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1 FROM INDIAN TO INDO CREOLE: TASSA DRUMMING, CREOLIZATION, AND INDO CARIBBEAN NATIONALISM IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO By CHRISTOPHER L. BALLENGEE A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN P ARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 Christopher L. Ballengee
3 In memory of Krishna Soogrim Ram
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am indebt ed to numerous individuals for helping this project come to fruition. Thanks first to my committee for their unwavering support. Ken Broadway has been a faithful champion of the music of Trinidad and Tobago, and I am grateful for his encouragement. He is i ndeed one of the best teachers I have ever had. Silvio dos likewise been an inspiration for my own musical investigations. In times of struggle during research and analysis, I consistently returned to his advice : into the Indian and Hindu experience in the Americas imparted in me an awareness of the subtleties of common practices and to see that despite claims of wholly recreated has given me the freedom perhaps too much at times to follow my own path, to discover knowledge and meaning on my own terms. Yet, he has also been a mentor, friend, and colleague who I h old in the highest esteem. Special thanks also to Peter Schmidt for inspiring my interest in ethnographic film and whose words of encouragement, support, and congratulations propelled me in no small degree through the early and protracted stages of researc h. Gratitude also to Peter Manuel whose many email conversations nourished a great deal of my work. In the field, there are far too many to thank. My work is our work through and through. First and foremost, Lenny Kumar took me on like a brother: hosting me in h is home, conversing about music and phi losophy, laughing and celeb rating alongside me, and literally driving me all over the country. As is evident in my writing, I am truly indebted to Lenny more than I can ever repay. Likewise Nita, Lenora, and Le n nita Kumar deserve equal thanks for allowing my wife and I to invade their home and steal
5 away their husband and father for weeks at a time. Thanks also to Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa members Shiva Persad, Keron Ramkeessoon, Kevin Mohammed, George Bab The Tampa branch of Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa also became great friends over the years. Thanks to Amarnath Ramkissoon, Vishwanath Woods, Jonathan Sanowar, Vishal Deo, and especially Rohan Abraham for inviting me to join the band and putting up with my camera. Without their help this project would not have been as successful and as fun as it has turned out to be. Krishna Soogrim Ram passed away shortly after I spoke with him in August of last year. In the shor t time I knew him, his words and wisdom touched me in profound ways. I am grateful to Krishna and his son Sanjeet for providing a wealth of oral and photographic history that spans beyond the bounds of the present study. Federico Moratorio helped with cine matography and photography in Trinidad in spring of 2011. In the summer of 2012, Heather Hall also assi sted with filming, photography, and interviews. I thank them both for technical help and good times. I thank Brinsley Samaroo and Kumar Mahabir for provi ding academic support and helping to arrange my first trip to Trinidad in 2007 and subsequent conversations about this or that detail Profound thanks to the congregation of Aramalaya Presbyterian Church for making me feel at home during my stay in Tunapun a. I am e special ly grateful to Rev. Everson Sieunarine who became my closest friend and confidant that summer. I will never forget our journeys into town and into the bush and for all the conversation along the way. My work was facilitated by a dedicated support network on campus including, among others, Laura Robertson and June Hall in the College of Fine Arts and in the School of Music Trent Weller, Charles Pickeral, Amanda Maybe r ry Hipp, and John
6 Duff. Also thanks to Robena Cornwell and Michelle Wilban ks whose stewardship and direction of the Music Library helped tremendously during my time at the University of Florida. Moreover, I have deeply depended upon my colleagues, especially Jack Forbes, Chris Witulski, Sunni Witmer, Elikem Nyamuame, Hicham Cham i, and Brian Holder, for moral and intellectual support. I am honored by their friendship and scholarly advice. My research was sponsored in part by the A. Curt is Wilgus Fellowship from the University of Florida Center fo r Latin American Studies, the Unive rsity of Florida Graduate School Dissertation Award, and nu merous travel grants from the University of Florida Graduate Stud ent Council and the University of Florida Office of Research and Graduate Programs. Thanks also to Owen and Elizabeth Reynolds and t he technical theatre crew at Santa Fe College for helping to build tassa drums and giving me more leeway that I deserve d to retreat from the theatre and finish my dissertation. I am nothing without the love and support of my family. This journey has kept m e away fr om them for far too long, and I have a long road yet to travel. Luckily, I have an excellent traveling partner. skarbem.
7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ............................ 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 11 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 12 LIST OF OB JECTS ................................ ................................ ................................ 16 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 17 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ .............................. 19 East Indians in t he West Indies ................................ ................................ ......... 23 Literature Review and Theoretical Framework ................................ ................. 25 Research Objectives and Methodology ................................ ............................ 38 Chapter Overview ................................ ................................ ............................. 42 2 TASSA ORGANOLOGY, TECHNIQUE, AND ENSEMBLE HIERARCHY ........ 44 Dhol Tasha in the Bhojpuri Diaspora ................................ ................................ 45 Instruments of the Trinidadian Tassa Ensemble ................................ ............... 54 Tassa ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 55 Bass (Dhol) ................................ ................................ ................................ 70 Jhal (Jhanjh) ................................ ................................ ............................... 81 Hierarchy within the Tassa Ensemble ................................ ............................... 84 Playing Technique ................................ ................................ ............................ 86 Tassa ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 87 Bass ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 88 Jhal ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 89 Cognates with Creole Drumming Ensembles ................................ ................... 91 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 98 3 REPERTOIRE ................................ ................................ ................................ 100 General Characteristics of Tassa Repertoire ................................ .................. 101 Notes on Musical Analysis and Transcription ................................ ................. 106 Folk and Classical Hands ................................ ................................ ............... 110 Tikora ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 110 Chaubola ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 115 Nagara ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 120 Wedding Hand ................................ ................................ .......................... 123 Caribbean Hands ................................ ................................ ............................ 129
8 Dingolay ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 129 Calypso ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 136 Recently Composed Hands ................................ ................................ ............ 139 Chutney ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 139 George of the Jungle ................................ ................................ ................ 143 Collective Composition ................................ ................................ ............. 144 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 145 4 HINDU WEDDINGS AND TASSA PERFORMANCE ................................ ................................ ....... 149 Introduction: Matikor, Lawa, and Agwaani ................................ ...................... 150 Matikor ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 155 Cooking Night ................................ ................................ ........................... 164 Law a ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 167 Agwaani ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 172 Wedding Jassles ................................ ................................ ............................. 174 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 179 5 TRADITION AND TRANSFORMATION IN COMPETITIVE TASSA PERFORMANCES ................................ ................................ ......................... 181 Contesting Tradition ................................ ................................ ........................ 182 Mastana Bahar ................................ ................................ ......................... 184 Tassa Taal and the National Tassa Competition ................................ ...... 186 Rules, Regulations, and Performance Expectat ions ................................ 188 Performance ................................ ................................ .......................... 192 Tradition Contested ................................ ................................ ........................ 196 Repertoire ................................ ................................ ................................ 196 Narrative ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 197 Spectacle ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 198 Competitive Format ................................ ................................ .................. 199 The National Stage ................................ ................................ ......................... 202 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 205 6 CO NATIONAL INSTRUMENTS? RACE, CREOLIZATION, AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AS EMBLEMS OF TRINIDADIAN IDENTITY ....................... 20 9 Patterns of Race based Competition in Trinidad ................................ ............ 213 Racial Tensions in the Colonial Era ................................ .......................... 214 Party Politics as Racial Politics ................................ ................................ 219 Music and Nation ................................ ................................ ............................ 224 Steel Pan and Trinidadian Nationalism ................................ .................... 225 The National Instrument Debate ................................ ............................... 235 Summary: Multiculturalism, Fusion, and National Belonging .......................... 249
9 7 CONCLUSION: TASSA, COOLITUDE, AND INDO TRINIDADIAN NATIONALISM ................................ ................................ ............................... 260 Double Consciousness ................................ ................................ ................... 262 Ngritude and Afro Creolization as Indigenization ................................ .......... 264 Why Tassa? ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 268 Indo Trinidadian Musical Aesthetics ................................ ......................... 268 Intra ethnic Appeal ................................ ................................ ................... 270 Creolization and Indo Trinidadian National Belonging .............................. 275 Coolitude: Toward a Theory of Indo Creole ................................ .............. 278 APPENDIX A DISCOGRAPH Y ................................ ................................ ............................. 284 Referenced Sound Recordings ................................ ................................ ....... 284 Consulted Sound Recordings ................................ ................................ ......... 286 B MUSICAL TRANSCRIPTIONS ................................ ................................ ....... 287 Notation Key ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 287 Tassa Notation ................................ ................................ ......................... 287 Bass Notation ................................ ................................ ........................... 288 Jhal Notation ................................ ................................ ............................ 288 Transcriptions ................................ ................................ ................................ 289 Tik ora ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 291 Chaubola ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 292 Nagara ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 295 Wedding Hand ................................ ................................ .......................... 297 Dingolay ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 301 Calypso Hand ................................ ................................ ........................... 303 Chutney ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 304 George of the Jungle ................................ ................................ ................ 306 C TASSA COMPETITION RULES AND SCORE SHEETS ................................ 307 2003 National Tassa Monarch C ompetition Rules and Guidelines ................. 307 2005 National Tassa Competition of T&T Preliminary Rules and Guidelines 308 2007 Dinsley Com munity Residents Association Tassabration Score Sheet .. 309 Tassa Taal 2007 Rules and Regulations ................................ ........................ 310 Tassa Taal 2013 Rules and Re gulations ................................ ........................ 311 D AUDIO EXAMPLES ................................ ................................ ........................ 312 E MAPS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 313
10 LIST OF REFERENCE S ................................ ................................ ....................... 314 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .................... 322
