From Vodou to Zouk: A Bibliographic Guide to Music of the French-Speaking Caribbean and Its Diaspora

By Archer, Ken | Notes, September 2011 | Go to article overview

From Vodou to Zouk: A Bibliographic Guide to Music of the French-Speaking Caribbean and Its Diaspora


Archer, Ken, Notes


From Vodou to Zouk: A Bibliographic Guide to Music of the French-speaking Caribbean and its Diaspora. By John Gray. (Black Music Reference Series, vol. 1.) Nyack, NY: African Diaspora Press, 2010. [vii, 201p. ISBN 9780984413409. $79.95.] Bibliography, index.

In undertaking the production of this bibliographical guide to music in the African diaspora, Gray sets about to develop on the existing bibliographies, in particular Afro-American Folk Culture by John F. Szwed and Roger D. Abrahams (Phila - delphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1978), and the four-volume work Bibliography of Black Music by Dominique René de Lerma (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981-84). Taken together, these two works provided a comprehensive resource of scholarly works about music among black populations across the globe. While Szwed and Abrahams focused primarily on folk cultural forms in the western hemisphere, de Lerma engaged African dia - sporic music of all genres and considered a broader geographical area that included music of the African continent. Since the publication of these two outstanding works there has been an outpouring of published research worldwide, both scholarly and popular. With this development over the last three decades, the updating of the bibliographical records and the publication of a resource such as From Vodou to Zouk became mandatory. Gray must be lauded for having successfully undertaken the task, particularly when taken together with his other bibliographical guides on Jamaican popular music, Afro-Cuban music, Afro- Brazilian music, popular music of the English-speaking Caribbean, music of the African diaspora, and jazz avant-garde.

The core of its content considers the geographical areas of Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana, but other Caribbean islands with a French-speaking history such as St. Lucia and Dominica are given coverage, as are the francophone and Creole-speaking Caribbean and its diaspora found in France, the United States and Canada. If only the bibliographical data that Gray provides on these areas is taken into account, it becomes clear that he has been tremendously successful in producing a guide that significantly updates the existing resources, particularly the two major ones mentioned above.

A numerical comparison of From Vodou to Zouk to de Lerma's work will bear this out. De Lerma deals with the francophone Caribbean in the third volume, "Geo - graphical Studies," of his Bibliography of Black Music. In this volume there are 106 entries for Haiti. Dominica and Guade - loupe are treated under the category "Leeward Islands," under which there are 7 entries, the titles of which make no specific mention of the French-speaking islands. Similarly, of the 17 entries under "Windward Islands" 3 are related to Martinique, 3 refer to St. Lucia, and another 3 refer to dance in the French Caribbean. These numbers are outstripped in Gray's work. For instance, in the subsection entitled "Regional Studies," there are 189 entries for Haiti, 65 for Martinique, 53 for Guadeloupe, 23 for St. Lucia, and 12 for Dominica. This does not include entries that relate to these nations in other sections of the book.

This difference in the increased quantity of bibliographical references in Gray as compared to de Lerma does not detract from the importance and value of the earlier work. Instead it highlights the great attention that has been paid to the study of music in this geographical area, and the remarkable outburst in scholarly activity that resulted in the wealth of material since the publication of the bibliographical works by de Lerma and Szwed and Abrahams. While Gray's listing includes works by authors such as Daniel Crowley, published in the 1950s, the vast majority were published within the last three decades, and reflects the works of contemporary scholars like Gage Avril, Jocelyne Guilblaut, Dominique Cyrille, Gerdés Fleurant, Michael Largey and others. …

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