Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Epigraph

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Ethnomusicology Multimedia Website

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pp. ix-xii

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Preface: A Confluence of Beginnings

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pp. xiii-xxii

Beginnings. “Let us go back to the dawn of time,” began the narrator, his voice booming from huge PA speakers echoing in the mass expanse of Pyramid Stadium on the shores of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. The lights dimmed, highlighting an enormous backdrop featuring a sixty-foot-tall “tribal mask”2; a rain forest environment, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and colorful birds; a village of thatched-roof huts on one side and several contemporary buildings on the other—the only reference to a “modern” Africa, incongruous and misplaced. Suspense building, the lights...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

A research project that has spanned nearly a decade, this ethnography has been anything but a solo venture; rather, it has been created through a collaborative process involving the support of many people and organizations. Of course, my most profound thanks goes to Samba Diallo, Dr. Djo Bi Irie Simon and Harmony Harris, Sogbety Diomande and Melanie Seaman, and Vado and Lisa Diomande for inviting me into their homes, their performances, and their lives. All of them have devoted countless...

Notes on Language

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pp. xxvii-xxx

Part I. Program Notes

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1 Introduction: Abidjan USA

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pp. 3-32

Abidjan USA. Not a place in the sense of a physical location. While there are pockets of immigrants from Côte d’Ivoire in certain neighborhoods in cities such as New York and Atlanta, there is no geographical equivalent of a Chinatown or a Little Italy. Rather, Abidjan USA is dispersed and in motion. It is New York and Atlanta; St. Louis and Orlando; Mansfield, Ohio, and Scottsburg, Indiana. And it is Abidjan and smaller cities, towns, and villages in Côte d’Ivoire. Abidjan USA is a concept that becomes physically manifest—a place—when US-based Ivorians enact who they are on stage, from...

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2 “Ballet” as Nexus of Discourses

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pp. 33-70

One afternoon in 2008, Dr. Djo Bi and I were watching a video of his wedding. We came to a passage in which the Djo Bi on the screen began playing the gbegbe rhythm on his jembe, then smiled widely as the other drummers enthusiastically joined in with appropriate accompanying patterns and the dancers’ bodies began moving. Turning to the Djo Bi with me in the room, I commented, “Clearly you are happy playing that rhythm!”

Djo Bi (DB ): Ah, yes! Everyone knows it!

Daniel Reed (DR ): Everyone knows it regardless...

Part II. Stages and Stories

Act I. Vado Diomande

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3 Kekene: The Performance of Oneness in NYC

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pp. 75-90

Flashback: New York City, February 22, 2009. Ivorian immigrant Vado Diomande’s Kotchegna Dance Company began its third annual performance of Kekene (Oneness). An original member of the Ballet National de Côte d’Ivoire (BNCI ), Vado had long ago adopted that ensemble’s practice of representing unity through diversity. He had transformed ballet from a representation of national unity through ethnic diversity into a discourse of global unity through national, ethnic, and racial diversity and, simultaneously, into an “authentic” representation of traditional Ivorian dance. As the ensemble...

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4 “If You Aren’t Careful, You Don’t Know Where You Will End Up!”: Vado Diomande and Transcendence

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pp. 91-126

Daniel Reed (DR ): Why do you dance?

Vado Diomande (VD ): I don’t know, but I love dance. I was born immersed in it. It was central to my father’s life, and I myself, I loved it....And when I was in the village I did not know that I would end up in the National Ballet, but I loved it....So I dance. I love dance and it has become my work. When I feel sick, if I dance it goes away. I’m no longer sick if I dance.

I have spent many hours with Vado Diomande (see figure 4.1) in his Harlem apartment discussing his life. Nearly all of my formal...

Act II. Samba Diallo

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5 “Culture Brings Everybody Together”: Samba Diallo’s Ayoka

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pp. 129-140

A steamy afternoon in suburban Atlanta, late July 2010 (PURL 5.1). A crowd of around one hundred people took seats in an air-conditioned space inside the Smyrna Cultural Center in anticipation of Samba Diallo’s annual showcase, Ayoka. Samba danced in to the right of the audience followed by four female African American dancers in matching handwoven outfits. “Soma sa sa ngole na woyo ye ke” (The morning rain comes gently) sang Samba in Mauka; the dancers responded in kind. All five danced past the seated drummers, who began to play the Maninka rhythm kuku. The dancers took position...