11 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3 1 Formal structure of weddin g hand. ................................ ............................. 125
12 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Wedding maro ................................ ................................ .............................. 19 1 2 Dancing to tassa at a wedding reception. ................................ ..................... 21 2 1 Detail of musicians in a Muharram procession ................................ ............. 46 2 2 Dhol section of a dhol tasha procession during Ganesh Chaturthi ............... 48 2 3 Tasha drummers performing during Ganesh Chaturthi ................................ 48 2 4 Surinamese tazza groep Milan Tazza ................................ .......................... 51 2 5 A four part Trinidadian tassa ensemble circa 1960s ................................ ..... 54 2 6 Mahadeo Goolcharan makes a clay tassa shell ................................ ........... 56 2 7 Heating clay and goatskin tassas ................................ ................................ 57 2 8 A small freon canister (right) and o ne with the top cut away (left) ................ 58 2 9 A completed nut and bolt tassa made by Lenny Kumar ............................... 58 2 10 Members of Trinidad & Tobago Sweet Tassa playing buoy drums ............... 62 2 11 Advertisement for Radio 90.5 ................................ ................................ ....... 63 2 12 The underside of a paten tureen owned by Antony Gopee. ......................... 65 2 13 An tony Gopee (right) with Lenny Kumar. ................................ ...................... 66 2 14 ........ 67 2 15 Tassa chopes (left) displayed for sale alongside steel pan sticks ................. 69 2 16 Jhal and tassa displayed for sale alongside trap sets and cymbals .............. 69 2 17 ................... 71 2 18 A bass made from slats of wood built by Quicksilver Tassa Group .............. 73 2 19 Basses belonging to Malick Tassa Drummers ................................ .............. 74 2 20 Amar Ramkissoon cleans goatskin for new bass drumheads ...................... 75 2 21 After cleaning, the skin is left to d ry ................................ .............................. 76
13 2 22 Once dry, the hair is removed from the s kin ................................ ................. 77 2 23 Lenny Kumar applies masala to the bass drumh ead ................................ .... 77 2 24 Shiva Persad uses a belt sander to finish the outside of a bass shell .......... 78 2 25 Lenny Kumar be gins the process of lacing the drumheads .......................... 79 2 26 Kissoon Bachan holding his jhal ................................ ................................ ... 83 2 27 The author playing jhal for a wedding ................................ ........................... 84 2 28 Music for the entrance of the dulaha (groom) and dulahin (bride) ................ 85 3 1 Drummers accompany a tadjah procession during Hos ay ......................... 104 3 2 Detail of tikara drum ................................ ................................ ................... 111 3 3 Tikora theka ................................ ................................ ................................ 112 3 4 Ti kora inside taa ................................ ................................ ........................ 113 3 5 Tikora end taal ................................ ................................ ............................ 113 3 6 Bhatee, nadi din, and Hosay tikora basslines ................................ .............. 115 3 7 Chaubola cutter modules ................................ ................................ ............ 116 3 8 Emamalee Mohamme ................................ 119 3 9 Nag ara theka ................................ ................................ .............................. 121 3 10 Nagara inside taal with three measure bass and jhal tag ........................... 122 3 11 Wedding hand thekas ................................ ................................ ................. 126 3 12 Wedding Hand, Taal 1 ................................ ................................ ................ 127 3 13 Wedding Hand, end of Taal 2 ................................ ................................ ..... 127 3 14 Dingo lay the ka with simplified foul ................................ ............................ 130 3 15 Dingolay f oul with bracketed ghost notes ................................ ................. 131 3 16 Comparison of cut ter pattern, dingolay, taa l one ................................ ........ 132 3 17 Comparison of cut ter pattern, taal two, dingolay ................................ ......... 134 3 18 lay ....................... 135
14 3 19 Dingolay end taal ................................ ................................ ........................ 136 3 20 ................. 138 3 21 Comparison of steelband conga pattern and calypso hand theka .............. 138 3 22 Comparison of chutney patte rns with foul for chutney hand ..................... 141 3 23 Lenny Kumar ................................ ............... 142 3 24 Bas s pattern for chutney soca hand ................................ ........................... 142 3 25 Geor ge of the Jungle theka and taal ................................ ........................... 144 3 26 Partial transcription of han d improvised by T&T Sweet Tassa ................... 145 4 1 The betr ................................ ................... 159 4 2 Matikor puja ................................ ................................ ................................ 161 4 3 Ladies dance to tassa after matikor puja ................................ .................... 163 4 4 Some typical wedding foods ................................ ................................ ....... 165 4 5 Sunday mo rning procession going for lawa ................................ ................ 166 4 6 Women going for lawa led by T&T Sweet Tassa ................................ ........ 167 4 7 Dancing at lawa ................................ ................................ .......................... 171 4 8 Post agwaani wedding jassle ................................ ................................ ..... 174 4 9 Scenes from a wedding jassle ................................ ................................ .... 176 5 1 ............... 185 5 2 Posters advertising tassa competitions ................................ ...................... 188 5 3 2009 National Tassa Competition 194 6 1 ................................ ................................ ............... 215 6 2 Oceanic and maritime imagery of Indian presence in Trinidad and Tobago ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 222 6 3 Tenor steel pan ................................ ................................ ........................... 228 6 4 Sagicor Exodus Steel Orchestra rehearsing in their panyard ..................... 228 6 5 ibute to the Steelband Movement ................................ ...................... 231
15 6 6 Tassarama ................................ .. 239 6 7 year of independence ..... 252 6 8 Music and dance performances at the launch of Patriotism Week 2013 organized by the Ministry of National D iversity and Social Integration ....... 253 6 9 Photo collage in Piarco Internationa l Airport ................................ ............... 258 7 1 T&T Sweet Tassa All Girls Band ................................ ................................ 273 7 2 ................................ ................................ .......... 273 7 3 Tassa class at Shiva Mandir ................................ ................................ ....... 282 E 1 Regional maps ................................ ................................ ............................ 313 E 2 Map of Trinidadia n locales mentioned in the text ................................ ........ 313
16 LIST OF OBJECTS Object page D 1 T ikora (wedding suite) (.mp3 1 MB) ................................ ............................ 312 D 2 Chaubola ( wedding suite) (.mp3 3 MB) ................................ ...................... 312 D 3 Someri (wedding suite) (.mp3 1 MB) ................................ .......................... 312 D 4 Calypso (wedding suite) (.mp3 5 MB) ................................ ........................ 312 D 5 Wedding Hand (wedding suite) (.mp3 6 MB) ................................ .............. 312 D 6 Nagara (wedding suite) (.mp3 3 MB) ................................ ......................... 312 D 7 George of the Jungle (wedding suite) (.mp3 1 MB) ................................ .... 312 D 8 Tikora (.mp3 1 MB) ................................ ................................ ..................... 312 D 9 Nagara (.mp3 5 MB) ................................ ................................ ................... 312 D 10 Dingolay (.mp3 3 MB) ................................ ................................ ................. 312 D 11 Calypso (.mp3 4 MB) ................................ ................................ .................. 312 D 12 Chutney (.mp3 3 MB) ................................ ................................ ................. 312
17 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy FROM INDIAN TO INDO CREOLE: TASSA DRUMMING, CREOLIZATION, AND INDO CARIBBEAN NATIONALISM IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO By Christopher L. Ballengee August 2013 Chair: Lar ry Crook Major: Music Tassa is an Indo Caribbean musical genre popular in Trinidad and Tobago characterized by a four part ensemble comprising four instruments: two small headed bass drum called dhol and jhal a set of hand cymbals. In this study, I engage tassa on two interrelated levels. First, I provide a description of the ensemble and a musical analysi s of common repertoire. Second I use this musical analysis to discuss ways in which tassa is evo ked as a symb ol of Indo Trinidadian identity. In the process, I situate tassa performance as one among a variety of diasporic practices that reverberate through layers of individual alignments religious, gendered, economic, and otherwise to construct an os tensibly unified Indo Trinidadian identity that references India as a place of origin and the Caribbean as home. With divergent though ultimately complementary referents, Indo Trinidadian identity is in this way rooted in a pronounced multilocality. The Ca ribbean region has historically been regarded in terms of a prevalent Afro European creolization. The presence of Indians and other marginalized groups, however, problematizes this assumption, both in terms of academic theories of creolization and state sp onsored, Afro Creole centric rhetoric valorizing Afro Caribbean
18 culture to the exclusion of others. This study addres ses this problem by providing musical analysis that reveals tassa exists within a coherent Indo Trinidadian musical system at once indebted to North Indian aesthetics but deployed in an idiosyncratically Caribbean manner principally independent from Afro Trinidadian input. Such an analysis in turn informs academic and state sponsored rhetoric surrounding notions of creolization and multicultu ralism. In a final analysis, I draw upon the social critiques ngritude and an Indo centric poetics of coolitude to consider what I call an Indo Creole identity evident in tassa mu sical production that informs both the independence of an Indo Trinidadian musical system and Indo national representation.
19 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Figure 1 1. Wedding maro. Aranguez, Trinidad. Augus t 2007. During the initial days of my fieldwork in August 2007, I attended a wedding in Aranguez, Trinidad at the invitation of anthropologist Kumar Mahabir. Like most Hindu u, expansive c orrugated metal awning covered the fenced in front yard, creating a space beneath, blocked from the sun and rain, that was elaborately decorated with garlands, lights, and murtis In the haze of the morning, DJ speakers were already thumping a mix of chutney and Bollywood film songs before a sea of expectant plastic chairs facing an exquisite maro a gazebo like structure within which the wedding proper would take place in the afternoon. As we walked from the sweltering morning heat into the r elative coolness of this shady space, osci llating fans blew the sweet scent of curry from the
20 buffet table. Stopping to look, smell, and listen, Kumar turned to me, stretching his arms outward as if to take it all in and at the same time direct my attentio n to a world Very early in m y research I became fascinated by ways Indo Trinidadians surround themselves in one way or another with symbols and practices that represent clear cont inuities with India While these practices may in reality be quite diver gent from contemporary subcontinental phenomena, they nonetheless resonate a however romantic or imagined this notion sometimes may be in diaspora B y virtue of their reinv ention and codification in Trinidad, these practices at the same time, and seemingly paradoxically so, express an everyday Caribbean orientation I became especially interested in practices that reverberate through layers of individual alignments religious gendered, economic, and otherwise to construct an ostensibly unified Indo Trinidadian identity that reference s India as a place of origin and the Caribbean as home. With divergent though ultimately complementary referents, Indo Trinidadian identity is in this way rooted in a pronounced multilocality. Musical practices are a profoundly important means by which this multilocality is deployed as affirmation and acculturation within the Indo Trinidadian community. Music furthermore is an essential means by which Indo Trinidadian multilocality is put on display in public spaces where Trinidadian ethnic identities frequently meet one another Expressions of Indo Caribbean ness within a predominantly Afro Creole context raises intriguing questions. In a region conceptually framed by a prevalent Afro European creolization, how are racial and cultur al alterities resolved within a creole framework ? By what means is Indo Caribbean otherness expressed, accepted, repulsed, or otherwise
21 processed by cultural stakeholde rs? For Trinidad and Tobago in particular, music and musical metaphors are important means by which identities are expressed, critiqued, and challenged. Therefore, i n a contemporary nation state comprising two dominant et hnic minorities and no majority, ho w is Indo Caribbean national identity deployed in musical discourse? This study seeks to illuminate possible resolutions to these questions by examining key aspects of Indo Caribbean musical and nation alist discourse. I examine Trinidadian tassa drumming a s a central case study through which these notions are explored. Figure 1 2. Dancing to tassa at a wedding reception The flag of Trinidad and Tobago flies in the background. Tunapuna, Trinidad. April 2011. Photo by Federico Moratorio.
