Music from behind the Bridge

Music from behind the Bridge : Steelband Spirit and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago

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A symbol of Trinidadian culture, the steelband has made an extraordinary transformation since its origins-from junk metal to steel orchestra, and from disparaged underclass pastime to Trinidad and Tobago's national instrument. Now, Shannon Dudley gives the first discerning look at the musical thinking that ignited this transformation, and the way it articulates with Afro-Trinidadian tradition, carnival, colonial authority, and nationalist politics. Music from behind the Bridge tells the story of the steelband from the point of view of musicians who overcame disadvantages of poverty and prejudice with their extraordinary ambition. Literally referring to the poor neighborhoods nestled in the hills bordering Port of Spain to the East, "Behind the Bridge" is also a metaphor for conditions of social disadvantage and cultural resistance that shaped the steelband movement in the various Afro-Trinidadian communities where it first took root. The book further explores the implications of the steelband's "nationalization" in post-independence Trinidad and Tobago, and contemporary steelband musicians' preoccupation with the formally adjudicated annual Panorama competition. In discussing the intersection of musical thinking, festivity, and politics, this book connects important questions about the history of the steelband to general questions about the relation between popular culture and nationalism.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 328 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 17.78mm | 453.59g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 34 b/w halftones, 19 line illus.
  • 0195321235
  • 9780195321234

Review quote

"Shannon Dudley reveals to us in new ways the human depth and sonic richness of Trinidad and Tobago's steelband tradition. His study does much more than show how a vernacular music became a critical part of a nation-building project based on ideas of modernist reform in a postcolonial setting; it presents a beautifully balanced picture of the tensions inhering in this process. Tacking between "elite" and "folk" perspectives and aesthetics, giving equal time to ideologies and values inherited from the past and the nuanced musical thinking of individual performers and arrangers creating in the present, Dudley triumphs over the reductionist tendencies that often hamper discussions of the relationship between music and politics. Through it all, the artistry and sheer creative energy of the practitioners of pan shine through." - Kenneth Bilby, Rockefeller Fellow at the Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College Chicago "Dr. Dudley's Music from behind the Bridge is an elegant study of Trinidad's steel pan, the best written thus far. In this book, Dr. Dudley demonstrates a rare understanding of, and much respect for, the West Indies in general and Trinidad in particular. Readers of Music from behind the Bridge will learn not only about the emergence and evolution of the steel pan as a musical instrument, but will also grasp the social and political significance of steel bands and of the music they play. Dr. Dudley writes beautifully about peoples, situations and events that liken Trinidad to other Caribbean countries/nations. Music from behind the Bridge fosters a unique understanding of music in Caribbean societies, not just in Trinidad. A masterpiece." -Dominique Cyrille, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Lehman College (CUNY) "Finally, a work that brings the sophisticated musical sensibilities of steelbands to the centre and investigates the powerful hold that competition has over steelband aesthetics! Dudley's book is an insightful romp through the world of pan from the yards to the Savannah, but his ear is keenly tuned to the arrangements, style, and, most generally, sound of pan ensembles. This is an important book about creativity and passion for music in a developing, postcolonial nation." -Gage Averill, Dean of Music, University of Torontoshow more

About Shannon Dudley

Shannon Dudley is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, and author of several articles and books on the music of Trinidad including Carnival Music in Trinidad: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (OUP, 2003). He also researches popular music in Puerto Rico. As a performer on the steel pan, he has played with leading steelbands in both Trinidad and the United States.show more

Table of contents

Dedication ; Acknowledgements ; Chapter One Introduction ; Chapter Two The Steelband Movement and Music ; Chapter Three An Unlikely Instrument ; Chapter Four The National Instrument ; Chapter Five Dropping the Bomb ; Chapter Six A Showcase for Pan ; Chapter Seven Rise of the Arranger ; Chapter Eight Community Participation ; Chapter Nine Contest and Control ; Chapter Ten Writing Their Own Tunes ; Chapter Eleven From Panman to Pannist ; Chapter Twelve Popular culture and Nationalism ; Appendix I: Instruments ; Appendix II: Repertoire ; Appendix III: Panorama Winners ; Bibliography ; Recordings Cited ; Indexshow more

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