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Musical Tourism

By Lindajoy Fenley
A lively three-dollar cassette with a photo of an old Mexican fiddler on the cover inspired me
several years ago to journey from my home in Mexico City to a little-known hotlands town in
western Mexico to meet the musician. This casual weekend trip eventually led to the creation
of an annual music festival Encuentro de Dos Tradiciones, a different way of doing tourism in
While the festival seeks to showcase Juan Reynoso's music and the local culture of Tierra
Caliente, Guerrero, it represents an alternative for tourists who want to make friends with
people from a different culture. The key that opens the door: sharing traditional music from
Mexico and other countries. Because it is an exchange of musical traditions, the festival
avoids "objectification" of the host culture; it's conceived as a sharing rather than "observed"
and "observer." In addition to Calentana music from Tierra Caliente, Mexican styles that have
been presented over the past five years include Son Arribeo (from the Sierra Gorda),
Huapango (from the Huasteca) and Son Tixleco (from Tixtla, Guerrero). Visitors have brought
Cajun, Appalachian, country blues, swing, Tex-Mex, Greek and Irish music from the United
States and Cape Breton fiddling from Canada.
By being able to both play their own music and appreciate the music they come to learn
about, these "alternative" tourists help create a dialogue that reminds me of a research
technique an ethnomusicologist friend told me about. Henrietta Yurchenco of New York, who
participated in the third Encuentro de Dos Tradiciones, says she uses "the back porch method"
of informal conversation to get her informants to volunteer more details naturally.
The musicians and music fans find out much more about the people of Mexico than many
other groups of tourists because of their willingness to share something of themselves. They
get to know the people who sit next to them at the concerts, those that cook and serve special
meals, the Mexican musicians and other folks they meet along the way. It's a far cry from
gawking at monuments or rushing from one city to another.
"We tell the truth with our violins," said Louisiana musician Dirk Powell. "And between one
or two beers, we forget the border," he added in an impromptu poem he wrote during his
second trip to Tierra Caliente in 1998.
Powell and his wife Christine Balfa of the Cajun band Balfa Toujours planted the seed for the
Encuentro de Dos Tradicionesthe Encounter of Two Traditionson July 3, 1996, when
they and Reynoso performed at the same Festival of American Fiddle Tunes stage in Port
Townsend, Washington. Dirk and Christine rushed up to meet Reynoso (now 89) and his two
guitarist sons. Enthralled with the hauntingly beautiful Mexican music that was totally new to
them, they decided to visit Mexico.
We looked forward to their visit and agreed it would be fun for them to share a stage in
Mexico City. I decided to call the concert with the two groups the Encounter of Two
Traditions. The following year the whole Balfa Toujours band came and the event expanded
from a one-night venue in Mexico City to also include a weekend experience in Tierra

Caliente with the Conjunto de Juan Reynoso and other local groups, the Brujos de Huejutla
from Hidalgo, Yolotecuani from Tixtla, Guerrero, all representing Mexico; along with Balfa
Toujours, the Fire Ants of Wyoming and several spontaneous groups from the United States.
The festival, now in its sixth year, features a Mexico City concert and dance workshops,
followed by a trip to the Hotlands of Guerrero. The festival is having an impact on local
culture, not by changing it but by encouraging preservation. We all agreed promoting
Calentana music away from its roots wouldn't help revive this dying art unless there we would
also stage upbeat experiences to inspire younger members of the culture to play.
If we could travel in a time machine, we would see that Calentana and Cajun music have
something besides fiddles in common. Calentana music is little known outside of the parts of
Michoacn and Guerrero where it is played. Even there it lacks the full respect it deserves.
Several decades ago, Louisiana's Cajun music found itself in the same predicament. When
Christine's father and uncles were invited to the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, front-page
editorials urged them to stay home, saying that up north they'd be laughed off the stage for
their funky, down-home sound.
An audience of thousands rewarded the Balfa Brothers with thundering applause and
Christine's dad Dewey went on to promote Cajun music at home and abroad with pride. Cajun
music is now known worldwide and attracts visitors to southwestern Louisiana whether or not
there's a festival on the calendar.
Calentana music still lacks such acclaim. However, it is increasingly recognized; Mexico's
president, Ernesto Zedillo, handed Juan Reynoso the National Award for Science and the Arts,
the highest award an artist can receive in Mexico, in December 1997.
While the festival has inspired some musicians such as Paul Anastasio, a Seattle fiddler who
started studying with Reynoso after the Dos Tradiciones festival began, to transcribe, record,
and promote Calentana music, the yearly event also spurs cultural exchange among nonmusicians.
Jim Blau, now a Brown University student, said that even though he doesn't play music, he
enjoyed the late-night jam sessions as well as the concerts.
"It's a powerful thing to be invited into someone's home and eat the food they eat," says Marla
Streator, a fiddler from Port Townsend, Washington who makes it a point not to miss our
annual event that starts in Mexico City and ends in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero, each March.
She treasures her friendships with Reynoso, other musicians and with a group of women who
host a buffet breakfast at one of their homes our last morning in town each year. She also
enjoys playing a role in breaking down stereotypes that divide people from different
countries. "It's a relief for them to know we're not so judgmental," she says, noting the crosscultural exchange gives everyone a chance to see the others as plain folks.
The type of personal involvement musical tourism makes possible puts dancers and nonmusicians as well as musicians in touch with people from different cultures, almost always on
a harmonious note. For me, however, opening the area to tourists with a musical focus has hit
both highs and lows. For example, getting local governments to pay some of the costs of
putting on a free, international concert in a public plaza takes a good deal of my time and