22 Why tassa? What is it about tassa as an ensemble and as a genre of music that is appropriately emblemat ic of Indo Trinidadian identity? Tassa is an Indo Caribbean musical genre popular in Trinidad and Tobago (though played elsewhere) that is characterized by a four part ens emble comprising four instruments: two small headed bass drum called dhol or simply jhal a set of small hand cymbals. Collectively, this ensemble is refer red to Mos t often, it is simply referring both the individual kettledrums and the ensemble itself. Tassa is invariably Hosay ); it is played by Hindus, Musli ms, and Christians; though few and far between, women have steadily been accepted as drummers in recent decades; tassa is a common feature of sacred and secular celebrations regardless of the socio economic class of participants; and even in New York and F lorida where West Indians form substantial diasporic communiti es, tassa is a vital component of Indo Trinidadian and perhaps more broadly Indo Caribbean cultural express ion. In this way, tassa is routinely taken for granted as a quintessential ly Ind o Trini dadian musical practice as well as an emblem of Indo Trinidadians identity In this study, I engage tassa on two interrelated levels. First, I provide a description of the ensemble and a musical analysi s of common repertoire. Second I use this musical ana lysis to discuss way s in which tassa is evoked as an Indo Trinidadian symbol in the most recent bid to make tassa a co national instrument alongside the more famous steel pan, an instrument with decidedly Afro Trinidadian associations. This study provides a systematic musical analysis that reveals tassa is
23 nurtured within a coherent Indo Trinidadian musical system at once indebted to North Indian aesthetics but deployed in an idiosyncratically Caribbean manner principally independent from Afro Trinidadian i nput. This independence reflects the historical socio cultural rift between Indo and Afro Trinidadians and informs the cu rrent state of racial politics. Indo segregation from centers of T rinidadian colonial power allowed Afro Creole culture to emerge as national culture in the era leading to independence in 1962. From this point on, Trinidadian national belonging has been largely framed in terms of creolization defined chiefly in referenc Trinidadian symbols as national symbols is exemplified in the elevation of the steel pan as Trinidad and Trinidadians viewed as yet another state sponsored affirmation of Indo Trinidadian exclusion. I draw upon the soci al critiques offered by W.E.B. D protg ngritude and an Indo centric poetics of coolitude to consider what I call an id entity, e vident in tassa performance and in ideas about tassa, that informs both the independence of an Indo Trinidadian musical system and Indo East Indians in the West Indies Trinidad an d Tobago is a twin island nation state at the southernmost tip of the Lesser Antilles with a total population of about 1.3 million. Between 1838 and 1917, hundreds of thousands of indentured Indian laborers were imported to the Caribbean through a global s cheme of British indentureship that exported workers to British, French, and Dutch colonies in the Caribbean, south and east Africa, the Indian Ocean, southeast Asia, Australia, and Oceania. D escendants of indentured Indians form a
24 distinct and important p art of the cultural fabric of the Caribbean Throughout the region, people of Indian descent are certainly in the minority, though they form a majority in Guyana and constitute the largest ethnic minorities in Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago. Smaller and a rguably more assimilated communities are also found in other islands and mainland regions, most prominently Jamaica and islands of the Lesser Antilles. Beginning in the latter half of the 20 th century, significant Indo Caribbean communities also coalesced in North America, especially New York, Toronto, and central and south Florida; and in Europe, especially the Netherlands. For colonial authorities and plantocrats of the West Indies in particular, indentureship was a means of keeping plantation wages as lo w as possible upon the end of African slavery in the 1830s. In Trinidad, the majority of Indians worked in sugarcane cultivation while some were assigned to cocoa, coffee, coconut, and other agricultural estates. Though contract requirements were modified at different points throughout the life of the indenture system, laborers generally agreed to a contract of five years, upon expiration of which most stayed in Trinidad rather than return to India. By the turn of the century, Indians made up no less than o ne third of the total population of the colony. 1 The descendants of these indentured workers continued to comprise a slight minority throughout most of the twentieth century. Today, those identifying as Indo population, a plurality over Afro 2 1 Marianne Ramesar, Survivors of Another Crossing: A History of East Indians in Trinidad, 1880 1946 (St. Augustine, Trinidad: School of Continuing Studies, University o f the West Indies, 1994), 131. 2 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the world factbook/geos/td.html (accessed May 23, 2013), under terms Indo Trinidadian and Afro Trinidadian are
25 Indo Trinidadians have historically faced discrimination and cultural invisibility in matters of national representation. In the decade preceding independence f rom Britain class inherited power from the departing white ruling class. As such, notions of the burgeoning nation privileged Afro Trinidadian culture to the exclusion of Indo an Afro European stream of syncretism that was enshrined as the font of authentic national culture. Indo Trinidadians experienced something of a cultural re naiss ance throughout the 1980s, coinciding with and indeed reinforced by a concomitant rise in Indo Trinidadian political assertiveness in the same period. Though revised state recent decades Indo Trinidadian demands for equal representa tion continue to be met with accusations of ethnocentrism, racism, and anti patriotism. Literature Review a nd Theoretical Framework In the wake of the historical impact of European co lonization and African slavery, the Caribbean region is most often regarded in terms of an Afro European creole culture. Indians like the Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese, Javanese, Amerindians, and other significant but marginalized groups in the region have be en relatively absent book Sweetness and Power a widely popular socio cultural history of sugar production and consumption that gives only passing mention of Indian indentured labor. 3 Since this conventional ethnic identifiers. While Trinidadians generally understand these terms, they usually refer to 3 Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Penguin, 1986).
26 book is to a large degree intended for a general audience, such an omission seems all the more troublesome as it perpetuates the invisibility of indentured Indians in the Caribbean despite their place as the primary engine of the British sugar industry after emancipation. While numerous studies have addressed specific elements of global 19 th century provide the most far reaching insight s in this regard. British indenture system provides vital statistics on the recruitment, transportation, and working conditions of indentured Indians. 4 characterization of the indenture system as lit its apparent hyperbole. As Northrup writes: Tinker relates how he began his research with a moderate and detached point of view about indentured labor and was gradually led by his reading of the evidence to prese nt a darker picture of it as a new system of slavery. It is ironic that in the outlook back toward a median position, which sees indentured labor overall as having more in commo than with the victims of the slave trade. 5 Where Tinker frequently recounts the abuses and misery of the indenture system, Northrup by contrast presents a calculated, figure laden account that situ ates Indian indenture wi thin a truly global labor narrative British West Indies covers much of the same ground as Tinker and Northrup, though he 4 Hugh Tinker, A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830 1920 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974). 5 David Northrup, Indentured Labor in the Age of Imperialism, 1834 1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi ty Press, 1995), x.
27 is the only scholar to date to give a deeply nuanced account of Chi nese indentureship in the Caribbean. 6 Morton Klass conducted the first substantial ethnography of Indo Trinidadians in the 1950s, a historically momentous time when Trinidadians were preparing for independence in 1962. 7 Though he makes passing mention of Indo kinships and social life within a single village. Scholars have since criticized Klass for focusing too narrowly on a supposedly closed rural setting and country that greatly affected Indo Trinidadians. 8 Indo Trinidadian life in San Fernando addresses some of t hese issues and spans a longer time frame, from 1930 until 1970. Clarke, however, largely confirms what Klass had concluded earlier, namely that Indo Trinidadians were largely excluded from participation within the larger national community by a combinatio n of voluntary insularism and institutionalized racism. 9 Oxford educated historian Eric Williams became the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in 1962. His History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago revised and republished in the same year, is an interesting historical artifact as it is often difficult 6 Walton Look Lai, Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, 1838 1918 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Universi ty Press, 1993). 7 Morton Klass, East Indians in Trinidad: A Study of Cultural Persistence (Prospect Heights, Il: Waveland Press, 1961). 8 John La Guerre, ed., Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad (St. Augustine, Trinidad: University of the West Indies Extra Mural Studies Unit, 1985), xiii. 9 Colin G. Clarke, East Indians in a West Indian Town: San Fernando, Trinidad, 1930 70 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986).
28 to separate Williams the scholar from Williams the politician, especially as he discusses himself in the third person. 10 Trinidadian culture with national c ulture (discussed in chapter six mention of Indo Trinidadians, principally limited to one nineteen ewing even in the colonial period. Historian Bridget Brereton also a Trinidadian has, however, written extensively on the racial politics of colonial and contemporary Trinidad and Tobago. Her book Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad 1870 1900 first publis hed in 1979, is still today one of the most encompassing histories of race and class in the nineteenth century Caribbean 11 Most important at present, Brereton reveals Indians not merely as victims of an oppressive plantocratic system nor simple commodities to be discussed in terms of numbers only, but as dynamic members of society despite their relative lack of socio economic power. This indeed is a milestone in the historiography of Indo Caribbean people. Moreover, it laid the foundation for later work on contemporary race relations in which B rereton cites nineteenth century racial divisions as the foundation of the development of distinct Afro and Indo centric narratives of the choed in many recent studies of race in Trinidad and Tobago. 12 10 Eric Williams, History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (Buffalo, NY: Eworld, Inc., 1962). 11 Bridget Brereton, Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad 1870 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 12 The Global South 4, no. 2 (2010): 218 ture of Caribbean Review of Gender Studies no. 4 (2010), http://sta.uwi.edu/crgs/february2010/index.asp.
29 Viranjini Munashinghe and Aisha Khan has been particularly influential in my understanding of Trinidadian politics a nd Indo Trinidadian bids for national reading of colonial history and its impact on contemporary Indo Trinidadian identity and national belonging. She insightfully distills Indo Trinidadian nationalist narratives into a dichotomy of callaloo and tossed salad models of culture the former suggesting a thorough and equal blending of ingredients and the latter suggesting a mix with retention of constituent parts 13 Her analysis comes to bear on my discussion of creolization as part and parcel of nationality in chapter six. homogenizing rhetoric of creolization is equally useful in understanding the dynamics of I ndo Trinidadian nationalism 14 In the process of interrogating Trinidadian politics of identity, Khan wrests creolization from its reified place as a static, a priori assumption in Caribbean academic discourse: Through its pervasiveness as colonial ideology as postindependence politics, as cultural discourse, as locally (and supralocally) observed sociocultural processes mixing shapes the ways groups constitute and reconstitute themselves over time. As discourse, mixing is not expressed as a single, uniform concept deployed in certain contexts. Rather, mixing is expressed diffusely through numerous articulated metaphors through which people make abstract and static concepts concrete and dynamic as these metaphors are brought to 13 Viranjini Munasinghe, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? East Indians and the C ultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001). 14 Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory ed. Charles Stewart (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2007), 237 Cultural Anthropology 16, no. 3 (2001): 271 302.
30 bear on specific events or exp eriences and thereby explain them, memorialize them, or define them. 15 Trinidadian expressive culture in legitimizing demands for Indo Trinidadian national belonging, each discusses mus ic and the arts in abstract terms and frequently only as a means to an end. In this dissertation, I focus on how the musical means through which identities are claims for n ational belonging. Though few and far between, ethnomusicological studies of Indo Caribbean music provide considerably more nuanced analysis of the varied orientations of Indo Trinidadian musics, musicians, and audiences. Gregory Diethrich demonstrates ho w the increased political assertiveness of Indo Trinidadians in the 1980s coincided with a corollary rise in Indo Trinidadian expressive culture, music especially, in a manner such e another, each Afro Trinidadian expressive arts did for Eric Williams in the mid twentieth century. 16 political realm, howe ver, and provides little in the way of detailed musical analysis given the theoretical ground he chooses to and folk genres, Helen Myers, Tina Ramnarine, and Peter Manuel focus on more specific musical topics. 15 Aisha Khan, Callaloo Nation: Metaphors of Race and Religious Identity Among South Asians in Trinidad (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 226 227. 16 (Ph.D. Dissert ation, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2004), 3.
31 Music of Hindu Trinidad is the most important resource on Trinidadian Bhojpuri songs and likely will remain as such given the steep decline in Bhoj puri speak ers in the latter part of the twentieth century. 17 Myers devotes significant space to documenting the music itself, frequently including transcriptions of melodies, rhythmic schemes, and numerous full (and often literal) translations of Bhojpuri s ong texts. In this way, the music itself becomes a character in the ethnographic narrative, a hinge upon which Myers relates Trinidadian and Indian musical heritages in very direct and understandable terms. She makes explicit connections between songs coll ected in Trinidad with their corollaries in India where, for example, her search for popular tunes sung in the village of Felicity in central Trinidad was difficult thanks to divergent traditions: Almost without exception, the Indian women for whom I playe d the songs from Trinidad easily identified each example, explained its meaning, and in many cases sang the same song for me. Usually the text of the song was similar to that from the West Indies, but often the tune was different. They were insistent that the meaning of the song derives from the words, not the tune. 18 What Myers concluded was that the Trinidadian melodies were frozen; they remain ed static while their apparent Indian forebears did not. This and similar anecdotes point to ways in which music (and Indian cultural generally) in Trinidad remained rooted in North Indian vernacular sensibilities, yet developed idiosyncrasies that make it unique to the Indo Caribbean local classical (or ) singing foreground s similar survivals and retentions in the mids t of a profoundly idiosyncratic 17 Helen Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad: Songs from the I ndia Diaspora (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). 18 Ibid., 409.
