Join us for "Retention and Reinvention: The Changing Same of African Rhythms in New Orleans Music" presented by Matt Sakakeeny (Tulane University) on Monday, March 27, 2023 at 2:00pm in the KJCC Auditorium , as part of the Spring 2023 CLACS Colloquium "Música de Vaivén: The Habanera Diaspora." This event is open to the public with RSVP.
On the evening of March 27, 2023 at 6:30pm, join us for Havánanola featuring a performance and talk by pianist-composer David Virelles and dialogue with Matt Sakakeeny.
Please RSVP via Eventbrite: nyuvaiven.eventbrite.com
Amiri Baraka’s formulation of the “changing same” identified a core set of “African impulses”: musical concepts and techniques that were “un-self-conscious,” “the deepest expression of memory.” In another canonical text from the late-1960s, musicologist H. Wiley Hitchcock used similar language to categorize “two major traditions in American music”: a cultivated tradition “to be approached with some effort, and to be appreciated for its edification,” and a vernacular tradition “more plebeian, native, not approached self-consciously but simply grown into.” The idea that vernacular traditions proceed un-self-consciously and remain the “same” is particularly pronounced in New Orleans, understood as “the most African city in the United States” and forever equated with pastness and rootedness. Musicologists and historians of New Orleans Music have zeroed in on the continuous presence of African rhythms, planted like a seed in West and Central Africa, taking root in the New World through the ring shout dances at Congo Square, and branching out into the contemporary styles of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. This presentation shifts focus from African retentions to Black reinvention in the vernacular realm, tracing the ever-changing mutation of these rhythms by innovative musicians like Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Longhair, Tuba Fats, and Mannie Fresh. The sonic archive indicates that African rhythms did not evolve passively and organically but were actively and dynamically shaped through creative labor. By tracing the twists and turns, ruptures and absences of African rhythms, I present New Orleans not only as a wellspring of Black vernacular culture but as fertile ground for experimentation.
I am an anthropologist of music living in New Orleans and teaching at Tulane University. My work relates music and sound to structures of inequality, especially anti-Black racism in New Orleans. In my book, Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans, I follow brass band musicians as they march off the streets and into nightclubs, festival grounds, and recording studios. Most recently, I received a grant from the Spencer Foundation for my next book on marching band education in the New Orleans school system.
My research brings an ethnomusicological perspective to sound studies. Along with David Novak I edited the reference work Keywords in Sound, a collection of twenty entries on sound written by leading scholars in the field of sound studies.
Beyond music and sound, I study New Orleans history and culture. I edited the recent volume Remaking New Orleans: Beyond Exceptionalism and Authenticity with Thomas Adams. I also write essays and occasionally produce public radio pieces on New Orleans culture. At Tulane, I teach courses on a variety of topics ranging from classical music to New Orleans music.
About the Colloquium
Organized by faculty members Sybil Cooksey and Yunior Terry, the colloquium "Música de Vaivén: The Habanera Diaspora" pairs a graduate seminar with a public event series. Learn more.
The Spring 2023 colloquium is organized by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and the Department of Music.
Additional sessions are made possible with support from the Gallatin Amplified Voices Series, Center for the Study of Africa and the African Diaspora, La Maison Française, and Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York.