Musical Preferences of Argentines Living in Australia

Implications for Music Therapy Clinical Practice

Christobel C. Moore Felicity A. Baker


Christobel C. Moore became aware of how culture affects the way in which we understand life and the way we behave early on in life. At the age of seven, she moved to Argentina with her family and experienced what it means to migrate and on just how many levels things can be different. Moving to Uruguay five years later, she was surrounded by people from diverse cultural backgrounds who were grappling with culture-shock. These experiences provided ideal conditions for developing cultural empathy. Returning to Australia after 22 years in the South America, the complexity of cultural identity was made even more explicit as she experienced the difficulties associated with what Paradis (2008) calls "Biculturalism", that is, the co-existence and interaction of two cultural systems. Discussion with music therapist Diego Schapiro at the World Congress 2008 further made conscious the possible differences in cultural identity and musical preference of Argentines who had emigrated compared to those in Argentina (Schapiro, personal communication). To what extent is the information we can research about current musical preference in the country of origin relevant to expatriates?

The ability to empathise effectively is intrinsically important to the therapeutic relationship and process (Corey, 2005). Yet, when working with people from different cultures, whether from the same country or not, this is made more difficult due to reduced understanding of the experience and context, together with our normal tendency to operate from an ethnocentric standpoint (Benson, 2006).

There is a growing volume of literature concerning the importance and ethical responsibility of incorporating cultural sensitivity into music therapy practice (Bradt, 1997; Shapiro, 2005; Stige, 2002). However, this literature tends to be quite general, and music therapists who wish to inform themselves of cultural characteristics and music preferences of a particular ethnic group would have to invest a significant amount of time to collect data from many different sources. This is further complicated if the therapist does not speak the language of the ethnic group, as it becomes difficult to access material and judge the appropriateness of song lyrics.

In Australia, Argentines make up approximately 0.3% of the overseas-born population (11,370 people) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006) and tend to be mostly between 25 and 44 years (40.3%) (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2006). Nevertheless, projections by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that the number of Argentines in Australia over 65 is doubling every five years (Gibson, Braun, Benham, & Mason, 2001). This article aims to provide music therapists with clinically relevant cultural information about Argentines living in Australia and to identify types of music that are more likely to be culturally appropriate for use in particular music therapy sessions. This will provide a concrete starting point from which to work with this population and contribute to existing literature which informs cross-cultural practice in music therapy. The specific research questions were:

  1. What types of music do Argentines living in Australia relate to?
  2. What associations are connected to this music?

Literature Review

Importance of Culture in Music Therapy

There is considerable music therapy literature on the importance of self-awareness and personal growth, and Brown (2002) suggests that culture-centred therapy is another step in this process. Camilleri (2001) discusses how therapists are able to be more authentic and available for their clients as they have greater self-knowledge, enabling them to empathise and meet the clients needs more effectively. Ridley, Ethington and Heppner (2008) add that cultural competence and sensitivity are necessary in order to move beyond uncritical acceptance of cultural differences to recognising and competently addressing cultural conflicts that may be causing the client distress. As the therapist gains insight into their own cultural context and acquires knowledge of the clients cultural schemas and social, political and historical context, the potential of inadvertently acting prejudicially is diminished (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Valentino, 2006). Because music is a cultural expression, it follows that sensitivity to the cultural implications of musical traditions within different cultures and the shared associations that music may have within that context is also highly significant (Moreno, 1988). However, it is also important to be aware of how the client relates to these cultural norms and of his or her cultural and individual reality within this broader context (Draguns, 2008; Forrest, 2000).