32 musical system. 19 That these genres persist without significant Afro Trinidadian conventional c haracterization of Trini dad and the Caribbean region writ large in terms of an equally mixed callaloo. In this light, the innovations apparent in Indian derived traditions, music especially, point to an idiogenerative impulse, an internal creativity that a t once confirms the kind of ingenuity that characterizes creolizing processes yet denies for the most part exogenous influence. The popular song genre chutney is particularly illustrative in this regard. fic set of folk subgenres, all of which share the use of fast tempo, a simple refrain 20 21 Indeed, Ramnarine suggests chutney is emblematic of a more generalized Indo local a place of origin and Trinidad and Tobago as home 22 In other words, as instrument s and timbres point to Indian aesthetics, the rearticulation and invention of new modes of deploying them are distinctly Caribbean. It is my contention in this study that tassa follows such a pattern. The analysis in cha pters two and three demonstrates tha t increasingly virtuosic repertoire catalyzed and was facilitated by technological innovation in the instruments of 19 Peter Manuel, singing, Chutney, and the Making of Indo Caribbean Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000). 20 Ibid., 169. 21 Ibid., 172. 22 Tina K. Ramnarine, Creating Their Own Space: The Development of an Indian Caribbean Musical Tradition (Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2001), 144 145.
33 new repertoire is created through rhythmic adaptatio ns of existing song forms. Therefore, even when appropriating an Afro Trinidadian genre like calypso, tassa repertoire maintains an internal coherency while simultaneously referencing its Caribbean locality. At present, relatively little academic or docume ntary attention has been paid to tassa drumming. To my knowledge, Emory Cook first recorded tassa for commercial release in the mid 1950s, though his recordings are brief and woefully mislabeled. 23 In an effort to preserve the sounds of Trinidad and Tobago at the moment of independence, Alan Lomax made an ambitious compendium of recordings throughout the country in 1962 including numerous recordings of tassa drumming and a few interviews with drummers themselves 24 The Cook and Lomax recordings provide an imp ortant historical point of comparison for the current study. Though many of the texts mentioned above make passing reference to tassa, Manuel has made the most important contributions to its study including musical transcriptions and comparison with other Indian and Indo Caribbean genres, in a forthcoming volume, Tales, Tunes, and Tassa Drums 25 tassa focused chapter in this manuscript. 23 East Indian Drums of Tunapuna Trinidad Cook 5018 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways, 1956). 24 These recordings are accessible from the website of the Association for Cultural Equity: http://www.culturalequity.org. 25 I am grateful to Manuel for sharing the manuscript of his chapter on tassa from this book. As his text is still in progress, references to it throughout this dissertation are made to the chapter in general rather in Tales, Tunes, and Tassa Drums: Retention and Invention in Indo Caribbean Music (Urbana Champaign: Tassa Thunder: Folk Music from India to the Caribbean DVD, 2010.
34 Indian tasha has r eceived similarly scant ethnographic study apart from the valuable work of Richard Wolf. 26 A number of nineteenth century sources also provide a limited historical perspective on tasha drumming. Of these, perhaps the most important is journalist Ab dul Halim account of nineteenth century Lucknow which includes extended passages describing tasha in conjunction with Muharram and other contexts. 27 indicates a robust tasha tradition in and around Lucknow during the era in whic h laborers would have been actively recruited from the region for travel to overseas plantations. The scarcity of research on Indo Trinidadian music is conspicuous given the comparatively vast volume of material concerning Afro Trinidadian musical forms. C alypso and steelband have been an especially popular topic among local and international scho lars since the 19 5 0s. seems quite insignificant in comparison to his numerous recordings of calypso and steelband. 28 in particular have shaped my thoughts about the intersections of Afro and Indo Trinidadian musics and, more generally, the place of music in conceptions of Trinidadian nationalism. 29 Both 26 Yearbook for Traditional Music 32 (2000): 81 116. 27 Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture trans. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain (New Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks, 2012). 28 For a full Cook Records catalog see http://www.fo lkways.si.edu/search/collection/cook records. 29 Stephen Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement: The Forging of a National Art in Trinidad and Tobago (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995); Shannon Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge: Steelband Spirit and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
35 impoverished Afro Trinidadian neighborhoods on the outskirts of Port of Spain where pan was denigrated for its associations with the lower class. B y the rise of party politics in the independence era steel pan emerged as a national art form via political with Afro Trinidadian interests. Through repeated public performances in association with political events and national holidays especially Carnival pan came to be 30 My work pivots from this notion of steel pan performance as embl ematic of Trinidad and Tobago nationalism, to an assumption that tassa performance is equally as affirming of an Indo Trinidadian national identity. I do this by situating Trinidadian identity within a continuum of post colonial critiques beginning with W. ngritude parallel notion of coolitude Du Bois first explicated the idea of double consciousness in his seminal text The Souls of Black Folk in which he describes the conflicting duality of being both black and American: After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world, a world whic h yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double through the eyes of others, of measuring one looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two 30 Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement 236.
36 warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. 31 the United States still resonates with numerous commentators. 32 In his critique of The Souls of Black Folk for example, Paul Gilroy notes that, t was initially used to convey the special difficulties arising from black internalization of 33 essence a far reaching application of the premise of double consciousness, used in this case to expound upon a post colonial theory of black identity. Double consciousness also formed a central pillar of the ear ly twen tieth century ngritude movement initiated by poets and political thinkers born in French overseas territories: Martiniquean Aim Csaire, French Guianese Lon Damas, and the future first president of Senegal, Lopold Senghor. Each brought with them a keen eye for cultural observation that had been conditioned through metropolitan political and cultural hegemony in their respective homelands. Ngritude writers acknowledged their Du Boisian two ness and used it to their advantage by taking up the tools of th eir masters e.g. formal education, literature, state politics to celebrate, valorize, and ultimately legitimize black culture as equal to that of Europe. With such equality, the European master narrative of racial superiority is contested and proven false. It is therefore no 31 W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Pocket Books, 1903), 7. 32 Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 125. 33 Ibid., 126.
37 accident that the rise of ngritude coincided with increasing agitation against European colonialism throughout the second quarter of the 20 th century. Most relevant to this study, Afro Trinidadian leaders in the 1950s effectively natio nalized Afro Creole cultural identifiers among them Carnival, calypso, and steel pan to legitimate cultural and political autonomy from Britain. In doing so, however, Indo Trinidadian expressive culture was categorically excluded from the Trinidadian natio nalist p roject and Indo Trinidadian claims for national representation were 34 Indo Mauritian poet and linguist Khal Torabully uses ngritude as a fulcrum from which he generates a poetics of the Indian in denture diaspora. Just as ngritude writers coolitude. The Indian indenture diaspora w hether in the West Indies, Mauritius, Fiji, or elsewhere is bound by a common history of exile from India, discriminatory policies stemming from a legacy of indenture, kinship with the land, and a psychological connection with an ever distant and largely i magined India. Individuals in these 35 36 whose emblems of identity coalesce in cooli tude. With its emphasis upon 34 Trinidad Ethnicity ed. Kevin Yelvington (London: MacMillan Caribbean, 1993), 12 13. 35 P a u l Younger, New Homelands: Hindu Communities in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Fiji, and East Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 7 8. 36 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Revised Edition (Lon don: Verso, 1991).
38 a recuperation and rearticulation of Indo centricity within new homelands in diaspora, I suggest in chapter seven that coolitude provides a n apt frame toward interrogating the concept of Indo Creole. Research Objectives a nd M ethodology My research plan for this study emerged organically and in dialog with my s In the beginning, I had two broad research objectives: to learn about and document tassa as a musical phenomenon and to understand the impact of tassa performance upon defining Indo Trinidadian orientations toward belonging in Trinidad and Tobago and the Indian diaspora writ large. Three modes of data gathering and analysis constitute the basis for my research: historiographic and archiva l research, ethnographic fieldwork, and musical analysis. As a vernacular music ostensibly confined to rural areas for much of its existence, there is very little in the way of concrete historical evidence of tassa prior to the 1950s. I searched text archi Collection and the West Indiana Collection at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. While these repositories yielded valuable information on Indo Trinidadian music and culture in general, I foun d very little information pertaining specifically to the history of tassa drumming. I also extensively used the digital archive provided by Google Books to search for public domain documents. This search y ielded numerous references to nineteenth century In dian tasha drumming that augment well known accounts as mentioned above and to my knowledge are unmentioned in contemporary literature on Indo Trinidadian music. 37 Google Books searches also 37 Among others, the following were particularly helpful: Jaffur Shurreef, Qanoon e Islam, or the Customs of the Moosulmans of India trans. G. A. Herklots (London: Parbury, Allen, and Co., 1832); Robert
39 allowed me to access British parliamentary records; trave logues, newspapers, and professional journals written by colonial West Indians; and other public domain materials otherwise unavailable or impractical to access. A search of the digital archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum also returned a wealth of i conographic evidence of North Indian musical traditions dating from as early as 1800 and spanning much of the nineteenth uable iconographic evidence of Trinidadian Hindu weddings, including tassa performance. The two most important geographic sites for my ethnographic fieldwork were Trinidad and central Florida. In both areas, I engaged musicians and community members in for mal and informal interviews and collected qualitative data via participant observation. Between 2007 and 2012, I took three research trips to Trinidad where I worked in and around the market town of Tunapuna in north Trinidad and in the environs of San Fer econd largest urban center, in s outh Trinidad. Two key informants during this time were Lenny Kumar, founder and director of the band Trinidad & Tobago Sweet Tassa based in Princes Town; and the late Krishna Soogrim Ram, former director of Malick Tassa Drummers (a band founded by Soogrim father, Soogrim Ramkeesoon) based in Barataria. T&T Sweet Tassa in Tampa, Florida. From August of that year, I began peri odic visits Montgomery Martin, The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statisti cs of Eastern India, Vol. III (London: Wm. H. Allen and Co., 1838).
