Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Daniel Sharp

Associate Professor - Music

Contact Info

Department Affiliation


My research focuses primarily on how traditional and experimental music is intertwined in the Americas, with a specific interest in post-plantation areas with heritage tourism economies (Northeast Brazil; New Orleans). I have developed a multidisciplinary approach involving fine-grained ethnographic research, oral histories, and narrative-centered writing that weaves cultural theory together with the everyday details of musicians’ lives.

My first book Between Nostalgia and Apocalypse: Popular Music and the Staging of Brazil is a close-to-the-ground account of musicians and dancers from Arcoverde, Pernambuco—a small city in the northeastern Brazilian backlands. The book’s focus on samba de coco families, marked as bearers of tradition, and the band Cordel do Fogo Encantado, marketed as pop iconoclasts, offers a portrait of performers engaged in new forms of cultural preservation during a post-dictatorship period of democratization and neoliberal reform. In it, I explore how festivals, museums, television, and tourism steep musicians’ performances in national-cultural nostalgia, which both provides musicians and dancers with opportunities for cultural entrepreneurship and hinders their efforts to be recognized as part of the Brazilian here-and-now. The book charts how Afro-Brazilian samba de coco became an unlikely emblem in an interior where European and indigenous mixture predominates. It also chronicles how Cordel do Fogo Encantado—drawing upon the sounds of samba de coco, ecstatic Afro-Brazilian religious music, and heavy metal—sought to make folklore feel dangerous by embodying an apocalyptic register and exposing the foundational violence that underlies stories of Brazilian regional and national origins. Publication of this book was supported by AMS 75 PAYS Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

My second book revolves around Afro-Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos’s 1980 album Saudades. My goal is to situate his reimagining of percussion and voice in the context of his itinerant life in New York, Europe and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. Of all the recordings in his extensive catalog, Naná was most proud of Saudades, which showcases his evocative, cinematic soundscapes on the berimbau and other percussion, working in tandem with his vocalizations, which he used as another musical instrument in the stereo mix. Naná’s longtime collaborator and roommate Arto Lindsay praised Naná’s impeccable time this way: “Naná has this kind of crystal clear time—it illuminates everything around it. It’s the time itself that is just glorious. It breathes, but never lets you down.”

The book’s focus on the Saudades record allows for an exploration of Naná’s trajectory from 1969 up until 1979, a pivotal time for him artistically, as well as in the arc of his life. During this decade prior to the recording, Naná began in Brazil, moved to New York City, then to Paris, and then back to Manhattan, touring extensively throughout Europe all the while. The record Saudades—a word for bittersweet longing deeply associated with the migratory Brazilian experience—captures the mixed emotions of the Brazilian far from home, while showcasing the vocabulary of techniques that he had been accumulating during this period. Based on numerous oral history interviews with his collaborators, the book’s themes include the relationship between popular music and cinema; the emergence of the category of world music in the 1970s and its relationship to free jazz and jazz-fusion; the relationship of Naná’s worldless vocalizations and body percussion to his work with neurodivergent children in a Paris hospital; and the ways in which Naná’s work was refiguring notions of the primitive in 1970s NYC and Paris.

In addition to my Brazil-centered work, I am also working on a New Orleans-centered project that explores many of the same themes of experimentalism, traditionalism and cultural tourism. For this project, Musical Architecture: Community Arts and Experimentalism in New Orleans, I am documenting an ambitious artistic collaboration called the Music Box Village. The Music Box Village is a project that brings together many visual artists, architects, musical instrument makers, and musicians in the service of the theme of “musical architecture.” It is an interactive visual and sound art installation by day, and a one-of-a-kind concert venue by night. Musicians experiment with sound and timbre on ingenious musical instruments embedded into the walls, ceilings and floors of small houses arranged throughout the outdoor space. The installation has been covered in glowing terms by Smithsonian Magazine, NPR and the New York Times. I am interested in questions surrounding both the creation of the art and the curation of the project. I am researching the unique musical instruments embedded in the buildings, and also the process of the project‘€™s funding and production. I interpret the Music Box Village, with its focus on sound, community and collaboration, as a nuanced response to the art of post-industrial ruins that places urban decay within a mournful tragic narrative. The project represents a convergence between approaches to avant-garde experimental music and art that are restless to break free from the confines of the museum and the concert hall, and the social aims of a non-profit community organization in a post-disaster zone. It is in the friction between these worlds that this work centers.