Moreno (1988) found that music therapists in the United States tended to be more ethnocentric than musicians in their use of music in therapy and encouraged the incorporation of simple ethnic musical material to increase rapport. This attitude seems to have shifted, however, as music therapists in Australia and the United States scored high on cross-cultural empathy in Valentinos (2006) recent survey. However, 82% of participants considered that any song in the clients primary language was appropriate with only 11% indicating that awareness of the role of the music within the culture was necessary (Valentino, 2006), suggesting that there may still be limited awareness of possible associations and the significance of the music within the culture. Conversely, "preferred music" is a frequent resource in most interventions described in music therapy literature (Kopacz, 2005) and research into musical preferences shows significant links between preference and personality (Zweigenhaft, 2008). Knowledge of the role and context of culturally specific music is an important factor impacting on the therapeutic relationship (Baker & Grocke, in press), but can also facilitate using particular songs in appropriate contexts.

Particularly relevant to migrants is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that holds that a persons language determines how they think and therefore greatly influences the way in which they view the world (Kay & Kempton, 1984). Based on this hypothesis, Paradis (2008) observes that in people who are highly proficient in more than one language, each language may trigger or block different emotional responses, associations and memories. In this way, using one language can access areas that another does not while using a language not associated with the experience can offer valuable distance from which to process difficult issues. . Based on this hypothesis, Paradis (2008) observes that in people who are highly proficient in more than one language, each language may trigger or block different emotional responses, associations and memories. In this way, using one language can access areas that another does not while using a language not associated with the experience can offer valuable distance from which to process difficult issues.

Historical Overview

The history of Argentina has been marked by ongoing instability and conflict since colonial times. Regional conflicts mark the 19th century as Argentina consolidates itself as an independent nation. There is also substantial conflict between political forces that represent the capital cities and those that represent the provinces and rural regions. These distinctions are still evident today in the collective psyche and the political structure, with provincial governments operating independently from the national government in Argentina (Lewis, 2003). Violent military interference into government, corruption, economic crises and social unrest have defined the subsequent course of Argentine history and identity.

The Guerra Sucia [Dirty War] led to the torture, death and disappearance by the military regime of tens of thousands of people between 1975 and 1983 and had a profound impact on the national psyche (Aguiar, 1988; Lewis, 2003). The impact of this period is particularly significant because of the importance of democratic ideals to national identity (Roniger, 1997; Zeballos Videla, 2004). The referendum of 1989 institutionalised the resulting culture of silence by sanctioning the granting of amnesty to the military for human rights violations during the regime (Trigo, 1991).

Another important influence on the collective psyche is economic factors. The average income and educational levels in Argentina have historically been substantially higher than those of other Latin American countries (Pellegrino, 2002). The contrast of comparative affluence with severe economic crises has heightened a sense of instability and loss (Giorgi, 2008). This is aggravated by the economy being structurally very vulnerable to external forces and corruption (Larrondo & Patrici, 2005; Thorpe, 1998).

Cultural and Musical Identity

Argentine identity is strongly associated with their European heritage and well-educated workforce (Pellegrino, 2002). Classical music occupies an important place within the musical milieu (Gobierno de la Repblica Argentina, 2007) and is representative of this European heritage and education levels. Training in classical music is also provided free through the public education system through to tertiary level (Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, 2008; Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 2007) making classical music accessible across socioeconomic groups.

Varela (2008) argues that tango is a reflection of Argentine identity and originated as a popular style in the brothels and tenement houses of Buenos Aires and Montevideos suburbs. Despite its humble origins, tango was gradually accepted by middle and upper classes and exported as representative of Argentine culture (Vila, 1991). Musically, it is essentially melancholic, sensual and passionate.

Folk music is representative of rural identity and provincial Argentina, and consequently embraces a variety of regional differences (Gobierno de la Repblica Argentina, 2007). It arose as a combination of indigenous and colonial musical elements and voiced the socio-political realities of each area (Gobierno de la Repblica Argentina, 2007). Lyrics tend to be nostalgic and descriptive of the landscape and the human condition in rural Argentina, and incorporate ideas of social injustice, attachment and rootlessness, exile and return (Sisti, 2004) Folk music gained popularity in Argentina during the Pern period (1946-1952) as people from rural areas migrated to the cities (Vila, 1991) and encompasses a variety of feelings and experiences. Both society and music became highly polarised and politicised as rural migrants and people from the working classes aligned with Pern and used folk music as a means of expression and identity, while people from the middle and upper classes tended to be anti-Peronist and supporters of tango (Vila, 1991).