40 with them to improve my skills as a tassa drummer. These lessons often coincided with and traveled with them to performances for weddings and cultural events in central Florida. I also helped organize special events for Kumar and the band including a three day residency at the University of Florida in April 2010, an appearance at the Percussive Arts Society Intern ational Convention in November 2011, and most r ecently a workshop at the Society for Ethnomusicology Caribbean and Southeast Chapter meeting in March 2013. In tandem with my dissertation research, I also began shooting footage for an ethnographic film called Sweet Tassa: Music and Tradition of the Ind o Caribbean Diaspora I hoped that the process of fil mmaking could be ethnographically rewarding at every step of the pro ject from preliminary research through to distribution and feedback. The film is a participatory project, one in which I am in control but controlling as little as possible. In the field, making the film has given my research associates and me a goal toward which we can work together. Though I am typically the one holding the camera, it is truly a group effort as we decide together whic h d irections and perspectives the film should take. Moreover, f ilmmaking allows me to demonstrate and recei ve trust in ways perhaps more apparent than taking fieldnotes or making audio recordings of performances While many informants have difficulty under standing what ethnographic research is, most have a good idea of the impact a film might have on their standing in the community. Fostering trust is immeasurably important in any kind of ethnographic work, especially in small culturally self aware sites li ke Trinidad where there is always a
41 38 Moreover, tassa drummers are often guarded to the point of paranoia that someone will videotape their public performances to post on YouTube w here anyone could study and steal some aspect of their particular drumming style. Perhaps, most importantly in the production phase of the film, I have partnered closely with Lenny Kumar whose role as associate director acknowledges his vital participatio n in the project as one who not only advises about issues of musical style and repertoire, but also has the depth of knowledge to know the right questions to ask, the right people to ask them to, and then helps make sense of it all afterward. On more than wrong tree when Lenny, who has been waiting in the wings, takes over to steer me back in the right direction In addition to numerous informal conversations, collaborative ex periences like filmmaking and the academic and performance presentations mentioned above were a particularly important component of my organic approach to fieldwork leading to lasting friendships and assimilation of profound insight into tassa culture in a natural and unpretentious manner By focusing on easily understood, goal oriented activities more than simply listening or asking questions (though these are, of course, very much collaborative activities as well), the qualitative data I have collected i n the form of memories, emotions, and camaraderie is difficult to quantify and moreover difficult to cite in a traditional scholarly monograph. Nonetheless, I cite my experiences throughout the dissertation as best I can where they might be illustrative of particular points. 38 Ramnarine, Creating Their Own Space 145.
42 The final component of my research methodology is musical analysis. As twentieth century tassa recordings were particularly helpful as a point of historical comparison. I also drew upon a handful of commercially available recordings, which are cataloged in Appendix A. My own extensive field recordings, primarily centering on the music of T&T Sweet Tassa, also of rhythmic sketches found throughout the academic literature on Indo Trinidadian music, tassa is an exclusively oral tradition. Therefore there are no conventions for tassa notation, nor is there any kind of repository of scores or musical manuscripts to readily use as a point of comparison. Though my analyses in chapter three proceed in limited upon standard Western staff notation) to approximate specific tassa tech niques. See Appendix B for a notational key and full transcriptions of most of the repertoire discussed in chapter three. Chapter Overview I introduce tassa in chapter two by discussing its Indian forebears and contemporary corollaries both in India and th e global Indian indenture diaspora. Next, I contextualize tassa practice by covering the organology and technique of each instrument in the ensemble and conclude with a discussion of ensemble hierarchy and parallels with Afro Trinidadian drumming. Chapter three is concerned exclusively with tassa repertoire and consists principally of musical transcription, analysis, and three is that technological and musical innovations withi n tassa tradition emphasize a
43 generative impulse from within the structures of an Indo Trinidadian musical system rather than adoption of syncretic, creolized practices linked to Afro Trinidadian heritage Chapter four places tassa within its most common p erf ormance context, Hindu symbolic importance in such a context, setting up a discussion of performances for formally adjudicated tassa competitions in chapter five. Chapt er six provides a historical overview of post independence racial relations in Trinidad and Tobago, using this as a foundation to provide a socio political analysis of the national instrument debate. A s econd theme of chapters four, five and six concerns how and why tassa emerged through performance as a particularly important symbol of Indo Trinidadian culture. Chapter seven concludes the study by relating the discursive dualities apparent in double consciousness, ngritude, and coolitude to a socio cultu ral analysis of tassa d rumming as an embodiment of Indo Creole identity.
44 CHAPTER 2 TASSA ORGANOLOGY, TECHNIQUE, AND ENSEMBLE HIERARCHY The tassa drum is a single headed membranophone with a bowl shaped shell. Trinidadian he tasha a semi spherical drum played in a variety of Pakistan i and India n ensembles though often linked with the double headed barrel drum dhol 1 This conglomeration of tasha and dhol, frequently also combined with hand cymbals called jhanj was flouris hing in the Bhojpuri region of India during the time indentured laborers were recruited for work in the colonies. Therefore, many of the areas around the globe where these laborers settled developed idiosyncratic forms of dhol tasha performance. In this r egard, Trinidadian tassa represents a unique manifestation of the Indian dhol tasha continuum. While maintaining obvious and measurable links with its Indian forebears, Trinidadian tassa nonetheless continues to respond with enthusiasm to innovation in ins trument construction, technique, and (as discussed in chapter three) repertoire. My analysis in this chapter demonstrates ways in which the instruments have been modified as an idiosyncratic response to and facilitation of increasingly virtuosic expectatio ns. These technological innovations suggest tassa is not a mere Indian cultural survival, but a dy namic art form grounded upon Indian aesthetic foundations yet thoroughly Caribbean in its diasporic creativity The analysis of this chapter in concert with t hat of chapter three therefore suggests a coherent musical system within which 1 Richard Wolf reports alternate North Indian pronunciations i ncluding , and Of these, he suggests is of Persian origin and the oldest form of the word in India. In this study, I use the English approximation tasha to refer to this type of drum.
45 tassa develops according to Indo Trinidadian idiogenerative guidelines with little fundamental influence from Afro Trinidadian musical aesthetics. Dhol Tasha in the Bhojpuri Dia spora 2 The drum itself also has Persian roots, evidenced by its appearance in the Tq i Bustn reliefs dating to around 600 CE. 3 Musli m Muharram observances from at least the early 1800s, though its history probably dates to earlier times. For example, iconographic evidence depicts what appears to be a well established tasha performance tradition in the Banaras region circa 1800 (figure 2 1). Contemporary nineteenth century writer Abdul Halim Sharar describes a flourishing tasha tradition in Lucknow in the late 1800s and reports that tasha was played in an ensemble together with the double headed membranophone dhol and hand cymbals jhanjh dhol tasha ensemble had by that time reached a high level of skill and public admiration: In Lucknow bands [,] there are usually three or four large dhols and at least one man, though occasionally two or three, beating tashas. There is also at least one man playing the jhanjh cymbals. The jhanjh can be traced to Persia and neighbouring countries and the tasha is common in and around Egypt, but the dhol is purely Indian. This type of band was introduced into Luck now from Delhi play the tasha require the highest degree of skill. 4 2 A number of European words the French, tasse the Italian tazza the Spanish taza the Catalan tassa the Portuguese taa lso, 3 4 Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Ori ental Culture 151.
46 Sharar infers the music of dhol tasha was martial in character, owing to its military associations. This mar tial association was an apt accompaniment for Muharram processions that sought to remember and indeed embody the historical martyrdom of qualities of dhol tasha were a ppropriate for accompanying Muslim wedding processions as well. 5 Sharar does not mention tasha in Hindu contexts, though it is likely that Hindus were drummers themselves and also hired dhol tasha for weddings and other occasions. Around the time of Sharar important place in Lucknow and the surrounding Bhojupri region, an area that includes the modern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Figure 2 1. Detail of musicians in a Muharram procession Murshidaba d, India. Circa 1800. Among them are tasha and dhol players. Victoria and Albert Museum, IS. 35:23 1961. 5 Ibid., 151 151; 207.
47 Dhol tasha today is particularly widespread in India and parts of Pakistan, with ensemble structure and specific repertoires varying from place to plac e. Wolf suggests that dhol tasha 6 Some groups, howeve r, include multiple tasha drummers who are skilled at interpreting the standard repertoire an d take turns leading the group ( similar to the passing of the cutter role in Trinidadian tassa bands ) 7 The majority of bands are relatively small ensembles that p erform for a variety of religious and social functions, especially Muharram. However, large ensembles are common in some areas. Dhol tasha in Pune, for example, is deployed most spectacularly during the annual Ganesh Chaturthi in which groups numbering mor e than one hundred players accompany the procession of a series of murtis of Ganesh through the city streets. Bands also participate in a massive dhol tasha competition as part of the festivities. 6 Richard Wolf, E mail to author, November 25, 2012. 7 Ibid.
48 Figure 2 2. Dhol section of a dhol tasha proce ssion duri ng Ganesh Chaturthi. Pune, India. Photo courtesy Umesh Kale. Figure 2 3. Tasha drummers perfo rming during Ganesh Chaturthi. Note the thin, flexible sticks and nut and bolt style construction. Pune, India Photo courtesy Umesh Kale. Dhol tasha traditions also developed in places where labor w as exported from India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Sumatra, locals trace the importation of dhol tasha to the late 1700s, coinciding with the arrival of Indian sepoys
49 recruited by the British East In dia Company to man its fort in Bengkulu (Bencoolen). 8 dol tasa locally termed tabut and therefore expectedly martial in character. In rural areas, tabut drumming ensembles may co mprise only one tasa player along with a few dols passionate atmosphere of a full scale tabut festival in Pariaman is created largely by the military sound of teams of drummers p laying up to a hundred large [dols] at once, led by 9 This repertory is built upon a call response structure in which the tasa leads the dol players through a series of rhythm s, each musically representing sections of the Muharram narrative. 10 and dol by heating the drumheads by a flame before performance, much like Trinidadian drummers do with goatskin tassas. 11 The majority of I ndians exported as laborers during the indenture period of 1834 1921 were from the Bhojpuri region. Therefore, the indenture system largely accounts for the export of Bhojpuri culture, including dhol tasha, to many places across the world. In Mauritius, fo r example, tasha drumming is linked closely with Muharram, locally termed Ghoon. Ensembles may have a number of large double headed drums that more closely resemble European marching bass drums than the Indian dhol. These are 8 Margaret J. Kartomi, Musical Journeys in Sumatra (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 78 81. 9 Ibid., 79. 10 Ibid., 91 93. 11 Ibid., 82.
50 played with two padded mallets Also included in these groups are a number of clay tashas covered with goatskin and commonly played with two splayed wooden or cane sticks. The repertoire is repetitive and martial in character, with a lead tasha beating out musical cues and more skilled drummers engaging in limited improvisation. Drummers and spectators also sing prayers and exclamations while drumming. In the West Indies, the most pronounced dhol tasha traditions are expectedly prominent in those former colonies that received large nu mbers of indentured Indians, namely Surinam, Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad. Indo Surinamese tazza features a blending of dhol tasha and European style marching band instruments. Like Trinidadian tassa, a typical Surinamese band, or groep usually features four parts, two tazza s one bass and one timekeeping instrument, either jhanj or a plastic, trap set style tambourine. Surinamese tazza drums are commonly fashioned from repurposed metal canisters using a nut and bolt system to affix a synthetic drumhead, a construction perhaps borrowed from Trinidadian tassa. Unlike tassa, however, tazza drums are quite shallow, more closely resembling the tasha of north India in this respect. Moreover, tazza are generally hung from the waist and played with two thin and very flexible nylon rods without balled tips. The bass drums are taken directly from trap sets or marching band batteries and played with two padded mallets. Some groeps also add trumpet or other European marching band drums including deep toms and quads ( figure 2 4) Repertoire is largely cadential and repetitive in character, though the lead tazza may introduce some improvised patterns.