energy. Since the event has evolved into a series of three concerts in different towns each year,
securing funding from three separate sources is an exercise I repeat again and again.
One year, the mayor of Tlalpehuala withdrew his previously enthusiastic invitation to our
musical tourists just weeks before the event. The mayor of Cutzamala came to the rescue at
the 11th hour by inviting the visitors to his plaza and hosting a generous fish feed just before
the concert. But the city didn't have funds to help offset our principal costs.
Following the election of a new mayor in Ciudad Altamirano, that city refused to support the
festival because the prior administration, a strong supporter of our festival for two years,
belonged to a different political party. But every cloud has its silver lining. When ordinary
citizens learned municipal support had been pulled, they took up a collection. Fortunately, by
the time we started counting on individual donations from Altamirano residents, the federal
government had granted us the ability to issue tax-deductible donation receipts.
Altamirano remains a key venue because it offers the only adequate hotels for our group of 40
or more participants as well as being the commercial center of the region on the Guerrero side
of the Balsas River. It also is the closest city to Reynoso's home. We vary the other locations
included in each tour since the cultural region called Tierra Caliente has 12 other
municipalities to choose from in Guerrero, Michoacn and the state of Mexico.
In addition to municipal backing, support to pay for the headline musicians and other festival
costs has come from the US-Mexico Fund for Culture (Rockefeller Foundation, Bancomer
and the National Fund for Culture and the Arts), the United States and Canadian Embassies,
and private companies such as airlines and hotels. Ed Littlefield, a Washington State musician
and philanthropist, has provided major, ongoing funding.
The touristsmany of them accomplished musiciansalso add economic resources. Their
registration fees pay for their food, lodging and transportation and some of Dos Tradiciones'
administrative costs. Their participation is just as important as their money by helping to
bridge the gap between cultures. They come to learn about Mexican music and culture and
they share their own music and culture on and off stage.
Both the fiddler on the cassette I bought years ago and I believe our own encounter has
changed our lives. Reynoso was living in near obscurity on a small amount of money he
earned by playing in village bars and economic support from one of his sons is now an awardwinning musician kept busy with performances and visitors. No longer a freelance journalist
and foreign correspondent who happened to appreciate Mexican folk music, I now am the
director of a non-profit organization that promotes traditional music from various countries
who writes about music and culture rather than politics or economics.
The Dos Tradiciones trip into Tierra Caliente, five hours from my Mexico City home, has
turned into a mission rather than a programmed adventure. Sharing the experience with others
has taught me that musical tourism opens more than just ears. It opens hearts and minds to a
culture on a basis of equality.
Lindajoy Fenley enjoyed a 30-year career in journalism before founding Dos Tradiciones, a
non-profit organization promoting traditional music and cultural exchange. She has produced
three festival compact discs and an annual magazine since 1998. Dos Tradiciones' web site

(http://www.laneta.apc.org/DosTradiciones) offers more information about the festival which

is open to traditional musicians and music fans from all countries.
See also: Dance, Music, Theater, Tourism

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Table of Contents

Tourism (Winter 2002)

o A Look at the Galapagos
o Architecture and Tourism
o Comings and Goings: Austin Awarded for Research on the Nonprofit Sector
o Editor's Letter
o Focus on Cuba and the Caribbean

Caribbean Tourism and Development

Cuba: Una Dcada de Desarrollo Turstico

The Caribbean

The Old, Havana Way

Tourism Development for the Cuban Economy (English version)

o History, Culture and Identity

Boycott as Political Instrument: the case of Guatemala

Crafts in the Guatemalan Highlands

Food and Culture: A New Sustainable Tourism Product

Human Rights Tourism in Chile

Musical Tourism

Photoessay: Puerto Rico's Tourism

Recreating Chican@ Enclaves

Rio de Janeiro's Favela Tourism

Sex Tourism in Latin America

Tourism, Carnaval and Citizenship

o Sustainable Tourism

Agricultural Tourism

Agroturismo como Alternativa de Diversificacin del Ingreso en el Eje

Cafetero Colombiano

Certifying Sustainable Tourism

Community Ecotourism in the Global Economy

Ecotourism in Chile

From Trek Leader to the Research Track

Restoring a Ravaged Venezuelan Coastline

o The Business of Tourism

After September 11


Let's Go

o Thinking on Tourism

Nine Quandaries of Tourism

Tourism and the Archaeology of State - Facing Challenges: the Case of

Copan, Honduras

Tourism's Landscape of Knowledge

Tourist Photography's Fictional Conquest

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Traveling to and with the Sound of Music

