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Article

Susan Leigh Foster

Senegalese dancer and choreographer was born in Benin the daughter of a Senegalese colonial civil servant and the granddaughter of a Yoruba priestess When she was ten years old her family moved to Dakar Senegal From an early age Acogny showed exceptional talent for and love of dancing After pursuing a degree in physical education she went to France in the early 1960s where she studied ballet and modern dance Upon returning to Senegal she began teaching dance classes in the courtyard of her home and in the lycée where she was hired to be in charge of physical education In these classes she began to develop a codification of what she calls African dance Establishing an inventory of positions and steps as well as a spatial stability to each position s appearance she developed a dance technique based on an aesthetic of groundedness a sense of dynamism moving up ...

Article

Aaron Myers

During the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the United States and nationalist movements in Africa, Afro-Brazilians experienced a surge in black pride. This heightened black consciousness was also prompted by denouncements of racism and praises to “Mother Africa” heard in Jamaican Reggae, increasingly popular in Brazil during the 1970s. As a result, black Brazilians, especially those in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador, reaffirmed their connection with Africa and became more vocal about problems facing their community, particularly racial discrimination. This process was accelerated by the abertura (opening)—the gradual return to democratic rule that began in 1979 and loosened restrictions on free speech. In Salvador, this newfound black pride reinvigorated the old and waning afoxés and gave birth to a new type of black Carnival organization, the bloco Afro.

Afoxés emerged in the late ...

Article

Balé Folclórico da Bahia was founded by Walson Botelho and Ninho Reis in 1987 in the city of Salvador, in the northern state of Bahia. Material for the dance compositions draws from the cultural fabric of the state, which was first colonized in 1530 by the Portuguese. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, enslaved Africans were brought over to the colony to work on sugar plantations. The distinct socio-historical events that coalesced in this region are represented in the population, over 60 percent of which can claim African, indigenous, and Portuguese ancestry. This mixture is not restricted to biology but includes cultural traits, evident in the Brazilian religion Candomblé, which consists of Roman Catholicism brought by the Europeans, traditional beliefs of the indigenous peoples, and elements from the Yoruba of southern Nigeria.

Combining these elements the troupe creates and interprets Yoruba based rites of the Candomblé religion ...

Article

Bob Ramdhanie

Black dance company, which presented its first season at the Twentieth Century Theatre in London on 30 April 1946 under their artistic director and choreographer Berto Pasuka. Pasuka, a Jamaican of mixed parentage, arrived in England in 1939. He obtained small parts in the films Rain of the Pacifica and Men of Two Worlds, the latter providing the resources to establish Les Ballets Nègres. With Pasuka's close friend Richie Riley, this company laid the foundation for Caribbean and African theatrical dance in Britain.

A culturally diverse company of approximately 25 members (dancers, musicians, and other support staff), performers came from Jamaica, Liverpool, Ghana, Nigeria, England, and Trinidad. They presented four full‐length ballets—De Prophet, They Came, Aggrey, and Market Day generally receiving positive reviews They toured extensively in the United Kingdom and Europe and though they were very popular in post war ...

Article

Biguine  

Richard Watts

The two principal types of biguine—biguine classique, ballroom dance music in the French Caribbean islands, and biguine vidé, heard mostly at Carnival there—reflect their African heritage in the emphasis on the call and response between the soloist and chorus, the prominence of rhythm over melody, and the vital importance of percussion. Biguine classique of the 1940s is more directly related to American big band and New Orleans music, from the nature of the rhythm (carried by guitar and drums) to the use of wind instruments for the melody. Jazz also influenced later biguine classique, most notably in trumpet, clarinet, and saxophone improvisation heard in many compositions.

In the mid-1950s biguine integrated components from more local musical forms. Elements of Cuban guaguancó or rumba became part of the biguine vernacular through the introduction of the tumbadora drum rhythmic figure and the addition of the piano The borrowing ...

Article

Bob Ramdhanie

Term used by African and Caribbean dancers to refer to dance forms utilizing vocabularies, rituals, and symbols from traditional African and Caribbean forms, combining music, movement, storytelling, and theatre. Adopted from North America, the term came into popular usage in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.

1.Phase 1 1946 ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Capoeira combines various elements, including dance, combat, music, and song. It is performed to live music, with two capoeiristas taking turns at the center of a roda, or circle, formed by the players, musicians, and spectators. At the head of the roda is an ensemble of percussion instruments called the bateria. The bateria usually includes three berimbaus (bow-shaped instruments), an atabaque (a long, cylindrical drum), one or two pandeiros (tambourine-like instruments), an agogô (a double-headed bell), and a reco-reco (a small instrument with a corrugated surface). The bateria's rhythm and pace dictate the style and speed of the play in the circle, and the songs sung by the musicians often comment upon, criticize, or encourage the physical play.