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6 “I’m Happy Because I’m Different”: Samba Diallo and Exceptionalism

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pp. 141-178

Daniel Reed (DR ): Why do you dance? What do you love about dance, and why do you continue to dance here in the United States?

Samba Diallo (SD): For me, it’s a form of rejoicing. Through dance, I feel happy. Through dance, I feel better. Through dance, I feel relaxed. Through dance, I relieve stress. It’s a way for me to combat all sorts of problems....Here in the United States, when I teach dance, not only am I teaching people dance—corporal expression—I myself am also exercising. Dance also is mental. It heals....I dance because it’s...

Act III. Sogbety Diomande

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7 “You Know You’re in a Different Country”: Sogbety Diomande’s West African Drum and Dance

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pp. 181-191

September 27, 2008, Bloomington, Indiana. A crisp fall evening, the downtown streets blocked off and filled with pedestrians scurrying from one performance venue to the next, past informal drum circles, street magicians, a masked woman in silver body paint dancing like a snake, a New Orleans backline-style band of horns and drums parading. It was the Lotus Festival, and normal daily life was suspended as thousands wandered between more than half a dozen venues hosting concurrent “world-music” performances, the streets transformed into festival space. Brazilian hip-hop, Turkish whirling dervishes...

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8 “When You’re in a New Context, You Try Things That Work in That Context”: Sogbety Diomande and Adaptability

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pp. 192-224

Daniel Reed (DR ): Why do you choose to work as a drummer and dancer?

Sogbety Diomande (SD): I chose it because it comes from my heart....Each person has his/her work in the world....People tell you, you are free to do anything. You are free! But this is really something for my life. I want to keep it. I need to keep it....I am doing the mask because I learned the mask in the village, in my family....In Toufinga, the mask comes from the Diomande family. My family owned the tall mask in the village. If you are Bamba or Kone—they are different ethnic...

Act IV. Dr. Djo Bi Irie Simon

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9 “Open Village”: An Ivorian Wedding in an Indiana Cornfield

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pp. 227-242

In June 2008, Dr. Djo Bi Irie Simon (Djo Bi) married Harmony Harris on a farm belonging to Harmony’s family near St. Bernice, a very small farming community in west central Indiana just several miles from the Illinois border. An extraordinary event, with the name “Open Village,” the wedding brought together many of the finest performers in the Ivorian immigrant community and others of Djo Bi’s friends with Harmony Harris’s friends and family. Most of the music making and dance that occurred that weekend, like most of what these Ivorians do in the United States in classes, workshops,...

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10 “Everyone Is a Cook, but He’s a Chef!”: Dr. Djo Bi and Innovation

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pp. 243-276

On a warm spring day in 2007, I was walking my dogs in the woods when my cell phone rang. While I did not recognize the number, I did recognize the New York area code. I answered and heard a man’s voice speaking the familiar sounds of Ivorian-accented French. “I have just arrived, and everyone tells me I should call you,” said the voice. “I am a drummer. Sogbety, Aristide—they said when you arrive call Daniel Reed.” The area code in the back of my mind, I continued conversing under the assumption that the caller had just arrived in New York from Côte d’Ivoire. Gradually, however, I came...

Part III. Finale

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11 Thoughts on the Way Out

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pp. 279-284

Ethnographic research and writing contribute to an understanding of human experience from particular subjective viewpoints in particular contexts at particular moments in history. This book offers four individual viewpoints on the immigrant experience at a time of transition from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, a time of greatly accelerated mobility and intensified interconnectivity. It offers concrete portrayals of social interaction at the heart of the transnational movement of peoples, goods, and ideas that characterize this moment in the human...

Glossary

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pp. 285-290

Notes

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pp. 291-298

Bibliography

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pp. 299-308

Index

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pp. 309-318

About the Author

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pp. 319-322