During the 1950s and 60s, folk music gave voice to songs of social protest exalting popular socialism in a Pan-Latin American movement which destabilised the established political structure (Neustadt, 2004; Trigo, 1991). This movement was a conscious effort to bring about political change by reaffirming national identity in the face of an increasingly globalised musical market (Tumas-Serna, 1992).


The Survey

A survey was designed to answer the research questions. It consisted of 11 multiple-choice questions (5 to collect data on demographics; 6 questions focused on music preference and associations). Four questions collected quantitative data regarding frequency and conditions of music listening, mood when listening to music and musical preference. Questions concerning music preference required participants to rank the listed genres, including "other", from one to ten where one was the preferred choice. No further indications were given, however the survey allowed participants to repeat or skip numbers. The remaining two questions about music were open-ended and labelled "optional". They collected qualitative data regarding associations attached to different genres and songs. Space was provided after each genre listed, including "other", and additional space was provided for the participant to name a song that was particularly meaningful to them and describe why.


The Argentine embassy in Australia was approached to determine their interest to distribute a survey via email to all Argentines residing in Australia and registered with them. The embassy forwarded the invitation to their mailing list requesting participants contact the researcher directly. The survey and information sheet were sent to these people as an html email and attachment that participants could complete and send back directly, thus protecting confidentiality. As some participants reported problems in returning the survey in html format, a plain text version was sent out with the reminder email two weeks after the initial mailing.

An offer was made by two radio broadcasters, from 4EB in Brisbane (98.1FM) and Southern FM in Melbourne (88.3 FM and streamed on to increase awareness of the survey and provide the researchers contact details for people wanting to participate in the survey. A number of small businesses, such as translation services and Latin Dance studios, were also approached to help distribute the survey as well. The plain text version and information sheet was forwarded to those who responded. Ethical approval from the Ethics Committee of the University of Queensland, was obtained prior to any distribution of the survey. To ensure anonymity, all data were de-identified and coded with the confirmation number sent to respondents.


Demographic data was analysed by calculating the percentages of responses in each category. This was calculated for country of origin, gender, age range, and length of time in Australia. Percentages were also used to describe respondents reasons for emigrating, how often they listened to music, for what purposes they used music and how they generally felt when they chose to listen to music. Music preference was analysed by calculating the percentage of respondents that ranked each genre in the top three and in the top six.

Analysis of participants survey responses to what they associated with each genre was conducted by author 1 who is bilingual in Spanish-English. This was done maintaining responses in their original language to ensure that meaning was not lost in initial translation. The process was creative rather than linear and responses were grouped, ungrouped and regrouped numerous times. However, five main phases were identified: familiarization with the data, grouping of similar or related concepts, emergence of categories across genres, re-evaluation of categories across genres, and emergence of layers. These categories arose inductively through prolonged engagement with the data and were modified and re-evaluated repeatedly as recommended by Aigen (1995).

The prevalence of each category was described by calculating the percentage of respondents who included words or provided descriptions that fitted into each category from the total number of responses possible. The similarities, differences and relationships between categories were then analysed until a final layered pattern emerged that could meaningfully describe all the results. Trustworthiness was enhanced by prolonged engagement with the responses. The analysis was also reviewed by a Spanish-Australian music therapist and the second author, and compared to information obtained from literature. Finally, all responses were translated into English and translations were reviewed by a second translator (refer Table 1).

