Today, David F. Garcia offers a playlist to accompany his new book Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity, and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins. You can save 30% on the paperback with coupon code E17LISTN.
Taking on a topic like the discourse of a music’s origins entails following multiple artistic, disciplinary, and political directions. Of course, setting boundaries helps make such an endeavor feasible but no less massive. In Listening for Africa I look at a group of fascinating individuals, some well known and others not so well known, who from varying perspectives engaged the idea and nature of black music and dance’s African origins. Their reasons for engaging this idea were not merely didactical but rather to change their world. From the Great Depression, Jim Crow, and the rise of Nazism to World War II, the Cold War, and African decolonization, citizens of the modern world invested their place in it drawing from modernity’s promises of freedom through knowledge, art, and work. Only, the realization of freedom for many would be deferred by modernity’s discursive defaults.
The following audio recordings and films are explored in depth in the book. Listen and watch as you read about the individuals depicted in them and their journeys living in their shared modern world, turbulent though it was.
Chapter 1. Analyzing the African Origins of Negro Music and Dance in a Time of Racism, Fascism, and War
“Ag’ya,” Jamaica & Martinique Fieldwork, 1936, video clip #19, filmed by Katherine Dunham. Music Division, Library of Congress.
L’ag’ya, scene 3, the Katherine Dunham Company, Studebaker Theater, Chicago, 1947, filmed by Ann Barzel.
Chapter 2. Listening to Africa in the City, in the Laboratory, and on Record
“Tambó,” Gilberto Valdés y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (V83315), Havana, 1940.
“Sangre Africana,” Gilberto Valdés y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (V 83315), Havana, 1940
“Toitica la Negra,” Katherine Dunham and Ensemble, recorded with Decca (40028), New York, 1945.
“Abakuá song,” Harold Courland: Cuba, Eastern and central regions, Afro-Cubans (253.4), Guanabacoa, 1940.
“Elube Chango,” Harold Courland: Cuba, Eastern and central regions, Afro-Cubans (252.4), Havana, 1940.
“Elube Chango,” Casino de la Playa with Miguelito Valdés, recorded with Victor (V 82770), Havana, 1939.
Chapter 3. Embodying Africa against Racial Oppression, Ignorance, and Colonialism
Sanders of the River (London Film Productions, 1935) featuring Paul Robeson as Bozambo. Boat-rowing scene occurs at 1:07:00.
Nabonga (PRC Pictures, 1944). Modupe Paris appears at 14:23 and 15:45.
Chapter 4. Disalienating Movement and Sound from the Pathologies of Freedom and Time
Liberian Suite, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, New York, 1947.
Film No. 4, Harry Smith, ca. 1950.
“Manteca,” Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra, recorded with RCA Victor (47-2860), New York, 1947.
“Guarachi guaro,” Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra, recorded with RCA Victor (20-3370), New York, 1948.
Chapter 5. Desiring Africa, or Western Civilization’s Discontents
“Rareza del siglo,” Julio Cueva y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (23-0677), Havana, 1946.
“José” as performed by Pérez Prado in the film Al son del mambo (Filmadora Chapultepec, 1950).
“Kon-Toma,” Pérez Prado y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (23-1344), Havana, 1949.
“Qué te pasa, José” as performed by Amalia Aguilar and Silvestre Méndez in Ritmos del Caribe (Compañía Cinematográfica Mexicana, 1950).
Del can can al mambo (Producciones Calderón S.A., 1951). Mambo dancing displaying symptoms of el mal de San Vito occurs at 1:21:53.