CONNECTING CUBA

Dr. Brown with members of Salsa Underground, Yoel Marrero (Founder and Director, Salsa Underground), and Lazaro Monteagudo (Dancer, Yoruba Andabo)—Trinidad, Cuba

Dr. Brown with members of Salsa Underground, Yoel Marrero (Founder and Director, Salsa Underground), and Lazaro Monteagudo (Dancer, Yoruba Andabo)—Trinidad, Cuba

From the Founder: About the Project

I have always been fascinated by the connections that exist between people from disparate parts of the globe. In particular, as a musician, the musical similarities between places that are often considered quite distinct catch my attention, as they point to historical connections that have frequently gone unnoticed. One of the main goals of this project is to use music to create bridges among different Afro-diasporic/black cultures in the Americas, with an emphasis on Cuba, the Anglophone Caribbean, and Central Brooklyn. Outlined below are the three major themes that underlie this project: The Musical Legacy of the Anglophone Caribbean in Cuba; Blackness in the Diaspora; and Yoruba Religious Practices Across Borders. The first phase of this long-term project includes two months of ethnographic research in Cuba, primarily in the central cities of Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, and Havana. 

If you would like more information about the project, please contact Danielle Brown via email brown@mypeopletellstories.com or phone (504) 249-8774.

—Danielle Brown, Ph.D.

 

The West Indian Connection

In the central region of Cuba, there exists a community comprised of the descendants of migrants from the English-speaking Caribbean who traveled to the country during the early part of the 20th century. These Cubans have maintained many of the traditions brought to the island by their ancestors who came from several countries in the Anglophone Caribbean, including Barbados and Jamaica.

In the Central region of Brooklyn, New York, there also exists a community comprised of descendants of migrants from the English-speaking Caribbean, most of whom arrived during the latter half of the 20th century. What might these two groups have in common, and what forces have shaped both the commonalities and differences between them. This is a project that seeks to examine the connections between Cuba and the greater Anglophone Caribbean diaspora, focusing on West Indian enclaves in Central Brooklyn, with an emphasis on how musical legacies are passed down in different (West Indian) diasporic contexts. 

Blackness in the Diaspora

Of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, Cuba is undoubtedly the one whose African roots are most visibly evident and also acknowledged. Nonetheless, the issue of race in Cuba is a complicated one. Despite the gains made by Afro-Cubans following the revolution, racism and its myriad effects on Afro-Cubans has not been eradicated. One of the main goals of this project is to create bridges between different Afro-diasporic/black communities, which do not always have opportunities to engage in cross-cultural dialogue and learn about and from each other. How are race, racism, and blackness conceptualized in Cuba and in other parts of the African diaspora? Are Afro-Cubans conscious of their blackness? Do they identify with other Afro-descended people across the globe? And if so, in what ways? In what ways can Afro-diasporic/black communities be of mutual assistance across the globe? Can music be a part of that solution?

Storefront, East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY

Storefront, East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY

Yoruba Religious Practices Across Borders

Cuba is well-known as a country that has maintained many African traditions, particularly with respect to religion. This project seeks to examine commonalities between African based traditions in Cuba and the Caribbean diaspora, with an emphasis on musical practices in Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago. It will also explore the use of religious themes in what might otherwise be considered secular folk and popular music genres in both countries (e.g. rumba and timba in Cuba; calypso, soca, and kalinda music in Trinidad and Tobago).