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‘Obrigada, Shukran’: Brazilian Musical Encounters in Beirut

Messeder, G. (2022). ‘Obrigada, Shukran’: Brazilian Musical Encounters in Beirut. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Framing my research in the context of the close transcultural relationship between Brazil and Lebanon and the two countries’ rich communal history of trade, migration and cultural exchange, in this thesis I reveal how multiple strands of sociomusical encounters have shaped the performance, practice and legacy of Brazilian music in Lebanon – particularly samba and bossa nova – and how these lesser-known stories and histories nuance our understanding of music and society in Beirut. Beginning with intercultural musical encounters between local Lebanese and visiting Brazilian musicians in the nightclubs and hotels of ‘Golden Age’ Beirut, I analyse the historical factors that have led to the development of an idiosyncratically Lebanese style of bossa nova, as exemplified by the bossa nova-inspired compositions and innovative arrangements of Ziad Rahbani. I demonstrate how this musical history complicates contemporary understandings of the ‘cosmopolitan’ nature of the pre-Civil War city, illuminates how bossa nova is intertwined with nostalgic discourses pertaining to this era, and contributes to notions of a ‘hybrid’ Lebanese cultural identity.

Drawing upon ethnographic research undertaken in Beirut in 2017–19, in the second half of the thesis I show how the contemporary performance of Brazilian music has occupied a unique, ambivalent and sometimes contested space in the Lebanese musical milieu. I outline how sociopolitical anxieties regarding gender, ethnicity and ‘race’, alongside issues of cultural conservatism, exoticism and stereotyping, have shaped the production, performance and reception of Brazilian music and dance in Beirut, and reveal how these factors have created distinctive dynamics of tropicalisation in this context. Finally, I demonstrate how moments of crisis, discriminatory legislation and the chronic political and economic instability of postcolonial Lebanon have created a precarious environment for female, foreign performers in particular, resulting in a transient and fragile Brazilian sociomusical community in Beirut.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Messeder Thesis 2022_PDF-A.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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