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Paul Hanson

Roger Abrahams is an interdisciplinary social scientist working in folklore, literature and anthropology, but equally engaged with sociology, sociolinguistics, and history. His research interests range from the cultural forms and practices of the African diaspora, American colonial history, and Appalachian folksong to North American display events and the role of African American Vernacular English in American education. Abrahams is best known, however, as a scholar of the African diaspora. Foundational to Abrahams’s success in such an expansive and comparative endeavor is his sustained reflexive intellectual development, his skill in vitalizing and building institutions and institutional bridges, and his dialectical thinking.

Abrahams was born on 12 June 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1955 he graduated with a BA in English from Swarthmore College. Abrahams went on to earn an MA in Literature and Folklore from Columbia University in 1959; and in 1961 he received his PhD in Literature and Folklore ...

Article

Jennifer Carolina Gómez Menjívar

was born on 7 February 1954 in Lima, Peru. She was raised by her maternal grandmother, who taught her to sing when she was 3 and nurtured her dreams of becoming an artist from an early age, encouraging her to perform at school events as well as on children’s programs on radio and television. Born María Angélica Ayllón Urbina, the artist adopted her grandmother’s name as her stage name upon launching her solo career. Cherished by fans on two continents, Ayllón has released over thirty albums and has become a successful artist with a solid foundation in Peruvian “Creole” and Afro-Peruvian musical styles.

Ayllón began performing in the early 1970s in commercial venues in Lima that had a reputation for showcasing Creole music. She began her career alongside notable artists, and in 1973 she became the lead singer of Los Kipus a musical trio They toured Peru performed for ...

Article

Rebecca Dirksen

also commonly remembered as Lina Mathon-Fussman or, equally, as Lina Fussman-Mathon, was born in Port-au-Prince on 3 January 1903, one of five children of Charles Mathon, a medical doctor, and Cléante N. Marie Anne Carré Mathon. By all accounts captivated by the piano as a toddler, she was formally introduced to the instrument at the age of 4 by Haitian composer Justin Elie. She subsequently studied the classical music repertoire with the best teachers of the era, including completing advanced studies at the Ecole Notre-Dame de Sion in Paris between 1917 and 1921. Blanchet would eventually cofound the Lycée Musical de Port-au-Prince (a music school) and was later named the first director of the Conservatoire National by Haitian president Paul Eugène Magloire.

A tireless promoter of Haitian folkloric music throughout her life, Blanchet is cited as the first artist to mount stylized Vodou-influenced spektak performances on a ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was the first of three children born to Thomas Reginald “Reggie” Carr and Cecilia Behamie Carr, a devout Roman Catholic family at Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 7 March 1902. His father was a British estate owner, and his mother was a direct descendant of King David, a Mandingo who came to Trinidad during the nineteenth century. His siblings were Emelda Candella, born in October 1903, and Dorothy Victoria, born 23 December 1905.

Belmont was one of the places where survivors of the British slave trade gathered with Africans who the British had seized on slave ships in international waters and relocated to Trinidad, in an effort to enforce international compliance with the 1808 abolition of the British slave trade. During the period immediately prior to 1834 they lived nearly in near isolation, more or less living out their lives as Africans from the old country.

Carr attended ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born in Puerta de Tierra, a poor urban area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 8 July 1908. He was the son of Leonor Atiles, a laundry woman, and Modesto Cepeda Robles, a field laborer. Rafael Cepeda is known as “El patriarca de la bomba y la plena” (the patriarch of bomba and plena), two of Puerto Rico’s most traditional forms of African-derived music and dance. This title was bestowed on him for his lifelong contributions to the preservation of these musical forms, as well as for successively passing on these traditions to his sons and daughters, whom he incorporated as an integral part of his folk- and community-based groups.

Among Cepeda’s ensembles, Ballet Folklórico de la Familia Cepeda (1975) stands out as the most important, due the influence this group had in shaping traditional bomba performance The Cepeda family is generally considered as ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born on 27 March 1960, in the coastal town of Loíza, Puerto Rico. Over the course of his professional career, Cepeda has developed innovative musical concepts such as “Afrorican Jazz” and “bomba sinfónica,” which have maintained him at the forefront of both the Latin jazz and classical music scenes in Puerto Rico and abroad. His eclectic style of performance and composition reflects a fusion of the musical realms of jazz, classical, world, and traditional Afro–Puerto Rican music styles, primarily bomba and plena. As a performer he has collaborated and toured with a wide array of artists, among them Lester Bowie, David Murray, Celia Cruz, Batacumbele, Zaperoko, and Tito Puente. William Cepeda has also dedicated himself to the preservation of Puerto Rico’s traditional folk culture through his independent record label, Casabe Records, and various educational projects.

