Fellow’s Lecture: Sounds in the Silences

May 6, 2010

Sounds in the Silences:
Jamaican Popular Music as a Response to the “Silence” of History

By Garnette Cadogan, current Beinecke Visiting Fellow
TOMORROW, May 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm
Room 38, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 121 Wall Street
Free and open to the public
What might slavery sound like? And, given the silence of historical sources, does it even make sense to ask that question? With an eye on the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, and with a view to exploring the legacy of slavery in popular music, we will make gestures to answering these questions and raising others that try to make sense of the “tones, loud, long and deep,” as Frederick Douglass put it, that form “a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains.” We may explore the history of an instrument (the banjo), a bass line (of the chacona), a dance (the zarabanda), or a genre (reggae). Most certainly, we will listen to some music and hear how modern Jamaican musicians have tried to bear testimony to slavery through sound.

Garnette Cadogan is a Visiting Fellow at the Beinecke Library. He is at work on a biography of rock-reggae superstar Bob Marley and is co-editor, with Shirley Elizabeth Thompson, of The Oxford Handbook of the Harlem Renaissance. At the Beinecke, he is exploring the legacy of slavery in Jamaican popular music in preparation for the next David Brion Davis Lecture Series.

Image: Description of a Slave Ship, London: Printed by James Phillips, George-yard, Lombard-street, 1789.