Session/Séance4e: IASPM Panel 2 Genre, Belonging and Sociality

Session/Séance 4e: IASPM Panel 2 Friday/vendredi 26 May 2017. 9:00AM-10:30AM, EJB 216.
Genre, Belonging and Sociality
     Moderator: JEFF PACKMAN (University of Toronto)

1. “Now You Cyah Have Cahnaaval Wit' Out Chutney Bacchanal”: Chutney Soca and the Politics of Un/Belonging
     Darrell Baksh, The University of the West Indies

The final refrain of Trinidad and Tobago’s national anthem proclaims: “Here every creed and race find an equal place,” a valorization of the country’s multifaith and multiracial composition. Tropes such as “all ah we is one,” “rainbow nation” and “unity in diversity” validate a sense of multicultural pride despite a postcolonial history domi- nated by black political governance where Indo-Caribbean practices were, and continue to be, marginalized in favour of black cultural expressions – calypso, Carnival, and steelpan – as foremost symbols of a nation in decolonization. While Indo-Caribbean cuisine is celebrated and savoured by the Trinidadians of non-Indian descent who partake in it, Indo-Caribbean music does not enjoy the same privileges. Remembered and reconstructed by descendants of indentured labourers from Bhojpuri-speaking India, chutney – so called because of the ‘heat’ its timbres generate – remains a subsidiary sound despite its contemporary fusion with soca, Trinidad’s black popular party derivative of calypso. I address processes of inclusion and exclusion by examining the politics of musical un/belonging in chutney soca music. Using textual, content and discursive analyses, I show how and why these ideologies have shaped what is in/visible in the popular, mainstream spaces of radio, fêtes (parties), nightclubs, ‘de road’ (Carnival parade routes) and movie theatres in Trinidad and Toronto, home to a large Indo-Caribbean diasporic population. I consider the accompanying tensions, negotiations, and implications of un/belonging at a time when debates and conflicts over race and nationalism abound in Trinidad, in order to critique and disentangle the complexities of hybrid identity formation. I argue that chutney soca reveals a politics of un-belonging in Trinidad and its Canadian diaspora, in contrast to a Carnival rhetoric that celebrates national belonging, as Indo-Caribbean communities continue to find their “place in this world,” one that is never fully black nor fully ‘Indian’ but always in-between.

Keywords: belonging, Carnival, chutney soca, Indo-Caribbean, Trinidad

2. “The Music Played the Band”: The Jamband Genre and Musical Sociality
     Melvin Backstrom, McGill University

All music is social but some music is more social than others. Undoubtedly one of the most explicitly social genres of music is what is commonly referred to as “jam-bands” or “jambands.” Largely inspired by the improvisation- heavy, performance-focused psychedelic rock group the Grateful Dead (1965-95), this genre is now incredibly popular with hundreds, if not thousands, of groups performing it on a regular basis. Defining characteristics include stylistic eclecticism (from bluegrass to EDM), the foregrounding of collective improvisation, and constantly changing set-lists. But along with these that are internal to the musical form are some key external ones, pertaining to musical performance as a thoroughly socialized experience. Rather than conceived in terms of active musicians performing for a listening audience, within the jamband community performances are thought of as symbiotic creations of musicians and audience members, in which their collective energy and connectivity provide the necessary inspiration. Although other genres presume such a relationship to varying degrees nowhere is it more emphasized than among jamband partisans. But is it socialist music? Some people have certainly argued that it is, perhaps most recently Jordy Cummings who, in “Reclaiming the Dead” (in the online journal Red Wedge, 9/2016) argues that the Grateful Dead should be understood, and by analogy its jamband descendants, as explicitly socialist musicians. But while there certainly is “an unusual egalitarianism” within the jamband genre there is also a distinctly libertarian suspicion of government action and controls, as well as a highly conservative, in its literal sense, understanding of aesthetic experience. Therefore perhaps, following Marx’s taxonomy of different kinds of socialism in part three of the Manifesto, the jamband community is constitutive of some kind of conservative socialism. An exploration of this possibility, and of its implications, will form the basis of my presentation.

3. Relating to Surf Music: Foridian Surfers as Esthetic Communnities
     Anne Smith, Florida Institute of Technology

This paper attempts to demonstrate that the surf lifestyle negotiates with the cultural industry to appoint and take ownership of locally coined surf musics distinct from the global stereotype of the genre. These micro-categories of musics allow singular communities of surfers to express both connection and distinction through their consumption of music. Belonging communities determine themselves through the collective validation of their own surf subcultures’ esthetics. This article focuses on surfing communities in Florida and claims that while looking west toward Hawaii and California for their heritage, Florida surfers have built a singular identity marked by their esthetic choices, as their relation to music shows. Ethnographic observations on the Space Coast of Florida put forward the sociocultural critique of a sub-style of surf music enabling the enactment of a sense of belonging. The study relies on theories of diverse and non-exclusive disciplines including psycho-sociology, philosophy, and ethnomusicology. It establishes links between strategies of identity construction, sociocultural representations, and the esthetics of a certain type of music among surfing communities. The reception of a surf discourse displayed in legitimized surf music is analyzed to decode the conditions of access to the affinity groups and the applications of the surf ideology from a performative point of view. The final conclusion shows that these groups negotiate the criteria of legitimacy and authenticity through the command of their own representations and esthetics reflected in the music they validate. Having mapped out authentic communities of surfers in previous research, I attempt to prove that they can reveal a redefined and legitimized surf music. Through authentic musical expression, surf subcultures can build, modulate, protect, and express spatially and timely marked identities.

Keywords: surf music, belonging, Florida, esthetics.

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