LAC Digest 5 Review

RYAN J. BAZINET. “When Field Recordings Meet Field Research: Examining Change in the Shango Drumming of Postwar Trinidad.” Ethnomusicology 61.2 (2017): 287-311.


Trinidad and Tobago is mostly known for its creation of the musical instrument the steelpan. What is less known is other forms of drumming which came with African immigrants arriving in Trinidad in second half of the nineteenth century. Ryan J. Bazinet argues that contrary to current narratives, African music was not extinguished in Trinidad. As Bazinet explains, while the island did not have contact with Nigeria, Yoruba culture survived in “the organology of the Orisha drums” and that “Trinidad’s Orisha drumming today is a vibrant neo-Yoruba tradition”. This article adds to the literature on music and culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, shedding light on a small island with a rich cultural heritage which was able to maintain its links with its past but also adapt to modern tastes. It also compliments other scholarship on African music and cultural practices in places like Cuba and Brazil.

Ethnomusicology 61.2 (2017): 287-311Abstract: This article explores the historical changes in Trinidadian Shango drumming between 1939 and 1960. Building on dissertation field research conducted from 2008 to 2013, the study is focused on archived field recordings from Trinidad. The recordings reveal two styles of Shango drumming: one that by 1960 had coalesced into the modern style still performed today, and another that in 1939 revealed an older, more polyrhythmic style perhaps representative of nineteenth-century Yoruba drumming in Trinidad. The findings show that the study of field recordings can lead to a reconsideration of academic and popular discourses.



Keywords: shango; orisha; trinidad; music; culture.