Music of Black Americans [CRN 77194]

Discipline: Music
Instructor: Borgo
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1340
End: 1500
Field Work: Day 1 - Sunday, 13 November | Trinidad and Tobago
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course explores the persistence and flowering of African-derived music cultures in the New World, with emphasis on Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Peruvian, and African-American traditions. Highlights musical practices from the blues to zydeco, from slave songs and spirituals to samba and salsa, and artists from Susana Baca to the Buena Vista Social Club. Students will gain greater knowledge of the history of the African Diaspora through an in-depth look at musical and cultural practices. A variety of Black American musical forms will be introduced and the influence of social, political, and economic factors on musical activities will be examined.

Field Work

Country: Trinidad and Tobago
Day: 1 - Sunday, 13 November

After hand drums and other percussion instruments were outlawed during British Colonial rule, Trini musicians formed makeshift ensembles using whatever materials they could find, eventually including empty oil barrels from the US Navy bases on the island. Skilled and creative artists experimented with these barrels to produce tuned “pans” that are now the national instrument of Trinidad, a symbol of Caribbean music and culture more generally, and increasingly heard throughout the world. This field class involves spending a day at the pan yard of The Melodians, a historic steel band from the famous Arima borough of Trinidad that has a sister ensemble in South London. A pan yard is the heart of a steel band: it is where the steel pans are transformed into a range of pitched instruments; it is the rehearsal space for the bands; and it is the social center for the communities that form around them. The day’s activities will involve: meeting a local Arima pan tuner and learning how steel pans are constructed and tuned; hearing presentations from local Arima officials; meeting the leaders of The Melodians and talking with various ensemble and community members about the local and global impact of steel pan music; participating in a workshop in which students will learn to perform a musical piece on the steel pan; and, lastly, a culminating performance by The Melodians during which students are invited to dance.Combined, the day’s activities provide an opportunity for students to participate in and reflect on the variety of ways in which musical and cultural understandings are shaped, shared and disseminated both locally and globally. Learning objectives:

  1. To familiarize ourselves with the music, culture and history of the steel pan, Trinidad’s national instrument
  2. To engage specific musical and social concerns with steel pan tuners, arrangers and players and explore how music can be a force for establishing and sustaining cultural and community identity
  3. To connect these specific practices and concerns to broader issues in the African musical diaspora, the field of ethnomusicology, and the globalization of musical practice