“One Vast Dancehall”

This is the second part of Early Years of Jazz, and my favorite part so far, focusing on nineteenth century New Orleans, our Caribbean city. I would have loved to visit then, and hear the accents in Creole and French.

Axé.

2 Comments

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2 responses to ““One Vast Dancehall”

  1. I’m always intrigued when a historical account stops short of a source. For example, in this piece, it attributes the musical form involving “call and response” to the Baptist church, instead of to the African roots of the form, which can still be heard all over that continent. I’m forever saying in my sociology classes, “How far back in the causal chain do we want to go?” The answer, of course, is ALL the way back. :^)

    But what interests me most about this kind of “oversight” is that they clearly did a huge amount of research for the project and then made such an obvious error. I just don’t get how it happens.

  2. “I’m always intrigued when a historical account stops short of a source.”

    Yes – and this is related to Absorbant’s comment on the sixth part: https://profacero.wordpress.com/2007/04/22/553/#comments

    They did a lot of research for this project, but it was, as one of my colleagues would put it, term paper research, not thesis or dissertation research. It is a great film because of the footage and the interviews, but as research, it often stitches together received semi-superficialities rather than really delve in. I think a lot of people still believe that the slaves brought no knowledge with them from Africa, and do not want to find out otherwise.

    When I did my seminar paper on jazz, I read a lot of commentary that sounds like this film. Some of my impressions – and these really are impressions, I am not sure if I’m right – were that they want to emphasize the Americanness of the music, not its foreign roots. And they think that the way to garner respect for African-American musicians is to de- emphasize their Africanness. Make them American. At the same time, commentators seem to love to point out the illiteracy of jazzmen … they find that exotic and fun, as the sixth part of the film points out … but how illiterate they really were, really, I’d like to know.

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