"Music in Motion – Musicians on Southern Mexican Rural Buses"
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ingrid Kummels (FU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Susanne Klengel (FU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Sergio Navarrete (CIESAS)
Rural buses in Mexico are not just an important means of public transport. Everyday thousands earn their living onboard these buses, converting them into mobile spaces of informal business. Vendors of soft drinks and natural remedies use buses as a space to tout their goods and musicians perform for the passengers in the hope of making tips. The latter are the protagonists of my thesis. Reflecting the program of the International Research Training Group, 'Between Spaces', my thesis focuses on spatial aspects and forms part of the research area 'Spaces of the Local'. Based on a relational concept of space I address two central questions: How do rural buses and the space they move through influence the musicians? And how do musicians constitute spaces through their performance onboard and outside the buses?
In the course of two fieldtrips I accompanied 25 musicians working on rural buses in the neighboring states of Guerrero, Puebla, and Estado de México. I conducted interviews with musicians, bus drivers, passengers, and agents from transportation companies and recorded performances. My analysis of the material showed that the musicians’ performances are influenced by physical factors, such as the characteristics of the road or the acoustic proportions of specific bus types, as well as by social and spatial orders, such as the transport companies’ checkpoints, regional musical preferences, and the spaces for drivers and passengers. Musicians construct networks of friendly bus drivers, who allow them to perform. Onboard they connect places along the route through their lyrics, which generate spatial correlations. Their performances shape the bus driver’s and passengers’ impression of their bus moving through specific musical spaces.
My dissertation improves understanding of Mexican rural buses, which have not been widely researched to date, and their significance for local actors earning a living onboard.