Article

The festivals known as Carnival are public celebrations of European origin that have been profoundly transformed by diverse New World African cultures throughout the Americas. Although Carnival is celebrated in many Latin American and Caribbean cities, this description will focus on four different Carnivals: two in Brazil, one in Rio de Janeiro and the other in Salvador, Bahia; one in the Caribbean, in Port of Spain, Trinidad; and one in the United States, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Article

Compas  

Jace Clayton

In Haiti in the 1940s, the pioneering sound of popular music was that of merengue and “voodoo-jazz.” There is a lengthy history of heated debate between Dominicans and Haitians regarding which group originated the merengue—the primary difference between the two country's merengue forms is that the Haitian version favors a slower tempo and the guitar rather than accordion. Voodoo-jazz, which was born during the period of U.S. occupation (1915–1934), flavored the Afro-Haitian rhythms of Vodou ritual music with American swing Jazz. Bandleader and saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Nemours unveiled a new dance in 1955 that would revolutionize Haitian music. Based on merengue, Nemours's adaptations slowed the dance's tempo and simplified its melodies. Nemour's guitarist termed the music compas direct (also spelled kompa-dirék), meaning “straight-ahead beat.” Bass drums and hi-hat snares, cowbells, and emphatic guitars gave compas a distinct feel from merengue.

As Nemours rose in popularity his house ...

Article

Cumbia  

Nina Friedemann

The term cumbia is of Bantu origin and likely derives from nkumbi, which in the Kikongo language indicates a type of drum used to accompany a ritual performed at the tomb of a great hunter. Other possible origins include the Mandingo place-name cumba and the Kumba near Calabar in Nigeria. Cumba was also a kingdom in what is now the Republic of the Congo. Among the Congolese, the word means “clamorous shouting, rejoicing.”

The origins of cumbia reach back to colonial times and to slave dances that took place at a bonfire and was accompanied by drums and later around a tree held to be sacred As time went on slave workers began to participate in Spanish religious festivals and their dancing around groups of drummers replaced the sacred dimensions of these rites with secular overtones In the cumbia the woman dances in short steps never lifting ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

Fulani scholar and Muslim cleric Osman dan Fodio was one of the leaders who emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when West Africa had seen a series of revolutions which consolidated Islam in West Africa. Born in 1754 to Fulani parents in Gobir, Osman dan Fodio led a movement for reform caused by political, economic, and social grievances, but voiced through a powerful religious revolution in the Hausa States. It culminated in the creation of the one of the largest Muslim polities, the Sokoto Caliphate, in eighteenth-century Africa.

As a young man, Osman received a Muslim education and studied under a number of famous and reformist teachers who affected his outlook on life and religion. When Jibril b. Umar the last of his teachers fled Agades after an unsuccessful jihad among the Tuareg the twenty year old dan Fodio returned to Hausaland to begin life as a teacher ...

Article

Because it is non-verbal, dance has often been perceived by Western observers as a relatively insignificant cultural medium, capable of communicating only abstract thought or emotion. In the African diaspora, however, bodily movement can be a form of prayer, or of protest. Sometimes it is both. In some cases, the brutal repression of verbal expressions of religious or political beliefs has necessitated this other, more discreet means of communication. Meaningful motion is an important and continuous aspect of diasporic culture, which assumes no necessary division between the mind and the body.

The worship of African deities in the Caribbean and Latin America continues to be performed through dance, and the choreographies of these religious ceremonies bear an uncanny resemblance to those of West African ceremonies. Vodou in Haiti, Santería in Cuba, and Candomblé in Brazil are all African diasporic religions in which dance is used to invoke ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

African dances are as varied and changing as the communities that create them. Although many types of African dance incorporate spirited, vigorous movement, there are others that are more reserved or stylized. African dances vary widely by region and ethnic community. In addition, there are numerous dances within a given community. African communities traditionally use dance for a variety of social purposes. Dances play a role in religious rituals; they mark rites of passage, including initiations to adulthood and weddings; they form a part of communal ceremonies, including harvest celebrations, funerals, and coronations; and they offer entertainment and recreation in the forms of masquerades, acrobatic dances, and social club dances.

Article

Christopher Dunn

Dissatisfied by the options available to Afro-Brazilians during Carnival, a group of young black petroleum workers from the working-class neighborhood of Curuzu-Liberdade organized Ilê Aiyê (Yoruba for “House of Life”) for the 1975 Carnival. The group's founder and president, Antônio Carlos dos Santos Vovô, cited three principal sources of inspiration: local Afro-Brazilian culture rooted in the Candomblé religion; the North American Black Power and soul movements and their Brazilian spinoffs; and the liberation of former Portuguese colonies in Africa such as Angola and Mozambique.