Table 1 Qualitative analysis process for responses to: "What do you associate these types of music with?" (Aigen, 1995; Strauss & Corbin, 1998)
Familiarisation of dataRepeated reading of respondents comments regarding associations to different genres and exploration of multiple meaningsExample 1: "easy listening" (Participant 8)
  • A genre
  • Specific musical characteristics viewed subjectively as accessible by the listener.
  • An activity
  • A mood or attitude
Grouping of similar and related conceptsRepeated words were grouped and words with similar meanings were clustered. As this process progressed clusters began to overlap.Example 2:
"Alegra" [happiness, joy] (Participant 4 and participant 6) appeared three times in relation to cumbia. Similar words in relation to cumbia included: "happiness" (Participant 3) (considered a synonym), "energa movimiento" [energy movement] (Participant 5) and "alegria y baile" [joy and dance] (Participant 6).
Example 3:
With regards to tango/milonga "pasin - ritmo - vida" [passion rhythm life] (Participant 5), "nostalgia" (Participant 3) and "amor apasionado" [passionate love] (Participant 12) were grouped.
Emergence of categories across genresSimilar types of concepts were observed and grouped across genres.Example 4:
Clusters in examples 2 and 3 were grouped under "Feelings"
Re-evaluation of categories across genresAll responses were pooled regardless of genre and re-grouped according to the categories that had previously emerged. Responses frequently fell into more than one category.Example 5:
"Buenos Aires, mi familia, mi infancia en el recuerdo." [Buenos Aires, my family, my childhood memories] (Participant 11) and "Tengo amigos centro americanos, asocio esta msica con ellos y los bailes que tenamos juntos." [I have friends from Central America and I associate this music with them and the dances we had together] (Participant 1) were categorised as "Memories", but also included in "People and places".
Emergence of layersCategories ranged from exclusively musical associations to abstract concepts. After experimentation with different ways of representing the relationships, a layered model was adopted.Example 6:
"Carlos Gardel" (Participant 2) was taken as referring primarily to the music itself the innermost layer while "Postmodernidad" [Postmodernism] (Participant 12) was taken as a more general, abstract concept the outermost layer.



Of the 18 people who indicated they would be willing to be contacted for the survey, 11 people returned completed surveys (61%) (Table 2). The total number of people contacted by the three organisations and the radio broadcasts was unable to be obtained. Ages of respondents were significantly different to those in the population, with people between 46 and 65 overrepresented compared to other age groups. The length of time spent in Australia by respondents was bi-modal at 36 to 45 years and more than 30 years with a median between 11 and 30 years. The most common reason for emigrating was economic, followed by opportunities for professional development.

Table 2. Demographics of participants.
Age range 18-2526-3536-4546-5556-6565+
N (%)0 (0%)1 (9%)2 (18%)4 (36%)4 (36%)0 (0%)
Duration in Australia<2 yrs2-5 yrs6-10 yrs11-20 yrs21-30 yrs>30 yrs
N (%)0 (0%)1 (9%)3 (27%)2 (18%)2 (18%)3 (27%)
Reason for migrationeconomicpoliticalprofessionalfamilysocialadventure
N (%)6 (55%)2 (18%)3 (27%)2 (18%)0 (0%)1 (9%)

Relationship to Music

In general, respondents listened to music every day (91%), while the remaining 9% listened to music once a week. The most frequent situation in which they listened to music was as background (91%); however music was also widely used for socialising (73%), recreation (64%) and reflecting (55%). "Happy" and "energetic" were the most common feelings connected to listening to music (73%). Other feelings identified included "Nostalgic" (18%) "Stressed" (18%), "Tired" (18%), "Sad" (9%), "Relaxed" (9%), "Lonely" (9%) and "Fascinated" (9%). Musical preferences were much more varied, however ballads (64% in top three preferences) and tango & milonga (45% in top three preferences), folk and cumbia (both 36% in top three preferences) and classical (27% in top three preferences and 91% in top six preferences) music were the most popular genres. When this was broken down into respondents by age group, those aged between 26 and 45 years and those over 46 years demonstrated marked differences. Ballads and classical music continued to be very popular in both, with folk and salsa reflecting similar preferences. Noteworthy changes can be seen in tango & milonga where the total weighting corresponds to older respondents and, conversely, in rock genres where the weighting is predominantly (91%) from younger respondents.