51 Figure 2 4. Surinamese tazza groep Milan Tazza. Instrumentation includes (from left to right) marching quads, trumpet, snare drum, trap set bass drum, and tazza. Photo used by permission of Milan Tazza. Jamaica received a small number of indentured workers relative to Surinam, Guyana, and Trinidad. Perhaps because of their slighter numbers, Indo Jamaicans have large ly ass imilated into Jamaican society. Most willingly or forcibly converted to Christianity and were encouraged to put aside Indian cultural practices. Nonetheless, many Indo Jamaican traditions persist, including dhol tasha. Like in Trinidad, the ensemble is ref made from clay covered with goatskin. The bass is doubled headed, played with one hand and one stick, and fashioned from slats of wood held together with iron straps like rrel. Ensembles vary in size depending upon function. For Muharram, locally termed Hosay like in Trinidad, ensembles feature one tassa and many basses. Leroy Jagessar, an Indo Jamaican drum builder, explains :
52 In Trinidad, they play, like, five tassa to one bass drum. Here we do it vice versa: five bass drums to one tassa. The tassa is so powerful; it overpowers the bass 12 In this way, the Hosay tassa ensemble more closely resembles the large ensembles used for ta but in Sumatra, though on a much smaller scale. Given the relatively smaller size of the Indo Jamaican community and its degree of assimilation, one finds Afro Jamaicans participating in tassa more commonly than in any oth er Bhojpuri settled locale. Guyan ese tassa has come to closely resemble Trinidadian tassa in terms of construction, technique, and ensemble hierarchy. However, a Guyanese style of tassa that apparently predates this move toward Trinidadian models is referred to as tassa tadjah which is p tomb is called tadjah in Guyana and Trinidad). The tassa tadjah ensemble includes one or two tassas, jhanj, and a large barrel shaped bass drum that is played on one head with a small thin sti ck near the edge and a thick stick in the center. In performance, this drum is planted on the ground with the playing head facing upwards at about waist height in this way precluding ambulation as in virtually all other dhol tasha traditions. The vitality of Trinidadian tassa has certainly impacted the development of regional dhol tasha variants. Peter Manuel suggests that a good deal of the repertoire of Surinamese tazza drummers especially that commonly used to accompany dancing is borrowed from Trinidadi an tassa. 13 It seems Jamaican tassa has also been shaped at least partially by Trinidadian models. Jagessar, for example, admiringly refers to tassa 12 5, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzxFJGR9yjk. 13 Peter Manuel, E mail to author, February 10, 2013.
53 14 Though it is likely that regional dhol tasha variants indeed borrow from Trinidadian t assa to some degree, mimicry alone does not provide a full explanation for the range of differences among Caribbean dhol tasha traditions. A comparative project beyond the scope of the present study would be necessary to sort out the details. Clearly, howe ver, the exchange of musical ideas within the region is now easier than in the past. With the advent of YouTube and other social media sites, access to Trinidadian tassa exemplars has mushroomed since I began studying tassa in 2007. At that time, there wer e very few tassa videos posted on YouTube, whereas today there are hundreds. D rummers who can learn by watching and listening have therefore benefited greatly from these resources. For example, I posted a video of the Trinidadian band up on YouTube in late 2007 and subsequently removed it about a year later. Soon after I had taken down the video, I received an 15 Per haps the most important meeting place for exchanging ideas about tassa, however, happens among individuals within the Indo Caribbean diaspora in North America where Indo Caribbeans from throughout the region (mostly Trinidadians and Guyanese) live side by side, teaching and learning from one another, and often carry this knowledge back to the Caribbean when they return home. 14 15 YouTube user Mattiecoura, YouTube personal message to author, February 17, 2009.
54 Figure 2 5 A four part Trinidadian tassa ensemble circa 1960s. Left to right: Harry Lutchman holding th a thin and slightly curved stick; unidentified tassa player and Soogri m Ramkissoon playing large clay and goatskin tassas; and a young Krishna Soogrim Ram playing a large set of jhal. Photo courtesy Sanjeet Soogrim Ram. Instruments of the Trinidadian T assa Ensemble In Trinidad and Tobago, dhol tasha tradition developed an association with virtuosity more than in any other locale described above, though much of the processional and martia l aspects of the music have remained Trinidadian tassa drumming fe atures a codified four part ensemble consisting of two tassas, one dhol, and one player of jhanjh (or jhal) In the following pages, I discuss the organology of these instruments, describing their traditional morphology and further noting numerous technolo gical innovations employed in their construction today.
55 Tassa A typical Trinidadian tassa band will have at least two tassa drums covering two tassa shell may be co nstructed of metal, clay, or other improvised materials covered with animal or synthetic drumheads. The earliest tassas in Trinidad likely resembled the relatively flat, metal shelled tashas of North India. Raiaz Ali, a St. James Hosay drummer, is known to possess a tassa of this type called a taireen or tureen 16 By the 1950s or perhaps shortly before, Trinidadian tassa shifted toward deeper, more resonant shells fashioned from large clay pots covered with goatskin secured by sinew lacing. A tassa with this kind of clay pot for a shell is commonly referred to as a dabbu 17 The tassa drummers in f ig ure 2 5 each hold a dabbu drum. The Goolcharan family of Chase Village in Carapichaima is the preferred manufacturer of this type of shell as well as all sorts of other pottery items, especially the ubiquitous diyas used for Hindu religious practice (figure 2 6) Clay drums, however, sound of clay and goatskin drums drummers tell me that these are heavy, fragile, and generally inconvenient to maintain compared to contemporary designs. Moreover, the goatskin heads need to be heated about every 16 As will be discussed later, Cedros dr 17 Ibid.
56 A B C Figure 2 6. Mahadeo Goolcharan makes a clay tassa shell. A) Forming clay on a spinning wheel, B) shaping the shell, C) a finished shell ready for the kiln. Chase Village, Trinidad. April 2011. pitch, of the drum during performance. Small fires must be kept burning for this purpose and therefore present certain hazards that ma ny prefer not to deal with (figure 2 7). 18 18 For a succinct description of the process of making clay and goatskin tassa drums, see the following reprint of a 1997 article from the Tor o n to newspaper Indo Caribbean World: Indo Caribbean Music and Culture in Greater Toronto (Toronto, 2010), 87 89.
57 Figure 2 7. Heating clay and goatskin tassa s This is done pitch of the drums. Early 1990s. Photo courtesy Sa njeet Soogrim Ram. Today, pressurized gas canisters, especially freon and propane tanks, are the most common raw materials for tassa shells ( figure 2 8 ). The tops are cut away to leave a lightweight yet strong and durable metal shell that conveniently acce pts a standard sized synthetic snare drum head, usually thirteen or fourteen inches in diameter. Lenny Kumar prefers Remo Pinstripe or Evans G2 drum heads, though many drummers
58 Figure 2 8. A small freon canister (right) and one with the top cut away (l eft ). Figure 2 9. A completed nut and bolt tassa made by Lenn y Kumar. Princes Town, Trinidad. April 2012. Photo by Federico Moratorio.
59 tend to experiment with whatever they can get their hands on. 19 These heads are and style tuning mechanism. Builders use various methods to construct this system, though the most common style consists of a counterhoop fashioned from a steel rod bent and welded into a ring, bolts evenly spaced around the hoop and welded p erpendicularly. As the counterhoop is placed upon the flange of the drumhead, these bolts slide into receiving brackets welded to the shell and are then secured with nuts and washers. With good welds, this system allows for the application of a tremendous amount of pressure upon the drumhead, in turn providing for sustained tuning at higher pitches without the need to heat the head. These metal tassa drums are usually painted a solid color, though more intricate designs both on the inside and outside of the shell are not uncommon. Drumheads made from transparent material, like head (as seen in figure 2 9), for example, allow for the novelty of an airbrushed or otherwise stylish design peaking out from under the playing surface. Though there are competing claims about the origin of the nut and bolt tassa, the late Krishna Soogrim Ram of Malick Tassa Drummers claimed to have been the first to put a sy nthetic head onto a tassa shell, an innovation he arrived at over the course of numerous experi ments. In the 1980s, Soogrim Ram made a drum with an iron shell and a goatskin head affixed with a nut and bolt mechanism. 20 In the early 1990s he commissioned a teakwood dealer to carve a set of lightweight tassa shells. Though h e 19 I organized a trip for Trinidad & Tobago Sweet Tassa to attend the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in November of 2011. As we stepped into the booth set up by Evans, the sales tuning 20 Sanjeet Soogrim Ram, E mail to author, February 6, 2013.
60 first covered these with goatskin, he eventually fitted them with synthetic drumheads secured with nut an d bolt mechanisms. These first of Soogrim are still in use by Malick Tassa Drummers today. One of Soogrim motivations for finding an altern ative to the clay and goatskin drum was to avoid the need to heat the drum over a flame. On one hand it was an inconvenience, especially when he traveled abroad, yet on another, Soogrim complicated by the radiant heat of the clay shell against his body. What was born out of necessity, however, soon became a vehicle for widespread change in tassa practice. It is possible that several drum builders happened upon the nut and bolt idea simultaneously. This type of tensioning syste m, for example, was already in use by Indi an tasha drummers by the 1980s. Moreover, bongo and conga drums as well as a variety o f orchestral and trap set drums, all with mechanical tuning mechanisms were ac cessible models upon which drum builders may have based their experiments with the nut and bolt tassa. Whatever its genesis, however, Malick Tassa Drummers were indeed important in popularizing t his innovation through collaborations with Malick Folk Performers, a folk theatre group that has won Trinidad Village Competition nine times since 1983, and with The Lydian Singers, a semi professional choir performing o peratic and concert repertoire. These appearances resulted in ample publicity both for the band and the drum. Howeve r, So ogrim Ram told me that the nut and bolt tassa was initially received with skepticism:
61 21 When he showed up to play for Hosay, for example, he was push ed out of the formation and told it was not a real tassa. 22 Given Soogrim often lacking in seasoned tassamen), Malick Tassa Drummers became a favorite of event promoters and government agencie s who hired the band for a variety of high profile jobs, many of which were reported in newspapers and broadcast on television. Sanjeet Soogrim Ram recalls that the nut and bolt drum was first used publicly at a performance for Carifesta in 1 992. 23 With the publicity provided by these kinds of events, Soogrim and bolt drum was exposed to a national audience, further fueling its popularity. Bands across the country soon adopted the design. By the late 1990s, the nut and bolt drum funda mentally changed the look and sound of tassa both at home and in the diaspora, especially in New York and Toronto where cold weather wreaked havoc on goatskin drums The popularity of the nut and bolt drum has led some older drummers to lament the loss of the traditional goatskin tassa. Aesthetically, the sound of the synthetic drumhead is indeed harsher than goatskin; drummers often say that goatskin drums while maintaining the kind of high end attack that is characteristic of tassa performance. On a nut and bolt drum, much of the subtle sonic coloration typical of goatskin heads is 21 Krishn a Soogrim Ram, Interview by author, April 29, 2012. 22 Sanjeet Soogrim Ram, E mail to author, February 6, 2013. 23 Ibid.
62 absent. Rather, aesthetic tastes among a new generation of drummers have swung toward increas ingly higher pitched tunings on synthetic heads. Figure 2 10. Members of Trinidad & Tobago Sweet Tassa playing buoy drums C entral Florida October 2009.
