The Great Woman Singer: Gender and Voice in Puerto Rican Music
Getting Off … The Nation
Myrta Silva created two personas to represent her artistic endeavors. One was Myrta Silva, using her own name, which began as the prototypical nymphet at the service of male fantasy, and developed into powerful placeholder of the nothingness all successful pop vocal execution represents. In the 1940s, her second persona, Chencha, first emerged from a huge hit, “Camina como Chencha la gambá.” Chencha became a stage character Silva enlisted principally on 1950s and 1960s television, during a humor segment called “Tira y tápate” (Dodgeball). The chapter reconstructs and analyzes Silva’s artistic genius, seen especially through her canny understanding of voice as objet a, emphasizing sonorous elements such as beat, tempo, and cadence. Silva was characterized as uncouth and vulgar. Aside from the erasure of her identity as a bolero songwriter, which is important, the chapter analyzes Silva’s marvelous enlisting of the obscene in music. She turned the tables on her own sexualization, whether laudatory (as in her first career) or derisive (as in her mature career, when she received the soubriquet “the Golden Fatso,” La Gorda de Oro).
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