Associations with Music

All respondents addressed the optional question about associations, and 82% addressed half or more of the genres. Associations relating to personal feelings, experiences and identity were the most common (38%), followed by associations relating to activities, social interaction and the wider community (25%). Some respondents (4%) expressed an inability to isolate a particular association due to their lack of exposure to the music "I dont listen to candombe" (Argentine participant 1) or because associations were dependent on the actual song or piece of music rather than to the genre "I dont associate anything. I have 1000 associations depending on the music they profess (sic.)" (Participant 11). When associations were analysed by genres from the layered perspective that arose from the global analysis, associations tended to combine to form coherent descriptions similar to those found in the literature. Only cumbia, salsa and rock genres provoked both negative and positive emotional responses.

In terms of music, tango was associated with Carlos Gardel (artist), rhythm and poetry. Feelings related to passionate love as well as nostalgia. Buenos Aires featured strongly as well as associations with childhood, family and home, which were also reflected by ideas such as life and reality. Similarly, folk was strongly associated with identity and family in connection with provincial country life, landscapes and memories. Although it is also associated with nostalgia, tenderness and beauty provide a different context. Soledad appears as an associated singer.

Classical music is very strongly associated with peace and relaxation, though melancholy also appears. Associations are much more abstract and existential with ideas of eternity, spirituality, purity and symbolic communication. The idea of culture also arises. Although not a classical singer, Mercedes Sosa was the associated artist. Religious music evoked similarly abstract associations with the addition of transcendence. Feelings of melancholy did not appear, but peace did. Additional associations included thinking, Catholicism and Western culture. Specific music mentioned was religious compositions by Bach and Hndel.

Ballads, like tango, were associated with love, though passion was not mentioned. Feelings of sweetness, tranquillity and carefree work were accompanied by sadness, nostalgia and memories, with additional reference to the bitter aspects of love. Sergio Dennis was an associated singer.

Cumbia and salsa were strongly associated with dancing, energy, happiness and friends, however cumbia was also associated with vulgarity and distaste. Both were associated with Central America, with cumbia additionally being associated with Chileans and salsa with Australians. References to the "rural proletariat" (Participant 11) and "semi-savage" peoples (Participant 11) were made in connection with cumbia and salsa, as well as candombe. Candombe was also associated with dancing and energy (and distaste) with further references to Carnaval and childhood. However, it was not associated with Central Americans, but rather with Uruguayans, Brazilians and with Africa. In terms of singers, only the salsa group Azcar was named.

Latin rock and international rock were both associated with madness (i.e. frenetic activity, lack of control and intense emotion and so on). Latin rock was further associated with lack of identity, partial adaptation, youth, energy and post-modernism. These ideas were similar to the more global ideas of anarchism, cultural decadence and society governed by norms of political correctness attached to international rock, which also elicited references to easy listening and the 1980s. Kiss was the only international rock band specifically mentioned. Few people reported associations attached to singer-songwriters and those reported were almost exclusively musical, particularly singers. Only "memories" (Participant 5) referred to a more personal response.

Songs Reported and Personally Meaningful to Respondents

Songs specified as having particular meaning to respondents were tangos, a folk song, a ballad, songs by singer-songwriters Alberto Cortez and Diego Torres, and British Pop singer Phil Collins. Reasons given for their significance were aesthetics, relevance as expressions of life experiences, ideals or desires, and associations with important people (see Table 3). Of these, the ability to express relevant feelings, desires and experiences is by far the predominant reason given for the song choice, followed by aesthetics. This seems to relate primarily to the intrapersonal and musical levels of association described by the general associations.