63 Figure 2 1 1. Advertisement for Radio 90.5. This is an Indian oriented radio station based in Vals a yn, Trinidad whose broadcast schedule consists primarily of Bollywood hits and Hindu and Islamic religious programs. Note the image of a clay and goatskin tassa. Penal, Trinidad. August 2012. Photo by Olga Ballengee. In an effort to find a combination of materials that can achieve the sweetness of goatskin while maintaining the convenience of synthetic heads, a number of tassa builders have created hybrids of the old and new styles. Some drum builders, for example, began fashioning plastic shells from comm ercial fishing buoys, attaching a synthetic fourteen inch drumhead with nut and bolt mechanisms. Lenny Kumar improved upon this design by replacing the nut and bolt system with nylon rope lacing, a tension mechanism he told me he learned from examining dje mbe drums (figure 2 10) In comparison to a nut and bolt system, nylon rope tension allows for a more even pressure all the way around the head, helping to control overtones and creating a more focused sound. Moreover, the nylon rope aesthetically approxim ates the look of a traditional clay and goatskin drum, an image that remains recognizable in iconographic depictions of tassa despite the virtual ubiquity of nut and bolt drums (f ig ure 2 11). Satya Maraj, a young drummer living in Queens, New York, has gon e in the other direction by adding a nut and bolt mechanism to a clay shell. At only fifteen years of age, he designed and built a metal harness that fits on the underside of the clay shell and attaches to the counterhoop with the customary nut and bolt sy stem. In this way, a synthetic head can be fitted on his clay drum. However, the most successful experiment with alternative materials to my ears is Soogrim shells with a nut and bolt tension system. Although these drums do not precisely approximate the timbre of a goatskin drum, they nonetheless produce a subjectively
64 sweeter sound with reduced overtones and absence of the metallically resonant character of the metal shelled tassa. No matter the materials or method of construc tion, in performance the tassa is groin. Only in Cedros is there an exception to this rule. The traditional tassas from this region are made from clay and shaped like a large shallow pot with a flat bottom (figure 2 12). They call this type of drum paten tureen pe based upon a specific pattern. Unlike tassa elsewhere in Trinidad and Tobago, the paten tureen is hung from the waist by a strip of cloth connected to two braided leather handles extending from the top edge of the hoop (figure 2 13). The repertoire play ed on the paten tureen, however, is essentially the same as that played elsewhere in south Trinidad.
65 Figure 2 12. The underside of a paten tureen owned by Antony Gopee. Cedros, Trinidad. August 2012. Photo by Olga Ballengee.
66 Figure 2 13. Antony Gopee ( right) with Lenny Kumar. Note the tassa strapped around rumming style. Cedros, Trinidad. August 2012. Photo by Olga Ballengee. In all cases, tassa is played with a pair of thin and very flexible sticks called chopes (singu lar chope 24 ) that are traditionally made from supple cane or reed, but today are more commonly constructed from thin fiberglass rods, which are imported by suppliers in Port of Spain for building elaborate masquerade costumes. Where commercially produced fi berglass rods are unavailable or difficult to obtain, improvised materials are often used. Romeo Ragbir, a Trinidadian living in Plantation, Florida, for example, advises his young tassa students to make their own chopes by cutting and sanding the fibergla ss shafts of driveway reflectors. Ragbir also told me he once 24 This is sometimes pronounced and spelled as chob or chobe In all cases the long o sound is used.
67 recycled an old fishing rod, splitting it down the middle and cutting it in half to make two pairs of chopes. Each chope has a ball shaped tip that is generally built using nothing more than mas king tape, though some drummers including myself, as described below will sometimes use other materials for added weight. Usually, a small amount of tape is wound around the tip of the chope to form a core upon which more tape is methodically applied until a dense ball is formed. The handle of the chope is thicker than the shaft to facilitate a better grip. More tape, felt, leather, or other material may be applied to the shaft to build up this thickness as well as for decoration and protection from splinte rs. Fig ure 2 matikor Note the flex of the chope. Aranguez, Trinidad. July 2007.
68 Trinidadian chopes are more complex in construction than sticks used for Indian tasha, which are little more than thin cane or reed, usually with no tip at all. 25 The Trinidadian innovation in chope building is no doubt a product of and a reciprocal catalyst for the virtuosity in Trin idadian tassa technique The speed and precision of Trinidadian repertoire is depende nt upon a well balanced pair of chopes. The added weight of the masking tape ball allows for an increased bounce and therefore more f lex within the stick itself (figure 2 14). Experienced drummers are able to make chopes tailored to their specific tastes, while beginners usually buy them from an individual drum builder or from various stores that deal in musical in struments or Indian products (figure 2 16). Lenny Kumar and his wife Nita are both skilled chope builders who sometimes make chopes in bulk to se ll to these retail outlets (Lenny sometimes sells other instrume nts in this way as well; see figure 2 15). 25 A sketch by Robert Montgomery Marti n in 1838 indicates that the tasha he observed was played with two sticks. These sticks are depicted as having balled ends, though it is unclear whether this indicates tips or handles. Martin, The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India, Vol. III 601.
69 Figure 2 15 Tassa chopes (left) displayed for sa le alongside steel pan sticks. R&S Investments Ltd. Music Store. San Fernando, Trinidad. August 20 12. In my chope building, I have found that I prefer even more weight than is customary on the tip so that the increased bounce makes up for my developing tape around it. L enny, however, found he could not play with my chopes because they were too difficult for him to control. He also commented that they produced a darker and therefore less desirable sound on the tassa. Other developing drummers though were enthusiastic abou t my design since it made the articulation of rolls much easier for them to achieve. The downside, of course, is that the nut tends to break through the tape over time and will eventually fly off the tip of the chope in mid performance if not properly secu red with strong adhesive. Figure 2 16 Jhal and tassa displayed for sale alongside trap sets and cymbals R&S Investments Ltd. Music Store. San Fernando, Trinidad. August 2012.
70 Bass (Dhol) The Trinidadian dhol a double h eaded cylindrical membranophone. In construction, d rum builders use dense woods like mango or cedar that are preferred for their strength and resonance. Logs are roughly hollowed with a chainsaw and finished with hand tools so that the bass shell is approx imately one or two inches thick. Basses are usually finished with varnish or painted a primary color, though some can feature elaborately painted designs. In some cases, bands make or commission an elaborate silk or cloth cover for the bass emblazoned with coverings are more functional than others, however. Photos taken in Charlo Village by Alan Lomax in 1962 depict a bass covered in what seems to be a fitted bed sheet (figure 4 9, A ). 26 In performa connected to the drum at either end. Drummers position the bass at a diagonal to their dankar drops lower tha n the higher pitched tan side, which is played with the other bare hand. The bass can vary greatly in diameter, though most are fifteen or sixteen inches with the diameter of both ends consistent throughout the length of the shell. Older basses, however, f eatured a certain curvature similar to those used by bhangra musicians 1800s, for example, depict a rounded dhol ( figure 2 17 ). 27 26 Alan Lomax, Association for Cultural Equity Photographs and Digital Images, Caribbean 1962 Collection, Ref. No. 01.04.0208: 12 May 1962. 27 Martin, The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India, Vol. III 601.
71 nny Kumar possesses a bass that bears this shape that he believes to be about one hu ndred years old. It is made from slats of wood rather than a hollowed Fig ure 2 17. back and front views of tasa (No. 5). A pair of sticks (presumably chopes though he does not use this term) is drawn to the left of the front tassa view. He also depicts a dhol (No. 2) with a curved shell as well as a bass stick that is tapered from handle to tip. The j hanjh is not depicted here but is mentioned tikara (No. 7) is pictured here as well. Image reproduced from Martin The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India Vol. III (London: 1838) 601.
73 log. A photo of a young Krishna Soogrim Ram, his father Soogrim Ramkees oon, legendary tassaman Harry Lu tchman, and another unidentified drummer similarly depicts a curved shell bass, indicating that this type of drum wa s still in use in the 1960s (figure 2 5 ). Virtually all basses today have straight sides, though Cedros yet again is an exception, with most basses there having a slight curvature, perhaps only by virtue of regional tradition. A B Figure 2 18 A bass made from s lats of woo d built by Quicksilver Tassa Group. A) The bass shell ready for re heading, B) the inside of the drum. Note the wooden rings and two sets of steel crossbars on each end that serve to shape and reinforce the slatted shell. The dark, glutinous material visib le on the inside of the head in the bottom photo is masala. El Dorado, Trinidad. July 2007. Some contemporary bands ha ve experimented with building cylindric al basses from slats of wood (figure 2 18), though the resonance of these has generally been unsati sfactory compared to those built from solid logs. Though this may be a clue as to why the curved bass has fallen out of fashion, it is perhaps due more to the waning of barrels that could be repurposed for drum building. In true Trini fashion, drummers have
74 used improvised materials over the years as well. Kumar Mahabir suggests that metal biscuit tins, the same kind used in early steelbands, were covered with goatskin to make ba sses in the early 20 th century. 28 Similarly, many drum builders have experimented with using oil barrels and other industrial containers. In one of the most innovative experiments, Soogrim Ram built a bass with a shell formed from fiberglass resin that has served Malick Tassa Drum mers very well over the years (figure 2 19 ). Overall, these experiments have failed to gain widespread traction and so the hollowed log archetype remains the most common model for Trinidadian basses. Figure 2 19 Basses belonging to Malick Tassa Drummers. Krishna Soogrim fiberglass bass is on the right. Note the w style lacing and brass tuning rings. All the rings are relaxed on the drum at left, while two rings have been pulled tight on the drum at right. A length of rope l eftover at the end of lacing the 28 1984).
75 drum is commonly braided through the lacings on the lower pitched stick side as in the drum at left. Photo courtesy Sanjeet Soogrim Ram. Figure 2 20 Amar Ramkissoon clean s goatskin for new bass drumheads Dunedin, Florid a. March 2010. No matter the material used to form the drum shell, the heads of the bass are always made from animal skin, usually goat but deer, calf, or other hide is acceptable where available, and affixed with a w type lacing consisting of a single len gth of rope running back and forth from one head to the other (as in figure 2 19 ). To prepare a head for mounting, the skin is shaved, cleaned, stretch ed, and dried for a day or so (figures 2 20, 2 21, and 2 22 ). Once dry, the skin is moistened enough to b e pliable. A hoop of bamboo, cane, non oxidizing metal (like aluminum), or other stiff material is laid upon the damp skin. The hoop is slightly larger than the diameter of the shell and about an inch or so in width. The edges of the skin are then folded u pon the hoop. At this point, a second hoop of smaller width but about the same diameter is laid over the folded edges and by increments is forced under the first hoop. Using this method, the skin becomes crimped between the two hoops and will not pull out when stretched on the drum. This
76 completes one drumhead. After both are finished, they are temporarily attached to the drum so that the moistened skins take the shape of the shell. Fig ure 2 21 After cleaning, the skin is left to dry. Dunedin, Florida. M arch 2010.
77 Figure 2 22 Once dry, the hair is removed from the skin. Sprinkling fine sand onto the goatskin as an abrasive, Rohan Abraham then uses a blunt scraper in this case the butt of an aerosol can to remove the hair. Dunedin, Florida. March 2010. Fig ure 2 23 Lenny Kumar applies masala to the bass drumhead. Princes Town, Trinidad. April 2011. Photo by Rohan Abraham After they are dry, the drumheads are removed and a glutinous mixture known as masala is applied in a tight circular layer to the c enter of the underside of each head (figure 2 23 ). 29 The added mass of this mixture helps control unwanted overtones and as the generic term for a wide variety of Indian sp ice mixtures or pastes. This culinary metaphor rightly evokes a pasty mixture of various recipes. In Trinidad, tar is usually used as a base for masala to which is added softcandle (paraffin wax), castor oil, or 29 Masala is not unique to Trinidadian basses. Similar masala mixtures are applied either on the inside or outside of drumheads on a wide variety of drums in South Asia.
