An ethnography of music and dance exploring the economic, social, and ideological constraints under which social classes and racial groups interact
Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance shows how community music-makers and dancers take in all that is around them socially and globally, and publicly and bodily unfold their memories, sentiments, and raw responses within open spaces designated or commandeered for local popular dance. As an African American anthropologist, musician, dancer, and photographer who lived in Cuba, Vaughan reveals a unique perspective on contemporary Cuban society during the 1990s, the peak decade of timba, and beyond, as the Cuban leadership transferred from Fidel Castro to his brother. Simultaneously, the book reveals popular dance music in the context of a young and astutely educated Cuban generation of fierce and creative performers.
By looking at the experiences of black Cubans and exploring the notion of “Afro Cuba,” Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance explains timba's evolution and achieved significance in the larger context of Cuban culture. Vaughan discusses a maroon aesthetic extended beyond the colonial era to the context of contemporary society; describes the dance spaces of Cuba; and examines the performance of identity and desire through the character of the “especulador.”
“Umi Vaughan is blessed with many gifts, and he calls upon them all to tell the story of how timba music grew from the experience of being black in Cuba. Writing with poetic precision, he asks painful questions about the continuing legacy of racism, but also offers hope for a better future. This is a book I've known since its birth and always believed in. It is without a doubt one of the gems to emerge from the new anthropology of Cuba.”
—Ruth Behar, University of Michigan, and author of Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys
“With the passion of a dancer, the skepticism of an anthropologist, and an emphatically black perspective, Umi Vaughan articulates the complex cultural forces at work—and play—in Havana’s ecstatic, virtuosic, big-band dance music. Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance is a must-have for any reader who wants to understand the Cuban street.”
—Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo
Cover photo: “Guarachando (Dancing & Being),” 2003. Image courtesy of the author.