The 2021 Pop Convergence: A Virtual Pop Conference, April 22-25th
Artwork by Alex Nero; Design by The Art Dictator

Dan Margolies

“Maldito Coronavirus!” Mapping the Musical Responses to the Covid Pandemic Across Latin America

The Covid pandemic has been a profoundly sonic experience. Mr. Cumbia released his ubiquitous “La Cumbia del Coronavirus” on January 22, 2020, a week before the World Health Organization even declared a public health emergency. Across Latin America, the sheer volume of coronavirus music produced across every conceivable regional style, instrumentation, and dance beat is astonishing and continuous. We have been collecting música coronavirus since the pandemic started last winter and, as of mid-December 2020, have a database of more than 1300 songs across genres. This presentation is a comprehensive survey of the varied musical responses in Spanish and indigenous languages to the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin American communities. This presentation will use audio and video examples and descriptive analysis to characterize and contextualize the range of this profound musical moment. There are hundreds of songs in more than a dozen styles of regional Mexican music, including Banda, Duranguense, Sierreño, Norteño, Son Jarocho, Son Huasteco, Mariachi, Chona, Tierra Caliente, and Rock en Español. There are hundreds of examples from the Caribbean in Dembow, Reggeaton, Salsa, and Bachata. Colombian Vallenato addresses coronavirus in bawdy songs. Remix culture has produced hundreds of pieces. There is a sub-sub-genre of Christian musical responses to coronavirus in Vallenato, Merengue, Reggaeton, and in Spanish rap. Ethereal Huayno music in Peru in Spanish and Quechua has been an especially rich vein of coronavirus songs as well, with a uniquely emotional response to the fear and social devastation produced by the pandemic. All of this incredible regional, ethnic, and artistic diversity was crafted in response to the singular shared coronavirus moment. The Covid-19 pandemic has produced a huge range of local musical responses to the global phenomenon which is different in scale and expression from any previous health or political crises which has inspired musicians.

Daniel Margolies is Professor and Chair of the History Department at Virginia Wesleyan University and founder and Artistic Director of the Festival of Texas Fiddling. He has published widely on musical, historical, and legal topics.