Table 3. Songs reported as personally significant and reasons provided by respondents. Responses ordered by overall preference of genre.
ArtistSongReason for choiceQuotes
Classical Music
Birgit Nilsson
Tristan and Isolde R. Wagner:
Aria of the Death of Isolde
Expression of feelings
"She was an extraordinary opera singer, particularly of this role and the sentiment expressed through this aria is sublime, love and passion to the point of madness, the way to say that if you love to such extremes there is no path you don't follow to go after he or she. [sic]" (Participant 7)
Latin Pop - Ballads
Julio Iglesias
La Carretera
[The Highway] (1995)
Expression of life experiences"Something that could happen" (Participant 4)
Mercedes Sosa
Cancin con Todos
[Song with Everyone]
Expression of ideals and desires"Because I think that South America should have been just one country with its different regions, like North America. I think that then other countries would never have pushed it around. South America would have been a very rich country and good for its inhabitants." (Participant 2)
Expression of life experiences
"Any tango, milonga or waltz that talks about Buenos Aires, any music from Argentine folk because it takes me back to my childhood and adolescence: hundreds, if not thousands. Because they are geniuses or transcendental strokes of genius of their time, and also because they are Argentine." (Participant 11)
British Pop
Phil Collins
Youll Be In My Heart (1999)Expression of ideals and desires"It talks about differences between people not mattering because we can all love and respect each other" (Participant 8)
Diego Torres
Color Esperanza
[The Colour of Hope](2002)
Support during difficult life experience
Expression of desires
Association with important person
"The song that kept the hope of Argentines alive during the 2001 economic crisis" (Participant 12)
"It reminds me of my Mother" (Participant 9)
Alberto Cortez
A Mis Amigos
[To My Friends] (1975)
Aesthetics"Art" (Participant 6)


The intention of the study was to identify types of music that were relevant for use in music therapy contexts with Argentines living in Australia. Survey results showed that music was an important part of respondents lives with all but one choosing to listen to music on a daily basis. The predominance of intrapersonal responses, i.e. those referring to identity, feelings and memories, further supports the idea that respondents have a close relationship to music. However, the sample was quite small and not demographically representative of the age range of the Argentine population in Australia. Furthermore, as the survey was voluntary, it is likely that people with a close relationship to music were more inclined to return the survey. Notwithstanding this, the historical role of music described in the literature as a medium of construction and expression of social identity (Vila, 1991) as well as of protest and memory (Neustadt, 2004) would support the idea that the close relationship to music is also valid to a certain extent beyond the sample.

Respondents Relationship to Particular Genres

The literature indicated that tango was strongly linked to River Plate urban identity, i.e. people from Buenos Aires and Montevideo (Nielsen & Mariotto, 2005). This was supported by the associations with tango that respondents reported, in which "Buenos Aires" appeared in 25% of responses as the only geographical reference. There are a number of explanations for the absence of "Montevideo" as a reference. Primarily, this may have been due to the nationality of participants, however, other possibilities include the historical role of Buenos Aires as a centre to which Uruguayan tango singers and composers migrated in order to develop their artistic career (Pellegrino, 2002) and the existence of possibly stronger associations to other genres not so closely shared with Argentina, such as candombe and murga.

In Nielsen and Mariottos (2005) analysis of tangos lyrics as a metaphor of Argentine identity, nostalgia, despair and defiance are highlighted as characteristic emotional responses to economic hardship and social injustice, which is supported directly in one response (Participant 3). However, the unqualified ideas of "life" (Participant 9 and 5) and "reality" (Participant 4) appeared only with reference to tango whereas other genres such as folk, ballads and rock are associated with particular aspects of life (rural life, love life and points of view respectively). Perhaps this is an indication of "reality" being equated with nostalgia, economic hardship and social injustice, as suggested by Nielsen and Mariotto (2005). Another concept that arises with reference to tango as opposed to other genres is "passion" (Participant 5 and 12) which can be observed in the intensity of tango music itself as well as in the level of conflict and instability in Argentine socio-political history. Ownership of tango as an expression of this urban cultural identity, however, was only evident in respondents older than 46 years.

