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Different Drummers

Rhythm and Race in the Americas

Martin Munro

Publication Year: 2010

Long a taboo subject among critics, rhythm finally takes center stage in this book's dazzling, wide-ranging examination of diverse black cultures across the New World. Martin Munro’s groundbreaking work traces the central—and contested—role of music in shaping identities, politics, social history, and artistic expression. Starting with enslaved African musicians, Munro takes us to Haiti, Trinidad, the French Caribbean, and to the civil rights era in the United States. Along the way, he highlights such figures as Toussaint Louverture, Jacques Roumain, Jean Price-Mars, The Mighty Sparrow, Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, Joseph Zobel, Daniel Maximin, James Brown, and Amiri Baraka. Bringing to light new connections among black cultures, Munro shows how rhythm has been both a persistent marker of race as well as a dynamic force for change at virtually every major turning point in black New World history.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Music of the African Diaspora


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-vii

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pp. ix-ix

I wish to thank Ramsey Guthrie for his interest in this project and for sharing his expertise. I am very grateful to Mary Francis for her encouragement and guidance, and to Eric Schmidt and Suzanne Knott for help in the production stages. Sincere thanks to John Cowley for information on Trinidadian music, to Charles ...

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Introduction: Slaves to the Rhythm

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pp. 1-23

The Burt Lancaster film The Swimmer contains a scene in which the white suburbanite protagonist, Ned Merrill, emerges from the woods at the entrance to the home of one of his wealthy friends. At the same time, the friend’s Rolls-Royce car arrives at the gate, and Merrill runs forward to catch a ride up the lengthy driveway. As the car draws up, Merrill calls out the chauffeur’s name (“Steve”), and the ...

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1. Beating Back Darkness: Rhythm and Revolution in Haiti

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pp. 24-77

In many crucial ways, the history of the modern Caribbean begins in Haiti in 1804, with Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s declaration of independence. It was here that the fallible nature of colonial military power and, more importantly, of colonial ideology in the Caribbean was first exposed. The Haitian Revolution that began in 1791 dealt blows to the notion of innate European, “white” superiority, sending ...

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2. Rhythm, Creolization, and Conflict in Trinidad

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pp. 78-131

As Haiti was assuming its independence and moving into its uncertain postcolonial future, the rest of the colonial Caribbean remained firmly under the yoke of imperialism and slavery. The islands of the Anglophone Caribbean did not become independent until almost 160 years after Dessalines’s declaration. One of the consequences of the Haitian Revolution was that the process of creolization ...

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3. Rhythm, Music, and Literature in the French Caribbean

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pp. 132-181

As the rhythm of the steelbands was being harnessed to a nascent form of black power in Trinidad, and as Haiti’s musicians and intellectuals were incorporating rhythm as a primary feature of indigenist aesthetics, a similar conception of black rhythm was emerging as a defining aspect of another racial consciousness movement on the small French island of Martinique. During the 1940s, the ...

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4. James Brown, Rhythm, and Black Power

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pp. 182-213

Despite its particular colonial history and the ways in which that history has encouraged a lingering fascination with its former European metropoles, the Caribbean does not exist in isolation from the rest of the Americas. As Daniel Maximin’s L’Isolé soleil shows, there are intricate, sometimes hidden, but nonetheless profound and enduring links between the Caribbean and North ...

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Conclusion: Listening to New World History

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pp. 214-226

In a 2006 book on the intellectual history of the Caribbean, author Silvio Torres- Saillant writes critically about the region’s music and questions whether music and musicians, despite their commercial success, actually bring any “discernible benefit” to the region (33). Evoking the historic Peace concert in Jamaica in 1978 when Bob Marley famously summoned political foes Michael Manley and ...


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pp. 227-249


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pp. 251-268


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pp. 269-280

Production Notes

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pp. 281-281

E-ISBN-13: 9780520947405
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520262829

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Music of the African Diaspora
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OCLC Number: 777474733
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Different Drummers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Blacks -- Caribbean Area -- Music -- History and criticism.
  • African Americans -- Music -- History and criticism.
  • Brown, James, 1933-2006 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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