The music of the Black Atlantic is our global soundtrack. Over many centuries, enslaved people in the Americas gathered together when they could — on the edges of plantations, in town squares on market days, in the streets during religious festivals. The songs and sounds they created accompanied the dead as their spirits traveled home to Africa. At times this music accompanied revolt. Songs spoke of freedom and a different future. In slavery and in the struggles for equality that followed, music provided solace and created solidarity. From these roots flourished some of today’s most popular music, from salsa to hip-hop, blues to reggae.
Over six nights in Durham, we’ll hear some of the legacies of this history. We’ll hear the sounds of a new generation of griot musicians from Mali, carriers of a tradition that seeded forms of song and story throughout the Americas. We’ll hear music from both sides of the island Columbus called Hispaniola, now encompassing Haiti and the Dominican Republic, music that reminds us of the deep connections between the two. We’ll understand how African musical traditions have been kept alive, but also transformed, from generation to generation, as we journey to El Clavo, in Venezuela, and to the coasts of Belize. There the Garifuna – descendants of the Black Caribs of St. Vincent – keep alive their intertwined indigenous and African heritage through ritual and music. And we’ll experience the new connections being made between Caribbean and Spanish musical traditions.
These six concerts offer a multiplicity of beats, sounds, calls, and rhythms. But they also remind us of common routes, of the ways Black Atlantic music has helped turn exile and exclusion into grounding and connection.
— Laurent Dubois
Professor of Romance Studies and History,