My name is Chris Estrada, and I created this website to accompany ongoing research. My most recent research has been ethnographic and archival fieldwork on an improvised sung poetry, music, and carnival tradition called maracatu de baque solto in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil, where I lived from 2008-2012. I have also done fieldwork on diasporic immigrant communities in southwest and south Florida, and on community organizing among Puerto Rican activists in Humboldt Park, Chicago.
I am also a lapsed, mostly self-taught musician who once dabbled in songwriting and audio production. Although I still have a bunch of instruments and recording gear around the house, I don’t do much with them these days. I am, and have been since the age of 12, an avid record collector to the point where friends refuse to help me move any longer.
I am currently an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, where I teach at the residential James Madison College and occasionally for other programs such as the Integrated Arts and Humanities (IAH) program.
I am currently piloting an IAH course that I designed, Music, Society, and the State in Latin America and the Caribbean, which looks at how patterns of racial and economic inequality, migration, and transnational flows of ideas and practices throughout the region are manifested in musical expression, and different ways that community building happens through that music. In this course, I invite students to be my co-participants in exploring how these patterns play out across historical time and into the present day, and encourage them to connect these ideas to their lived experience.
If you want to know more about my professional life, you can download my CV here:
In the longer term, I’ve been working with collaborators in Brazil to put together a freely accessible digital archive of maracatu field recordings of the sung poetry contests (sambadas) and open rehearsals from the Mata Norte sugarcane zone of Pernambuco. While these contests have gone on for about one hundred years, there is little in the way of detailed documentation on them. Drawing on private collections of cassette recordings that go back to the 1980’s, as well as more recent digital recordings, the objective is to create a repository that can serve both the vibrant community of maracatu practitioners and enthusiasts, as well as others such as scholars or the musically curious who wish to know more about this fascinating scene and its deep history in the region.