotheses relating to changes in youth community involvement and music, an area in which I have had the opportunity to be involved.

As noted in previous blogs from the Portuguese team, Barreiro emergesin a context of post-industrial decay, suburbanisation, globalisation and social inequalities, as well as many other transformations, like in many other places in Portugal but particularly the south bank of the river Tejo, across from the capital city of Lisbon. But it is in this post-industrial scenario than many original and innovated bands have emerged.

Examples of several forms of urban music can be foundin Barreiro: most prominently, rock, hip-hop and jazz (there is even a jazz school and a jazzbar there). The development of this diverse music scene follows in the traditions of cultural development fostered by a number of workers’ associations in previous decades, whichincluded activities such as poetry, theatre and sports, as well as music. Today, Barreiro’s youth are continuing this legacy, even if in different musical styles. This leads us to ask if the young people involved have also maintained the political dimension associated with the cultural activities of the past, or are they engaging in less politicised forms of recreation and communal action? This is obviously a question that will be considered in the course of our research.

Beyond this more abstract and broad question, in the last year it has been possible to observe a small community of young musicians, some of them even with an emerging national eminence, on the underground circuit. Even though more research is still needed, we have already some idea of the different musical styles and genres that exist here; this ranges from psychedelic, stoner and blues rockto experimental music. The music produced by these groups can be read as a cultural practice emerging from social relationships, imbedded in the broader (political) context that in turn help maintain these social bonds within this context. At the same time, this music does not simply make reference to Barreiro, as it frequently incorporates global influences.

Description: The stoner psychedelic rock band Electric Super Sex in the Out.RA Christmas concert (December 19th 2011), which I attended.

These developments do not exist in an institutional void, but are supported by several institutions: over the course of the previous decade, two major cultural associations (Hey! Pachuco; Out.RA) emerged in support of musical acts in Barreiro, involved in activities such as producing records and organising concerts throughout the year. Perhaps even more significantly, each organisesa music festival, both of which are known for their alternativeness in the musical panorama: if one is based on experimental music (from jazz to electronic music), the other tends to be a small rock festival with alternative bands. In a way, there seems to be absorption of global influences, through mass media and internet, in a local context which transforms youth practicesand supports news ways of socialisation,albeit for those following the now familiar extended educational trajectories rather forworkersfrom various industrialplants. The local council also plays a supporting role through promoting youth policies in which artistic activities play a central role. There are also several bars and other associations that serve as a platform to promote this kind of alternative culture and that are central to the development of bands.

In a way, a sense of community continues to exist through these practices, that has the capacity to express an alternative ethos to the widespread resignation and fatalism which seems to have been bred by the now seemingly endless austerity doctrine of the Portuguese government. Whether this is actually the case, or if other major social issues are reflected in the cultural artefacts emerging or the cultural practices engaged in, remains to be seen.

This preliminary sketch had the intention tobringing to light this issue, i.e. changes in the form of community life through music. And there does seems to be an articulation between cultural identity and collective action in a context of complex endogenous and exogenous social dynamics in which youth takes an active role, which is obviously of relevance to the wider goals of the project in terms of understanding political and civic engagement, particularly in terms of the impact of historical legacy.

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