A Caribbean Voyage: Alan Lomax in Grenada and Carriacou


    In the spring of 1962, Alan Lomax went to the Lesser Antilles, the chain of islands that form the southeastern edge of the Caribbean Sea. The West Indies that he stepped into were charged with excitement and anticipation. Many of the islands he visited that were part of the British Empire were making plans for coming independence. The local governments of Trinidad and Jamaica had been promoting a West Indian Federation, and Lomax saw his musical research as a way of finding cultural commonalties that would support the dream of postcolonial Caribbean unity.

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    Alan Lomax visited Carriacou, Grenada, for the first time in nearly 30 years to attend the Stone Feast of Sugar Adams. Adams, one of the island's most revered musicians, had died ten years earlier and tradition necessitated a day of feasting, sacrifices, and music-making to accompany the raising of his head-stone. Lomax brought along a camcorder, a cassette deck, and copies of his 1962 Carriacou recordings (including those of Sugar Adams) to share with the participants - among them local musicologist Winston Fleary and drummer and painter Canute Caliste, who had also recorded for Alan in '62. While there, Alan was also able to shoot nearly two hours of the Shakespeare Mas' - the remarkable Carnival tradition in which men dressed in outlandish Pierrot-style outfits engage in "combats": aggressively reciting speeches from Julius Caesar and thrashing one another with switches when a recitation is deemed poor or incorrect. These several hours of video recordings constitute Alan Lomax's last field recording trip. - Nathan Salsburg

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