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Curaçao's African-Caribbean Ritual and the Politics of Memory

Nanette de Jong

Publication Year: 2012

As contemporary Tambú music and dance evolved on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, it intertwined sacred and secular, private and public cultural practices, and many traditions from Africa and the New World. As she explores the formal contours of Tambú, Nanette de Jong discovers its variegated history and uncovers its multiple and even contradictory origins. De Jong recounts the personal stories and experiences of Afro-Curaçaoans as they perform Tambu–some who complain of its violence and low-class attraction and others who champion Tambú as a powerful tool of collective memory as well as a way to imagine the future.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Ethnomusicology Multimedia

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I did not choose Curaçao as a research site as much as Curaçao chose me, or, perhaps, more aptly, Curaçao captured me, the unusual diversity of its music captivating my research interests, while the kindness and sincerity of the people enabled a rare sense of belonging. ...

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Introduction / Introducktorio: Get Ready! / Poné Bo kla!

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pp. 1-12

From the air, Curaçao looks narrow and flat. It appears stark and quiet, its dry desert plains scattered with clusters of tall cacti, its shores noticeably rocky, dotted with divi-divi trees and Dutch-styled windmills. Stepping off my plane means leaving my air-conditioned reverie to enter the warm humid air that breathes the sudden realization: ...

Part 1. Habri: Here It Is, the History of Tambú!: Até Aki, Historia di Tambú!

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1. The Story of Our Ancestors, the Story of Africa: E Kuenta di Nos Antepasados, e Kuenta di Afrika

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pp. 15-29

Creolization, the evolutionary development of Afro-Caribbean culture, began when conditions allowed distinct cultural memories to regain meaningfulness within a New World context. Through a process of negotiation, certain histories continued; others became inverted or disappeared altogether. ...

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2. Told through the Fierce Rhythms of the Drum: Kontá pa e Ritmonan Furioso di su Barí

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pp. 30-48

The term Tambú is used today interchangeably to define the specific drum instrument, the dance, the song, and the occasion itself. Through the recent centuries, the sacred role of Tambú has been eclipsed by its secular role, where Tambú is tantamount to an oral newspaper, a medium for the documentation of local news and gossip ...

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3. The Laws Couldn’t Keep Tambú Away. The Church Couldn’t Keep Tambú Away. Leinan No Por a Tene Tambú Lew. Misa No Por a Tene Tambú Lew.

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pp. 49-70

As already stated, during the early slavery years Tambú was allowed to evolve without much interference. Early Dutch interests were focused almost entirely on trade and profits, and the personal lives of manquerons were at first of little interest to the slaveholders. ...

Part 2. Será: Get Ready! Get Ready!: Poné Bo Kla! Poné Bo Kla!

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4. Prepare for the Arrival of Our Ancestors: Prepará Bo pa e Jegada di Nos Antepasados

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pp. 73-87

Tambú, as we have seen, was born of the union between local meanings and elements acquired through “global flows”—the movement and interaction of culture. Tambú has continued to evolve via unique conjunctions of social, political, economic, and cultural change, with the religious Tambú emerging particularly remarkable in its ability to transform. ...

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5. Clap Your Hands!: Bati Bo Mannan!

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pp. 88-103

A friend recently returned from a visit to Curaçao, eager to share his experiences. He had attended a folkloric show at his hotel, a program advertised as a dedication to the island’s representative musical rhythms. Taped music filtered out onto the outdoor pool-turned-stage, with a lone musician, a young boy, playing the wiri as accompaniment. ...

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6. Come for the Party: Bin na e Fiesta

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pp. 104-116

Each year from November through December official sanctions against the secular Tambú temporarily relax. With radio stations filling air time with Tambú recordings, and parties enjoyed across the island without guest permits, the holidays have become unofficially known as “the Tambú Season.” ...

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Conclusion/Conclui: Are You Ready? Are You Ready to Hear the History of Tambú?: Bo Ta Kla? Bo Ta Kla pa Tende e Historia di Tambú?

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pp. 117-128

Our discussion of the phenomenon known as Tambú, so immediately resistant to disclosure, has been developed in this book to reveal its manifold transformative abilities. Frequent changes in Curaçao’s economic environment, coupled with similar changes in the island’s philosophical and political climates, ...

Glossary of Terms Referring to Tambú

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pp. 129-142


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pp. 143-150

List of Interviews

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pp. 151-152


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pp. 153-162

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About the Author

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Nanette De Jong is senior lecturer at the International Centre for Music Studies, Newcastle University. Her research examines the identities forged by African diasporic groups, emphasizing the ways in which these identities find expression in music. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005724
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356543

Page Count: 182
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Ethnomusicology Multimedia