Cepeda grew up in Loíza a town known for its ...

Article

Felicia A. Chenier

black theater organizer, writer, director, folklorist, chorographer, and educator, was born in Houston, Texas, the only daughter of Gerthyl Rae and Harvey G. Dickerson, an army officer. As a military child Dickerson traveled extensively with her parents and brother, Harvey. After graduating high school in Syracuse, New York, Dickerson studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C. While there she studied theater and was mentored by noted educator and writer Owen Dodson, who was then the Drama Department chair. Noteworthy of her experiences at Howard is her discovery of writings by Zora Neale Hurston. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) from Howard in 1966, Dickerson received a master of fine arts (MFA) from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, in 1968 During the same year she returned to Howard as an assistant professor of drama and staged her directorial ...

Article

Kim D. Hester Williams Graham

Lorenz Bell Graham was born on 27 January 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elizabeth Etta Bell Graham and David Andrew Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister whose duties led the family to various parts of the country. After attending and completing high school in Seattle, Graham pursued undergraduate study at the University of Washington in 1921; the University of California, Los Angeles from 1923 to 1924; and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, from 1934 to 1936, where he received his bachelor's degree.

One of the consequential events of Graham's life came when he interrupted his college studies at UCLA in 1924 in order to travel to Liberia West Africa The decision was initiated by a bishop of the AME Church who had established a school in Liberia and whom Graham had heard make a plea for the help of trained young people He soon ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born Gregorio Hernández Ríos on 17 November 1936 in the westernmost Cuban province of Pinar del Río. His family moved to Havana when he was a small boy, to a shantytown on the outskirts of the capital called Las Yaguas. Hernández’s father, Isidro, made his living as a bottle collector, buying empty bottles from residents to resell at bottle collection companies. Like many ambulant vendors at the time, Isidro used the folkloric tradition of the pregón, or street vendor’s call, which entailed going door to door using catchy song phrases to hawk one’s wares (one of Cuba’s most famous songs, “El Manicero” (The Peanut Vendor), is based on a pregón). Thus, Hernández was introduced early in his life to a popular sung folkloric tradition, and it was not long before the seven-year-old was creating and singing his own pregones He also began attending rumba parties at ...

Article

was born in the Vere district of the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, on 28 September 1927 to the teachers Richard James Mahoney Lewin and Asanath Sylvia Lewin. The elder of two daughters, she grew up in the rural village of Hayes in South Clarendon, and was surrounded by music from an early age. Her father was headmaster, choirmaster, and music and history teacher at the village school she attended. Her mother was a staff member at the school, and also played the piano. Lewin was raised hearing a variety of musical styles, including Jamaican folk music and European classical music “from Handel and Mozart, Haydn and Elgar” (Lewin, 2000, p. 4).

Lewin learned to play both the piano and violin at an early age and she won one of the Vere Scholarships to attend Hampton High for Girls an elite grammar school in neighboring St Elizabeth From there ...

Article

Angelina Tallaj

was born on 2 August 1930, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His parents were Félix Enrique Lizardo Echavarría and Cruz María Barinas Uribe. His early interest in folklore led him to interrupt his medical training to attend folklore workshops in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. He then studied ethnography in Sweden from 1964 to 1967 and art history at the University of Copenhagen from 1969 to 1973. He headed the Escuela de Bailes Folklóricos of the Dirección General de Bellas Artes and founded the Ballet Folklórico Dominicano in 1975 and the Ballet Folklórico Nacional in 1981. He also served as secretary of the Dominican Folklore Society and director of the Revista Dominicana de Folklore.

Lizardo was a prolific researcher of Dominican folklore and he published eight books and hundreds of newspaper and journal articles on the subject His legacy as a creator of Dominican folk dance choreography ...

Article

Daniel Nuñez

was born on 10 October 1955 in the town of Cata, on the coast of the state of Aragua, in Venezuela. Born José Francisco Pacheco Croquer, he was one of nine siblings in the home of his father, Pastor Pacheco, a farmer, and his mother, Paula Elvira Croquer, a folklorist and community leader. Early in his childhood, Pacheco learned many of the local Afro-Venezuelan musical and religious traditions from his mother and other cultural leaders in Cata. Growing up, Pacheco participated in the Diablos de Corpus Christi ceremonies, and attended other local religious celebrations, such as the Fiestas de San Juan, the multiple days of celebration in honor of Saint John, the patron saint of Afro-Venezuelans in the Central Coast region. It was during festivals like the Fiestas de San Juan and the Christmas parrandas that Pacheco learned the broad repertoire of local traditional Afro Venezuelan songs and percussion ...

