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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

Robert Fay

Aladura is a Yoruba word for “People of Prayer.” The name describes an informal religious movement that began during the first half of the twentieth century in West Africa, particularly Nigeria The movement has grown steadily since Aladura began mostly among members of mainline churches such as the Anglican Methodist or Baptist churches These members usually followed a charismatic man or woman or both who felt called to lead their members as prophets Some of the earliest such movements or churches were the Church of the Lord Aladura Christ Apostolic Church the Garrick Braide movement and the Cherubim and Seraphim The most popular and fastest growing of the Aladura churches in the 1990s included the Celestial Church of Christ and the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star which though established in Nigeria grew to include churches in Europe and the United States The members formed prayer groups thus the ...

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

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

Wendy A. Grossman and Sala E. Patterson

was born Casimir Joseph Adrienne Fidelin on 4 March 1915 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic capital. Fidelin posed for several photographers in Paris in the 1930s, including Roger Parry, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and Man Ray. Although there is remarkably little written documentation about her, Fidelin is widely recognized as the model featured in an extensive assembly of images by Man Ray and acclaimed as the first black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine.

Fidelin emigrated with her family to France following the catastrophic September 1928 hurricane that swept the Caribbean archipelago and the South Florida peninsula killing twelve hundred people on her native island She came of age in Paris in an era in which the influx of émigrés from the French colonies in the Caribbean fueled the creation of a vibrant diasporic Antillean music and dance community that coincided with and ...

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

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 ...

Article

Vicente Ferreira Pastinha is said to have learned Capoeira as a young boy from an African-born Brazilian named Benedito. He opened his capoeira academy in 1941 in Salvador, Bahia, and worked to preserve the traditional form of capoeira, which he termed capoeira Angola Pastinha was a ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Musical and humorous entertainment style popular from about 1850 to 1970. The entertainers blacked up, a grotesque parody of black Americans in the Southern slave states. When African‐descent entertainers participated, they too wore burnt‐cork make‐up. Minstrel shows were musical, vibrant, amusing, and capable of swiftly adapting to new circumstances.

Most societies have entertainers who use masks and gaudy clothes, speak with false accents, dance in exaggerated ways, and play musical instruments with visible enthusiasm. The minstrel show did all these. A minstrel show was a self‐contained entertainment.

Minstrelsy originated in the United States, where it once showed both the evils of slavery and the allegedly happy plantation slave. The best‐selling anti‐slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin added dramatic elements; then Negro spirituals, brought to England by the Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1871 added songs including Go Down Moses and Steal Away to Jesus Costumes ranged from ragged hand me ...

Article

James Sellman

For more than four decades, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas has sought to preserve and strengthen traditional Afro-Cuban song and dance. Founded in 1952 as Guanguanco Matancero, the group adopted its current name—which in English means “The Little Dolls of Matanzas”—a year later, after recording a hit song by that name. The group's music is highly percussive, with layers of complex rhythms played on congas, maracas, wooden box drums, and cylindrical wooden claves. Over the percussion, vocalists perform call-and-response choruses that alternate with the lead singer's improvisations. Beyond drawing attention to Cuba's rich legacy of folk music and dance, the troupe was also an important influence on the rise of Salsa Music in the 1960s. With the growing popularity of world music during the 1980s and 1990s, the troupe has gained a much larger, international following.

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas is a family based musical troupe and many of its members ...

Article

Paul Schauert

Ghanaian choreographer, dancer, artist, and educator, was born on 13 November 1915 into a royal family of the Akan in central Ghana. His father, Nana Mawere Opoku, was the Okyeame (linguist) of the Asantehene (head chief of the Asante). His mother, Yaa Bemponmaalias Abena Kobina, was a renowned storyteller and the sister of the Asantehene’s chief linguist, Akyeamehene Kwasi Numah. Albert Mawere Opoku was thus in line to become an Okyeame himself and was the heir of the Gyasehene royal house. In addition to the special training in traditional lore and etiquette he acquired from his association with the royal house of the Asante, Opoku received his primary and secondary education at the Kumasi Government School (1921–1930).

After graduation, in 1931, he entered Achimota College (located near Accra, Ghana), where he studied for three years. Following a brief hiatus, he enrolled in 1939 in the Art ...

Article

Jorge Arce

Bomba music is a generic term that refers to a variety of rhythms and kinds of dances, such as calinda, sica, grasima, lero, cuembe, holande, yuba, bambulae, and seis bombeao. By some accounts bomba music and dance arrived in Puerto Rico in the sixteenth century, brought by the Asantes, who had come from the African region of Ghana. While its precise origins are unclear, the bomba and its many variants continued to evolve, particularly among slaves on the Sugar plantations. These slaves would hold bomba dances on Sundays and holidays in places outside the plantations themselves. Many slave rebellions were planned during these gatherings.

The instruments used to accompany bomba music are two drums, cua two sticks and maracas a Native American instrument originally used by the Taíno Indians The drums essentially are barrels with heads of goatskin ...

Article

Rumba  

Aaron Myers

During the eighteenth century, large numbers of slaves of Yoruba, Calabar, and Kongo descent were brought to Cuba to work in the Sugar-producing region of Matanzas. Following the abolition of slavery in 1886, these and other liberated blacks headed to Cuba's urban centers in search of employment and settled on the outskirts of the cities. The rumba was born out of festive social gatherings in the suburban environment of Matanzas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Rumba synthesizes African-derived rhythms, songs, and dances, in particular those of Bantu origin. Rumba soon spread to Havana and other parts of Cuba and, after World War II, was exported to Europe and the United States, where it was modified into a type of ballroom dance. This article focuses on the original form of rumba, as performed in contemporary Afro-Cuban communities.

A number of percussive instruments accompany the ...

Article

Samba  

Aaron Myers

To Brazilians, samba is many different things: abandon and solace, celebration and exuberance, national identity and pride. Though samba is most closely associated with the pre-Lent festivities known as Carnival, there are several forms of samba that are played year-round in various contexts. Percussive instruments dominate samba and give it a highly syncopated, layered sound. Technically, a 2/4 meter with the heaviest accent on the second beat and a stanza-and-refrain structure characterize samba.

Samba is rooted in the music and dance traditions of Angola, the African kingdom (now country) that was home for many of the slaves brought to Brazil. The word samba is believed to have derived from the Kimbundu word semba, a circle dance that features a navel-touching dance step. Many historians trace the musical roots of samba to the lundu music tradition brought to Brazil by slaves from Angola This African dance and ...

Article

Aaron Myers

In 1928 several musicians from the Estácio neighborhood in Rio De Janeiro formed the first Samba school, Deixa Falar (Let Them Speak). One of the reasons they created this organization was to parade during Carnival, a celebration from which they had historically been denied participation. Other black musicians followed their lead and came together to found their own samba schools, including Mangueira in 1929 and Portela in 1935. Although Afro-Brazilians had informally paraded through their own neighborhoods during Carnival festivities since the early nineteenth century, the samba schools lent a degree of formality to the Afro-Brazilians' street revelry and allowed them to assert their presence during Carnival. When Getúlio Vargas came into political power in 1930, he put an end to the repression of Afro-Brazilians and their samba schools and gave official recognition to their parades.

The Vargas administration changed Carnival by requiring participating samba schools to have ...