November 2013

Tourism has many forms, and the niche tourism market is not only a growing market, but also
understanding one niche helps tourism and travel professionals to apply the same principles to
other niche markets. One such market is the music and music festivals as a travel and tourism
Although often overlooked, both music and tourism share a great deal in common. Both are
good for the soul, both attempt to lift a persons spirits and both help the person leave the
doldrums of everyday life and enter into new and challenging worlds. Certain areas of the
world have done an excellent job of using music both as a way to create special niches and as
a way to brand their location. For example, Jamaica is known for its reggae music.
Mississippi is known for its blues, and the song Hava Nagilah immediately reminds the
listener of Israel. In other locales music forms a part of the local high cultural market. Italy
is known for opera, Portugal for its fado music, and New York for its philharmonic and opera
Musical tourism then has a far greater impact than most people believe. From opera houses to
concerts, from rock stars to local musical traditions if used properly music not only sooths the
spirit but also adds to a communitys economic outlook. Music and music festivals are great
ways then to diversify ones tourism product and at the same time provide the local
community with added quality of life. Music can become a unifier of people and a way to
share common experiences in a multi-cultural setting. To help you develop the musical part
of your tourism industry consider some of the following:

Know what type of music your community has to offer. The world of
music is a world that is highly diverse. Find out if your musical offerings
match the types of lodging and foods that you community has to offer.
For example, if your community has classical forms of music, will your
hotels fulfill the needs of people who enjoy this type of music?

Document the economic value of your musical offering to the

community. Often people believe that music produces little in the way of
economic development. Reality says that this is not true, but it is essential
that you are able to prove this reality. Produce questionnaires that track
how many people have spent at least one night in a place of lodging due to
your musical offering, do the same with gas stations, restaurants, and
visits to other attractions. Do not forget to include salaries given to
employees as part of your economic impact. Then provide this information
not only to the tourism community but also to the media.

Coordinate your musical offerings with your overall tourism

picture. For example, if you are going to hold a music festival, it may be
best to hold it during your communitys low season rather than high
season. However, if held during the low season, make sure that hotels will
be open and that there is an adequate number of restaurants and other
tourism essential services available. Musical concerts and festivals may be
great ways to fill in the low season.

Use musical presentations to attract good media attention. In

most cases musical presentations are neither political nor controversial.

The musical concert not only draws a crowd, but this is a good way to
receive free publicity for your community. Whenever possible incorporate
your locales name into the festival so as to gain further media attention
and publicity.

Make sure that you have a handle on the concessionaires. Musical

festivals often attract all sorts of people who are there selling both legal,
and unfortunately at times, illegal products. Make sure that your security
personnel are well trained and know what can and cannot be sold. Be
careful to involve your local police department in everything from parking
and crown control to drug control and lost children.

Use your musical offering to generate a multiplier affect. That

means that you want your music goers to use local eating establishments,
stay in local hotels, and visit other attractions. Have stands at the music
experience that indicate where to eat, sleep and visit other area

Use your musical offering to help develop a sense of place. A

sense of place is that which makes a locale unique and worth visiting.
One feels this sense of place in such diverse locales as: Hawaii. Trinidad,
or Scotland,. In all these locations the music has come to be more than
something heard, it becomes a total symbol of a locales culture, food,
language, and even geography. It is this sense of place that provides the
uniqueness that is the tourism experience. What is unique about music is
that often where it occurs produces its own sense of place. An example of
this phenomenon is the Woodstock festival. The festival was located in a
remote field filled with mud. The festival was a three-day concert that took
place in 1969 and unfortunately also included sex, drugs, and rock n roll.
Although the festival is not one that many may want to repeat it did
become an icon of the 1960s hippie counterculture. The festival took an
obscure field and turned it, for better or worse, into a visitor location. It
was the music plus festival that defined the sense of place.

Connect your musical offering with those of other communities or

locales. Just as in many other forms of tourism, clustering, joint
marketing and regionalization increase the value of your tourism product.
If there is only a concert than people will come to the concert and leave,
but if the concert is part of a total package than the music will act as a
draw but produce a long tail effect that multiples profits throughout the
community. Musical tourism is about partnerships and the more
partnerships that there are; the more successful is the music tourism.

Think about the parallels between team-oriented tourism such as

sports tourism and peoples loyalties to specific bands or singers.
There may be numerous parallels between sports teams and musical
groups. Just as the sports team attracts followers from around the world,
so too do musical bands. It is essential that the precautions and marketing
techniques used in team-oriented tourism also be considered when
developing a music-based tourism.