Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite

Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite

Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite

Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite

Synopsis

The reflexive approach and the concept of bimusicality have made possible this in-depth study of the Rada rite, the foundation of the complex and sensationalized religion of Haiti, Vodun. Fleurant returned to his native Haiti to immerse himself in the socio-cultural life of those who practice the religion that was brought to Haiti by the people captured in Africa from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Through total immersion in daily life culture and apprenticeship in the music culture (reflexive approach and concept of bimusicality), the author has accessed information and provided a descriptive analysis heretofore unavailable to scholars. From this privileged position, the author details the complexity, sophistication, and beauty of the ritual, music, and dance.

Excerpt

The Republic of Haiti, the first independent African nation in the Americas, stems from three cultural sources: African, Amerindian, and European. The most prominent and, indeed, dominant of the three is the African. The Africans were brought into the area as early as 1502 by the Spaniards to replace the first inhabitants that they had enslaved and called Indians, because Christopher Columbus assumed that he had reached India, a land rich in spices and gold that Europeans were trying to colonize. The Amerindians, the first occupants of the island, were the Arawak-Tainos, the Ciboneys, and the Caribs who came from the southern mainland and gave their names to the whole region. The Europeans, first Spaniards and later French, fought each other over the control and exploitation of the island resources, a situation that resulted in the division of the land into two parts, French in the west and Spaniards in the east (Herskovits, 1971). Haiti, with a land surface of 10,714 square miles, shares the western third of the island of the same name with the Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern portion. The name Haiti, which means "mountainous land," came from the language of the Arawak people who lived there before the arrival of Columbus in 1492. The French obtained the western portion from Spain in 1697 and renamed it Saint Domingue, which they colonized until a slave revolution in 1791 ended French rule and the former captives proclaimed their independence in 1804. They called their new nation Haiti, which today is peopled by the descendants of those Africans brought there between 1502 and 1789. They brought with them their culture and way of life, an aspect of which forms the subject of this study.

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