Authenticity Matters

  • Michelle Bigenho


The musicians were sweating under heavy wool ponchos—not the most comfortable attire in the late morning French summer sun— but the Bolivian delegation made sacrifices at the July 14 parade for the international folklore festival in the town of Saintes. For the most important event of this festival the Bolivian musicians wore their gala costumes, two different styles traditionally donned for the interpretation of Italaque panpipes—a highland Bolivian tradition. The impressive costumes and sounds may have differed from what many French people knew as typical of Bolivia. At least that was the intention of the Bolivian music director. The lengthy parade route did not faze the Bolivian musicians. Through their urban ritual parades at home, Bolivian musicians and dancers have extensive experience in moving sonorously and kinesthetically through the city streets. Playing, dancing, and moving forward are all performative activities which occur simultaneously. They go together as do the activities of not playing, not dancing, and not moving forward. These performative practices require skills in the calculations of space and time. To dance to the band in one’s own group, the leading section of the troupe must maintain a sufficient distance from the preceding dance group. But the dance section must also avoid falling too far behind, so as not to break the continuity of the ritual parade, and possibly face disqualification by the organizational entities who judge the different troupes within these parades.


Music Performance Authenticity Police Bolivian State National Narrative Indigenous Organization 
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  1. 13.
    To trace the trajectory from a 1952 national ideology of mestizaje to one of the pluricultural, I also reference two texts of the Bolivian intellectual René Zavaleta Mercado: La formación de la conciencia nacional (The Formation of the National Conscience; 1990 [1967]) and Lo nacional-popular en Bolivia (The National-Popular in Bolivia; 1986). While Zavaleta’s La formación fashioned a nation built on an orthodox Marxist model led by the mining proletariat (1990 [1967]: 121), in his last work, Lo nacional-popular, Zavaleta recognized the “motley” (abigarrada) nature of Bolivian society and saw this as an obstacle to Bolivia ever consolidating as a nation-state under a system of representative democracy (1986: 19–20). Between these two works, marking the beginning and end of an intellectual career, Zavaleta’s focus of nation shifted from class to cultural difference. The life-story of the campesino leader Antonio Alvarez also provides insights into this shift, as Alvarez’ adversaries would accuse him of being a “dangerous mestizo” if they wanted to cast aspersions on his position as an “indigenous” peasant leader (Ranaboldo 1987: 87).Google Scholar

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© Michelle Bigenho 2002

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  • Michelle Bigenho

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