Funky Nassau: Roots, Routes, and Representation in Bahamian Popular Music

Funky Nassau: Roots, Routes, and Representation in Bahamian Popular Music

Funky Nassau: Roots, Routes, and Representation in Bahamian Popular Music

Funky Nassau: Roots, Routes, and Representation in Bahamian Popular Music

Synopsis

This book examines the role music has played in the formation of the political and national identity of the Bahamas. Timothy Rommen analyzes Bahamian musical life as it has been influenced and shaped by the islands' location between the United States and the rest of the Caribbean; tourism; and Bahamian colonial and postcolonial history. Focusing on popular music in the second half of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, in particular rake-n-scrape and Junkanoo, Rommen finds a Bahamian music that has remained culturally rooted in the local even as it has undergone major transformations. Highlighting the ways entertainers have represented themselves to Bahamians and to tourists, Funky Nassau illustrates the shifting terrain that musicians navigated during the rapid growth of tourism and in the aftermath of independence.

Excerpt

It’s about 10 am on June 27, 2007. I’m sitting in a small Nassau restaurant with Fred Ferguson and Ronnie Butler, and we are discussing the current state of affairs for musicians in the Bahamas. Fred, my good friend, guitarist, producer, and a former member of the Baha Men, has arranged for this breakfast with Ronnie, who is often called the godfather of Bahamian entertainers. He no longer entertains large crowds at local nightclubs each week as he did back in the 1960s and ’70s. in fact, the closest he gets to really performing these days is through invitations to participate in one-off shows. Live entertainment itself has largely become a thing of the past for Bahamian musicians, and Ronnie (along with many other musicians) has resigned himself to singing over tracks (i.e., without a live band) for small crowds at restaurants like this one. He blames the Bahamian government. “My government done fuck me. Print that! the government ain’t worth shit since Stafford Sands” (Ronnie Butler, interview with the author, June 27, 2007).

Fred is laughing hysterically, fully agreeing with Ronnie, and I’m trying to figure out how to make sense of the comment. Sir Stafford Sands, after all, was a member of the (in)famous Bay Street Boys, the elite, predominantly white oligarchy that monopolized business and politics in the Bahamas until majority rule was won in 1967. the road to independence ran, quite literally, through the Bay Street Boys, and Sands was a powerful member of that political establishment. in other words, this politician was invested in retaining power, ideologically and financially committed to maintaining the status quo. and yet it is Sands who, perhaps more than anyone else, is responsible for growing the tourism industry, for offering opportunities to Bahamian musicians, and for recognizing the value . . .

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