As a parallel response to some of the elite Carnival groups who informally excluded people of color, Ilê Aiyê established a blacks-only membership policy, which it still maintains. Although Ilê Aiyê was criticized in the local press for “introducing racial politics” into the Bahian Carnival, it soon received moral support from established pop stars such as Gilberto Gil who recorded a pop ...

Article

Bandleader who for a brief period early in the Second World War was one of the best known in Britain and definitely the best‐known black one. Born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), he learnt the violin but his father discouraged his early interest in dancing. He attended the leading secondary school, Queen's College, and was sent to England for further education. Johnson soon abandoned the study of law for a career as a dancer, studying with the American Clarence ‘Buddy’ Bradley, who had a dance school in London. His professional career took off and in 1934–5 he toured the West Indies and the United States. At this stage, still primarily a dancer, he was encouraged by the popularity of jazz bands to form one with Leslie Thompson, a much superior musician from Jamaica. Though popular, the band fell apart in 1937 and Johnson formed his own band ...

Article

Jay Straker

Guinean choreographer and statesman, was born in the Maninka (Malinké) town of Siguiri in northeastern French Guinea (today’s Republic of Guinea) in 1921. His father was an educated merchant. His mother was of the Diabaté jeli (or griot, praise singer) lineage. Acquainted with reputable local artists from an early age, including a griot that performed at the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, Keita quickly excelled in both music and French schooling, learning the banjo and gaining entry into colonial Guinea’s most prestigious school—the École Primaire Supérieure located in the capital city of Conakry. While earning high academic marks in Conakry (1937–1940), Keita also led a band whose songs incorporated diverse global influences. This youthful demonstration of leadership and comprehensive artistic vision foretold of Keita’s eventual career as one of Africa’s greatest, most influential choreographers.

Like many of the brightest young men who came of age in French West Africa over ...

Article

Cuban ethnomusicologist Fernando Ortiz wrote that the word bamba means “a lucky move,” and “success obtained without working,” tracing its origins to a similar word— mbamba—from the Congo, meaning “play”. Bamba has also been traced to the Gabonese word bumbua, which means “to do something with improvisation, without preparing to do it.” African elements were introduced into the dance by enslaved Africans who worked the haciendas (large estates) in Mexico. African influence was particularly high in the urban areas, such as Mexico City, Puebla, and the port city of Veracruz, where Afro-Mexicans taught music and dancing, and where the dance reportedly originated.

“La Bamba” is also the name of a popular song, performed in a traditional Mexican musical genre called huapango—a complex mix of Spanish melodic influences that integrates Amerindian and African cross-rhythms. As for its etymological origins, huapango may have derived from a ...

Article

Shivani Sivagurunathan

The first African‐American dancer to perform in Britain. Lane was born on Rhode Island and began performing at a young age, mainly at the dance halls and saloons in the Five Points neighbourhood in Manhattan. Lane first danced in Britain in 1848, where he performed in various minstrel shows in London's Vauxhall Gardens and later in Liverpool. Also known as ‘Master Juba’, he impressed his audiences with his moves, which were unusual to British crowds. His style was phenomenal owing to his flexibility, and contemporary accounts of Lane's performances describe his movements as unique. Various American and British writers commented on his style and labelled him as the greatest dancer ever known. Charles Dickens wrote about him in his American Notes (1842 describing him as a lively young negro who is the wit of the assembly and the greatest dancer known He never leaves off making queer ...

Article

Mambo  

James Sellman

According to musicologist John Storm Roberts, mambo was “a truly American-Latin hybrid.” While reflecting Cuban rhythmic innovations and a performance style shaped by the nightclubs of New York City's vibrant Latino community, it incorporated the ensemble format of swing-era Jazz bands. Mambo's origins lie in Cuba's African-derived religious traditions, and the term itself most likely derives from the peoples of the present-day Republic of the Congo or Angola. It is not known who first adapted this Afro-Cuban religious music as vernacular dance music, although scholars credit four Cuban musicians with particularly important roles in developing and popularizing mambo: tres player and bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez, bandleader Dámaso Pérez Prado, bassist Israel “Cachao” López, and his brother the cellist Orestes López.

In Cuba, mambo was played by such small ensembles as flutist Antonio Arcaño s band Arcaño y sus Maravillas Arcaño and the ...

Article

The first samba school to be created was Deixa Falar, which was established in Rio de Janeiro's Estácio de Sá neighborhood in 1926. But Mangueira is one of the oldest Samba Schools that still remains active. Samba composer Cartola and several friends established Mangueira on April 28 ...