Article

Jonathan Ritter

was born on 4 March 1927 in Carondelet, a small village in northwestern Ecuador near the Colombia border. She has spent the majority of her life in the city of Esmeraldas, where she established a reputation in the mid-twentieth century as one of the leading performers, teachers, and choreographers of traditional Afro-Ecuadorian music and dance.

Raised in a musical home emblematic of the musical and cultural mixtures typical of Esmeraldas Province, Palma learned the songs, melodies, and dance steps of the traditional marimba ensemble from her father, a musician and instrument maker who himself had absorbed the repertoires of his Afro-Colombian father and indigenous Cayapa mother. In addition to these indigenous and black traditions, Palma’s musical influences as a child included the popular string band music associated with highland mestizo culture, as performed by her mother’s family.

Palma came to the city of Esmeraldas from Carondelet while still in her ...

Article

Orquídea Ribeiro

Angolan writer, poet, essayist, journalist, and folklorist, was born in Luanda, Angola, on 17 August 1909. He was the son of a Portuguese father, Arnaldo Gonçalves Ribas, and an Angolan mother, Maria da Conceição Bento Faria, a prototype of African ladies of the time, who kept the original sources of her culture alive. He attended primary and secondary school in Luanda, the Lyceum-Seminar of Luanda, and the Luanda Salvador Correia High School. After a short stay in Portugal to study commercial arithmetic, Ribas returned to Angola to work in the Directorate of Finance and Accounting. He resided in various cities of Angola, namely Novo Redondo (Sumbe), and Benguela, Bie, and Ndalatando.

Ribas gradually went blind during his early twenties but remained an indefatigable researcher and writer publishing books and articles on the culture of Angola from oral tradition to religious rites and culinary arts At the age of thirty ...

Article

María Auxiliadora González Malabet

was born on 24 September 1927 in Noanamá, on the San Juan River, in the department of Chocó, Colombia, and died on 1 May 2008. In 1930, when Ninfa Aurora was 3 years old, her family moved to the seaport city of Buenaventura in the Valle del Cauca department. She lived in this Pacific coastal region for the next seventy-seven years of her life.

Many authors define her as self taught because when she was a child she learned to read and write using charcoal on cardboard to copy the names of shops and barns At the same time she helped her family by selling arepas a Colombian staple food in the village of Pueblo Nuevo In her academic life Ninfa Aurora studied education and culture and she later graduated with the title Teacher of Culture from the Universidad Campesina locally known as the University of Resistance in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Chadian writer and politician, was born in 1927 in Abéché, the capital of the eastern Chadian sultanate of Wadai. Little is known about his early life, but he grew up listening to stories about powerful sultans of Wadai from times past, such as the early nineteenth-century ruler Sabun. By the late 1930s he was living in the southern Chadian town of Sarh (Fort-Archambault). There, he attended classes at the local Catholic mission with a French priest, Father de Belinay, in 1938 and 1939. Under de Belinay’s tutelage, Seid decided to switch from the Islamic faith of his family to Roman Catholicism. Seid’s parents brought the priest salted bread and oil on the day of Seid’s baptism.

Seid then attended secondary school and became involved in politics. He helped to establish the small Mutuelle Amicale Tchadienne political party in 1945 with Mahamat Yakouma Mustapha Batran Abdoulaye Toure Souleymane Naye ...

Article

Nicola Cooney

Solano Trindade was born in 1908 in Recife, a town in northeastern Brazil, the son of a mulatto cobbler and a mestizo (of indigenous and European descent) woman. His interest in folklore and popular arts was instilled at an early age, as he would routinely accompany his father to local folk dances and read aloud to his illiterate mother.

After some advanced schooling, Trindade became a Presbyterian deacon and began to write poetry. His early works were mystical writings, and his black poetry would evolve soon thereafter. In 1936 Trindade published his first book, Poemas Negros, and founded the Frente Negra Pernambucana (Black Front of Pernambuco) and the Centro Cultural Afro-Brasileiro (Afro-Brazilian Cultural Center). These groups united a group of contemporary black writers with a view to collecting and disseminating the work of fellow Afro-Brazilian poets and painters. In 1959 Trindade founded the Teatro Popular Brasileiro Brazilian ...