Folk was another genre that the literature reported as representative of rural and provincial national identity in Argentina, as well as a means of social protest. Although the association with rural identity is very strong (58%), references to folk as a means of social protest are absent. On the other hand, "Cancin con Todos", reported as personally significant, does include elements of social protest that are made explicit in the reason given for its selection, namely, a call for the unity of Latin America. While nostalgia is also present as an emotional response, folk was associated with tenderness and images of beautiful country landscapes as opposed to the passion of tango.

Overall, folk had a wider appeal than tango ranking in the top three preferences in older respondents. This wider appeal could be due to its ability to express a wider variety of feelings, as described by Vila (1991).

Cumbia, salsa and candombe were associated with movement and dancing although cumbia is also associated with vulgarity and distaste as well as enjoyment and friendship. Cumbia is a popular Colombian dance form which fuses African polyrhythmic percussion with European melodic forms (Biddle & Knights, 2007) which easily corresponds to the references to enjoyment and friendship. However, references to vulgarity and distaste are likely to be due to the subgenre of cumbia villera that arose primarily from urban shanty towns in Montevideo and Buenos Aires in the late 1990s and reflects the language and experiences of these sub-cultures (Cragnolini, 2006). As gleaned from the survey results, Department of Immigration data and existing literature, this sub-culture is not shared by the communities in Australia. Notwithstanding this, cumbia as a genre ranked relatively high for respondents over 45 years in connection to happiness and dancing, which supports the idea that negative associations are likely to be linked to the more recent cumbia villera. Musically, both cumbia and cumbia villera are dance genres and have similar rhythms and structure, however Columbian cumbia tends to have richer instrumentation and a more complex rhythmic and harmonic structure. Lyrics of both describe everyday life events, although Columbian cumbia lyrics are not explicit or vulgar as those of cumbia villera. Columbian cumbia, therefore, is more likely to be energising and associated with positive experiences than cumbia villera.

Salsa was less popular than cumbia among older respondents, but was a dance genre preferred by younger respondents. Associations reported were much more uniformly positive, also referencing Central America, happiness and dancing with only one reference to "semi-savage" peoples. This latter reference may derive from Argentinas self-perception as a cultured and well-educated society compared to other Latin American countries, as described by Pellegrino (2002).

Survey results show that music in Spanish reflects Argentine culture, history and ways of viewing the world and relating to others, which is congruent with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (Kay & Kempton, 1984). Paradis (2008) discussion of the different responses to different languages is also supported by the results with associations with music in Spanish being much more specific and closely related to cultural identity and experience than responses to music in English.

The question remains as to how important it is to have this information readily available rather than having to generate it from scratch each time the clinician meets a new client from a different cultural group. There is a lack of information about smaller migrant groups in Australia and accessing relevant information is made even more complex because this information is generally published in Spanish. Further, the literature in English is often presented from an Anglo-Saxon perspective.

Given this information is appropriate to Argentines at this present moment, it is unclear as to the life of this information. At what point will the survey need to be readministered so that it is appropriate to a changing population. Baker & Grocke (in press) noted that the repertoire in aged care residents used by Australians may be outdated because the repertoire used suits a population for people who are unlikely to be still alive (over a hundred years of age). This raises questions as to the life of any information generated by music therapy research.

Implications for Music Therapy Clinical Practice

Tango is particularly appropriate for use with Argentines over 45 years and is strongly linked to Argentine urban identity. Its lyrics are an important part of this and reflect how Argentines feel, relate and perceive the world. This allows therapists to gain insight and validate this cultural identity through both the music and the lyrics. Tango expresses intense feelings of nostalgia and longing, hardship and romantic failures, and social criticism and is therefore able to contain these strong feelings. The lyrics are frequently defiant towards these situations and tangos could therefore be used to assist clients who are powerless within their experience of these feelings. However, therapists should consider lyric content and the clients needs carefully before incorporating tangos.