  • B.A., Grinnell College, Music, 1995
  • M.A., University of Texas at Austin, Latin American Studies, 2001
  • Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, Ethnomusicology, 2006
Academic Experience
  • Associate Professor, Tulane University, 2008-
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, The College of William and Mary, 2007-2008
  • Visiting Instructor/Assistant Professor, Bowdoin College, 2006-2007
  • Assistant Instructor, The University of Texas at Austin, 2005
  • Visiting Scholar and Instructor, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, 2004

Research & Teaching Specializations: Ethnomusicology, Brazil

Related Experience
  • Ethnographic Field Research, Brazil, 1999-
  • Latin American Graduate Organization (LAGO) Outstanding Faculty Member Service Award for excellence in teaching and for promoting selflessly the interests and careers of Latin American Studies graduate students, 2011
  • Outstanding Paper Prize by the Association of Graduate Ethnomusicology and Musicology Students at the University of Texas for “Imperialist Nostalgia and Cultural Nationalism in Buena Vista Social Club,” 2002
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
Overseas Experience
  • Brazil
Selected Publications
  • Forthcoming. Saudades by Naná Vasconcelos (ECM, 1980). Bloombury press as part of their 33 1/3 Brazil series.
  • 2018. “‘I Go Against the Grain of Your Memory’: Iconoclastic Experiments with Traditional Sounds in Northeast Brazil’ in Experimentalisms in Practice: Music Perspectives from Latin America edited by Ana Alonso Minutti, Eduardo Herrera, and Alejandro Madrid. Oxford University Press.
  • 2014. Between Nostalgia and Apocalypse: Popular Music and the Staging of Brazil. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press Music/Culture Series.
  • 2011. “Of Mud Huts and Modernity: The Performance of Civic Progress in Arcoverde’s São João Festival.” In Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship. Chris Dunn and Idelber Avelar, eds. Durham: Duke University Press
  • 2011. “Performing the Migrant, Performing Home: Televised Nostalgia in Northeast Brazil.” Latin American Music Review 32 (2).
  • 2010. “‘This is really the desert! The tough, brutal desert!’: Dreams of a Mud House Tourist Destination.” Anthropology News.
  • 2008. “Review of Choro: a social history of a Brazilian popular music, by Tamara Elena Livingston- Isenhour and Thomas George Caracas Garcia.” Latin American Music Review. 29 (1): 96-99.
  • 2003. “pexbaA: Tracing Experimentalism in Brazilian Popular Music.” Text, Practice, Performance. Austin: Journal of the Americo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies at the University of Texas. 5: 55-68.
  • 2001. “Olha que coisa mais linda (Look, what a beautiful thing): The Exotic Spectacle in Covers of The Girl From Ipanema.” Text, Practice, Performance. Austin: Journal of the Americo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies at the University of Texas. 3: 3-17.
  • 2000. “Tosca: Tango in Texas.” Text, Practice, Performance. Austin: Journal of the Americo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies at the University of Texas. 2: 53-67.

Recently-Taught Latin American-Related Courses: MUSC-3310-01: Latin American Music: Caribbean, MUSC-3360-01: The Latin Tinge: Jazz and Latin American Music in New Orleans and Beyond, MUSC-4952-01: Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship, MUSC-4954-01: Latin American Popular Music, MUSC-4954-01: Caribbean Musical Ethnography

Number of Dissertations or Theses Supervised in the Past 5 Years: 10

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Departmental Biography