Last night was another one of those wonderful experiences, of musical forensics illuminating the past. It was Halloween * yet the attendence was standing room only -- rsvp, and those who hadn't, had to be turned away by the end, alas. It was one of those special kinds of events that are a gathering of the tribes, which feel more like family than instruction. A perfect balance of history and hot percussion and dancing.
Ned Sublette and Alexander LaSalle
“White and black people in the United States speak the same language—up to a point, anyway. But Spanish speakers in the United States have always been the ‘other.’”About one third of the audience were CUNY grad students from anthro and history classes that are using The World That Made New Orleans as one of their texts. Others were regular attendees of this series, friends in the Puerto Rican and Haitian and other Caribbean communities in which we participate. Some of these are really old friends such as M and M and their daughter, K.
“At the time when Cuba was experiencing intensive economic growth, Spain invested in Louisiana, holding the colony through the years of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and all but the very end of the Haitian Revolution.”
Ned Sublette, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo
Los Pleneros de la 21
The best bit was right after el Ned put up a bit of illo of Quadrilles and contra danses, and the Caller of the dance moves and patterns, played some of the rhythms, then spoke of how you can still hear this in dance hall in Jamaica with the Commadeur. and contemporary reggaeton. Then Alex and Manuella played the rhythms on their drums, and while they were doing that el Ned rapped out a couple of verses of a very popular reggaeton number. The audience knows this number, of course, cracked up, and applauded. And the point of The continuity of this Carribbean cultural-musical meme -- Postmamboism -- was well and driven home. Very cool.
Then we were taken out to dinner, down there, in the Financial District -- now that was cultural dissonance! The Halloween decorations of the faux Mexican bar - restaurant were very good -- much better than the food (but I'm the kind who thinks even mediocre fake Mexican is better than no Mexican), but the beers were cold and good, it was open that late (nearly 10 when we got there) and could handle a dozen people, no problem. With their big, heavy tables it made it easier for everyone to exchange contact info, since not everyone had met personally before, but everyone shares the same interests. There were some grad students, which provided me an odd sensation as they whipped out their notebooks and write down things I said about history, about fiction, about writing.
And then, when el V and MS and I got back to our own neighborhood the mess that it is every year on Halloween due to the annual Village parade stepping off from our street had mostly removed itself. True, left behind were some lurching, howling mobs, and an odd singleton behaving oddly, appropriately wearing a clown outfit. So we retreated back into our small apartment to drink a nightcap and talk editors and publishing. A great night had by all.
* On the subway riding downtown to the event I spotted a young woman wearing a Sons of Anarchy patch leather jacket!