Thursday, July 30, 2020

Chicanonautica: Going Postmodern at the Canción Cannibal Cabaret

I was impressed with a couple of videos by Canción Cannibal Cabaret back in 2019. I put them on Facebook and Twitter. Then I forgot about them. The world blew up, you know, 2020.

Therefore, I was happy to hear about the book The Canción Cannibal Cabaret & Other Songs by Amalia L. Ortiz. According to the back cover it’s “Set in a not-so-distant dystopian future . . . a Xicana punk rock musical—part concept album, part radio play.” Sounded like just the sort of thing for me to review here. And it seemed like a good thing to follow my José Torres-Tama trilogy.

Talk about a strange little book! There’s a lot going on between its covers.

Here’s what I said on Goodreads: “A helluvalot more than meets the eye here. The guerrilla woman with guitar, lace-gloves, and guitar is more than a mere cover girl. What we have here aren't just poems, song lyrics, performance texts . . . There's some world building that ain't just a backdrop for commercial melodrama. I see the influences of Guillermo Gómez-Peña/La Poca Nostra, José Torre-Tama, Gloria Anzaladúa, and believe it or not, Weird Al Yankovic. And the now ancient tradition of punk, with footnotes to keep track of the cultural references in a post-apocalyptic scenario that holds up a shattered mirror to our current reality and evokes a goddess while declaring the death of gender. Plus cannibalism, cabaret, canciónes . ..”

Along with other things. A lot of other things. 

There’s science/speculative fiction, some futuristic world building centered around La Madre Valiente, an iconic goddess-figure, a new Virgin of Guadalupe (who was an updating of older goddesses) has emerged from the wreckage of  the world to bring about a feminist revolution against the repressive State and lead the Fugees (the refugees, including all of the downtrodden, similar to Oscar Zeta Acosta’s cockroach people.) to a utopia that not only defeats the patriarchy, but declares that “Gender is Dead.”

It’s told in a series of narratives that provide the origin story for La Madre Valiente, and songs that act as manifestos.

At this point, I must remind you that the book was published back in 2019 (seems like at least a decade ago, doesn’t it?), before the protests that have El Presidente sending unmarked, unidentified, undocumented troops into our cities in name of “law and order.”

Could we see a real-life Madre Valiente soon? Is Portland’s Naked Athena a manifestation?

The sensibility is postmodern and punk. But then punk was postmodern, and now it seems to have become a venerable tradition—a “Punkera Scholar” with a Phd is quoted on the cover. The author/bandleader Amalia L. Ortiz sounds like an academic in her introduction. Would this make it postpostmodern? Postpostpostmodern?

Maybe it’s just cultural cannibalization.

I remember the original punk movement back in the last Seventies. How just about everybody—especially the academics and intellectuals were offended. My own generation, who just a few years earlier were offending their parents with long hair and acid rock, were disgusted by someone else’s rebellion.

Now punk, like the songs/poems printed in the book, has cultural references up the yingyang. I remember a lot of the original songs when they were first played on KROQ in L.A. If you're just reading the book without the music, you miss something.

I recommend seeing the music videos on YouTube; there’s also an hour-long concert that was livestreamed as a book launch event. While watching it, I found myself opening the book and following along, as if it were the prayer book for the mass of a new religion.

And who knows? That just may be what all this cultural cannibalization is leading to.

Ernest Hogan has always been proud of his cannibal heritage.

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