Folk had a wider appeal than tango and also represented identity, increasing the likelihood that it would be useful for validating a clients cultural identity and establishing rapport with fewer risks of triggering unanticipated and intense emotional responses. Its association with beauty and landscapes suggests it would be appropriate for use in relaxation and imagery. As folk songs express a range of feelings, including nostalgia and rootlessness, they may be useful in working through issues related to migration, as well as stimulating reminiscence in older adults. As lyrics may vary greatly in content, they should be assessed prior to use. There are many similarities between ballads in English and in Spanish (Party, 2008), which may facilitate the therapists inclusion of culturally specific music into the therapy program as recommended by the literature. Ballads were popular across age groups and can be used according to general music therapy practice. Cumbia and salsa were also quite popular as dance music, despite some strong negative associations, and were quite independent of lyric content. This provides therapists with culturally specific music without having to understand the Spanish lyrics and may also help to develop rapport, though care should be taken with cumbia villera.

Finally, classical music was found to be appropriate with all ages and, although it does not specifically validate the clients cultural identity, this means that interventions with classical music are culturally appropriate.

Limitations and Recommendations for Further Research

As this was a preliminary study with restricted scope and duration, its main limitation was the small number of respondents. Limited data was also evident in younger respondents, in which preliminary observations showed substantial difference in music preferences. Further research involving a larger and more representative sample would be necessary to explore to what extent these characteristics are shared by the younger Argentine community, and to enable generalisation of the findings.

Another limitation intrinsic to survey research is that the sample is necessarily self-selected which could introduce confounding variables such as a stronger identification with music, their home culture or Spanish. However, this self-selection may also transfer to music therapy practice with people with different characteristics choosing alternate modes of therapy or responding to music therapy interventions that are not culturally specific.

Though also limited in number, this study provided most data on members of the Argentine community in Australia of 45 years or older. Further research into the broader multicultural community would facilitate the incorporation of more culturally specific music and enhance music therapists cross-cultural awareness and understanding.


The purpose of this study was to increase understanding of the characteristics of Argentines living in Australia with reference to their socio-cultural background, musical preferences and associations connected to this music. This was based on existing literature regarding the importance of cross-cultural empathy and of incorporating culturally specific music into clinical practice. Background information showed that Argentine history is characterised by ongoing political and economic instability. Especially relevant are the military dictatorships that ended in the early 1980s and the 2001 economic crises which have left profound psychological sequelae on society. Despite this, Argentina is seen as an educated and cultured society within Latin America and migrants to Australia represent these social strata.

In terms of music, this was reflected by the prominence of classical music in reported preferences. Both literature and survey results showed tango and folk to be particularly appropriate expressions of Argentine identity, including social crises. Other genres revealed sometimes strong associations and preferences, but did not have this strong link to National identity. Specific examples provided as personally significant songs showed that lyric content was an important part of the musical experience.

Ballads also ranked high in terms of musical preferences and associations supported their role as significant expressions of romantic relationships. Other genres that ranked high in musical preferences were cumbia and salsa which were closely associated with enjoyment, although, especially in the case of cumbia, they also elicited negative feelings. No direct reference was made to lyrical content showing the greater impact of musical elements and their social role on how they are experienced.

These observations support therapists existing view that integrating music in a persons first language is an important part of building cross-cultural rapport and working more effectively (Moreno, 1988; Valentino, 2006). Yet the presence of negative associations in response to some music as well as the associations with stressful or traumatic experiences, such as the 2001 economic crisis and the military dictatorship, emphasise the need for understanding of the general role of the music within the culture and the possible shared associations. Frequent references to the lyrics of personally significant songs further highlight the need for therapists to be aware of the lyric content of songs used in therapy.

Although the scope of the study was limited and results were not able to be generalised due to the different characteristics of the sample to the general population, it raises awareness of issues which could affect music therapy clinical practice with members of the Argentine communities in Australia. It is the intention of this thesis to provide a reference point for therapists in order to facilitate understanding of individual experiences.


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