78 other ingredients by preference of the build er, with specific recipes jealously guarded from public knowledge. If the masala is applied too thin, overtones muddy the fundamental, but if the masala is too thick, the instrument lacks resonance. When the masala is applied in proper amounts and the head s are tensioned appropriately, the drum emits pure, well defined tones (though not necessarily of definite pitch). Fig ure 2 24 Shiva Persad uses a belt sander to finish the outside of a bass shell Princes Town, Trinidad. August 2012. Once the masala is applied, the heads are then affixed to the shell using one of two prevailing methods. The first and most common method is to thread the tensioning rope directly through the skin via holes pierced on the inside of the hoop. This provides for an effective though potentially uneven tension if care is not taken to adequately distribute force across the hoop. The second and perhaps more efficient method employs a counterhoop made from a steel rod bent and welded into a ring the same diameter as the drumhead. Then, several small loops of rope are tied to the ring. This
79 tensioning rope is then threaded through the loops instead of through the skin itself as in the previous meth od. As tension is applied, the steel ring more evenly distributes force across the head. 30 In both cases, fine tuning is done by way of adjusting small before a performan ce, and relax them when the drum is stored ( as in figure 2.19 ). Figure 2 25 Lenny Kumar begins the process of lacing the drumheads Princes Town, Trinidad. April 2011. Photo by Federico Moratorio. The bass is played with a dankar on the low pitched boo m side and an open hand on the other higher pitched tan side (or most often referred to simply as the hand 30 This method is essentially the same as that Rainer Polak describes ron jenbe Rainer Polak, Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader ed. Jennifer Post (New York: Routledge, 2006).
80 side). The dankar is a thick wooden stick about one inch in diameter and perhaps a foot in length. It is padded on the tip with masking, duct, or gaf fer tape (or a combination of these), while the handle is covered in tape or cloth to prevent splintering. Lightweight branches of a variety of trees can be used to make the dankar, but old broom handles may also be recycled for this purpose. The dankar us ed by drummers today is straight. In days gone by, however, the dankar tapered from the handle to the tip, with a slight curve at the end. Lenny Kumar recalls learning to play bass with a stick like this, though it was by that time the late 1960s and early 1970s nearly ob solete. Careful inspection of photos of two bass drummers taken by Alan Lomax in 1962, for example, depicts one drummer using a curved stick on the upward facing head of his drum (figure 4 9 ) while the other uses a straight stick to strike his downward facing head ( figure 4 5 ). more resembles that depicted in mica painti ngs of dhol tasha drumming in nineteenth century North India 31 than Trinidadian bass player s of today who all use straight sticks on the downward facing drumhead. Trinidadian drummers with whom I worked were not familiar with the etymology of the word dankar. However, it may be related to the word a seemingly now obsolete term speculation. 32 31 A good example is Add. Or. 408 a mica painting c. 1850 from Banaras held by the British Library. It is reprinted in Frank J. Korom, Hosay Trinidad : Muharram Performances in an Indo Caribbean Diaspora (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 74. 32 Shurreef, Qanoon e Islam Appendix L.
81 Jhal (Jhanjh) Richard Wolf reports that hand cymbals are somewhat uncommon among dhol tasha ensembles in India today. 33 Sometimes another metallic idiophone suc h as a metal gong or maraca like metal shaker is used in this time keeping role. When hand cymbals are used in dhol tasha, however, they are properly termed jhanjh the same word Sharar uses in his nineteenth century description of the ensemble. Though Tri nidadian drummers invariably recognize the word jhanjh, virtually all drummers I have encountered refer to the cymbals as jhal a term that implies a smaller set of cymbals like those used for chowtal singing. 34 ( The cymbals are often referred to simply as ) An explanation for this shift in terminology perhaps lies in the ever shrinking size o f the cymbals themselves. Mid twentieth century photos of tassa bands often depict cymbals of about twelve to fourteen in ches in diameter (as in figure 2 5 and 4 9 ); Lenny Kumar even remembers learning to play with a set of hi hat cymbals when he was young. These indeed would have been big compared to the small size of jhal today which are rarely larger than about six inches in diameter, though some, like Southside Tassa based in Cedros, use an even smaller set of only about five inches. Likewise Romeo Ragbir uses a small lightweight set of kartal ( manjeera ) for his very young tassa students who have trouble holdin g a heavier set of jhal. The possibility that the name changed to follow the instruments, however, is largely speculative as many older drummers do not use the term jhanjh and quite a few younger players, including the knowledgeable Mukesh 33 Richard Wolf, E mail to autho r, November 24, 2012. 34 Peter Manuel, E mail to author, October 2, 2012.
82 reen Tassa in Santa Cruz, use the word jhanjh to describe tassa cymbals of any size. That being said, Emory Cook, who made the first substantial audio captured on tape in Tunap una in the mid use the term jhanj. Whatever the differences in terminology, cymbals are certainly much smaller today than they were in the 1960s. Along the lines of the advent of the nut and bolt tassa and fiber glass chopes, smaller cymbal size seems yet another innovation aimed to facilitate increased virtuosity given that a smaller cymbal set makes it easier to play fast passages. Moreover, smaller cymbals also produce a more controlled sound in contrast to lar ge cymbals whose sound spectra have greater potential to muddy the The cymbals of the jhal set are most often constructed from solid brass sheets, cut and hammered to shape around one centimeter in thickness. Unlike the conical
83 Figure 2 26 Kissoon Bachan holdin g his jhal. Chagaunas, Trinidad. August 2012. cymbals used for trap set, jhal are flat with only a small crown in the middle through which a hole is drilled for the addition of handles. The handles are made from cylindr ical pieces of wood or PVC pipe a few inches in length and no more than an inch in diameter. They are attached to the cymbals by cloth or sinew wrapped around the handle, passed through the hole, and tied in a knot on the other side.
84 Figure 2 27 The aut hor playing jhal for a wedding. St. M adeline, Trinidad. August 2012. Photo by Heather Hall. Hierarchy within the Tassa Ensemble Tassa repertoire calls for four parts played on at least four instruments: one lead jhal. In Hosay performances, there is always one cutter (though this role may be passed among a number of capable players), but there are usually many players on each of the other parts. For weddings, parties, c ompetitions, and other contexts, the ensemble usually consists of only one player on each part. No matter the number of players or context of performance, the role of each part remains the same.
85 Figure 2 28 Music for the entrance of the dulaha (groom) a nd dulahin (bride). Weddings usually call for an ensemble of only four players. This, however, was a special occasion: the wedding of a bandmate of T&T Sweet Tassa Carapachaima, Trinidad. April 2011. Photo by Rohan Abraham. The jhal is essentially a time keeping instrument. According to the drummers I talked to, there are no codified parts for the jhal to play; one must simply keep time in a musical way, ideally with emphasis on the upbeat using the sizzle technique. The bass also keeps time and, in conjun ction with the jhal and foul, grounds the ensemble in a distinct groove. Though bass lines can be quite similar from hand to hand, there is generally enough variation so that knowledgeable listeners can identify a hand from hearing the bass alone. Lenny K umar also regards the bass as a melodic instrument given that it is capable of producing two distinct, though indefinitely pitched tones. The quasi melodic nature of the bass is perhaps most conspicuous in the rhythm called w ed ding hand and some aspects of Hosay repertoire. The foul plays non improvisatory ostinato patterns that also serve a time keeping purpose. Because the foul parts are generally easy to remember and play well, less skilled drummers are most often relegated to the foul role during
86 per formance. Moreover, if a part of the ensemble needs to be omitted for any reason (because someone is arriving late to a gig, for example), the foul is excluded. This is not to say that the foul is unimportant. Quite to the contrary, it is the rhythmic an d temporal cohesion of the foul, bass, and jhal that provides a firm foundation for the cutter to improvise. The cutter is the musical leader of the ensemble. The cutter plays taals specific patterns that signal the band to start, stop, or move between s ections of music. Moreover, the cutter improvises a near constant solo throughout any given performance, generating musical interest through innovative, varied, and unexpected se of the cutter. Therefore, the most experienced player in the group usually occupies the cutter role. In some bands, the cutter and foul parts are always relegated to the same players. Many accomplished bands, however, will have a designated leader who gives the taals but will also allow each tassa player a chance to cut. As the cutter role is passed on, the previous cutter takes up the foul. Typically bands will have only two tassa players, though some may have more. In any case, only one may take the cutter role at a given time while the rest play foul. Playing Technique In the following pages, I describe performance techniques for each instrument of the tassa ensemble. This section should familiarize the reader with the demands of tassa performance and prepare for more in depth discussion of repertoire in chapter three.
87 Tassa Good tassa playing begins with proper stick technique. The most common grip involves placing the shaft of the chope between the third and fourth fingers, with the butt of the ch ope passing through the space between the thumb and index finger and the space between the middle and ring fingers. The arms are held with the elbows bent at about 90 with hands about level with the navel and a few inches apart. Knuckles of opposite hands should face toward each other. In this configuration, the tip of the chope should rest just above the center of the drum. The chope strikes the head with a twisting wrist motion. In Cedros, some drummers use this grip with the non dominant hand only while using what resembles a traditional snare drum grip with the dominant hand. In this Cedros specific grip, the chope also passes through the fingers in the same fashion, yet the palm faces upward with the chope striking the drum horizontally rather than ver tically. In any case, the shaft of the chope should always touch the rim of the drum for each stroke. This allows the chope to flex so that the tip bounces off of the drumhead. With this basic technique, drummers can produce a variety of strokes. The soun d most closely associated with tassa is the multiple bounce roll that has been an attractive feature of tasha performance since at least the mid 19 th century when tasha is to beat it with such rapidity that one stroke cannot be distinguished from 35 This technique is essentially an elaboration of the basic stroke I have described above with the tip of the chope allowed to bounce multiple times on the drumhead for each stroke. With controlled pressure applied with well balanced chopes, 35 Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture 151.
88 these multiple bounce strokes played in succession produce a roll similar to a snare drum buzz roll. When only one chope plays a multiple bounce stroke and the other plays a single s troke (as in the foul for nagar a ), the result is similar to a snare drum drag rudiment. Most beginning drummers are far too eager to develop their rolling technique and often become frustrated at their slow progress. Despite the show stopping character of a good roll, sub par drummers tend to rest on their rolling ability while ignoring the essential development of rhythmic and tonal variation typical of the best cutters. The hallmark of good cutting is standing out from the crowd, while the hallmark of go od foul is staying in time and allowing the cutter to shine. Drummers can achieve tonal variation on tassa by strategically placing their strokes closer to the edge of the drumhead for a thinner, slightly higher pitched tone (in my transcriptions in chap ter three and Appendix B, these edge strokes are indicated by a triangular notehead) and close to the center for a fuller, slightly lower pitched tone (indicated by a standard notehead) Many foul patterns are played on the edge so that the cutter can use the more powerful center tone for improvisation. Some foul patterns, like that for nagara and dingolay for example, use both the edge and center to produce characteristically tonal accompanime nts. Bass hand and used to play the bass. This leaves the other hand free to play upon the tan side. The boom side, as the name implies, is relatively low pitched and the hand side is relatively high pitched. There are two basic strokes that can be played with either the dankar or hand: open and closed. For the stick side, the open stroke consists of a single strike to the center of the head with the edge of the tip of the dankar. The closed stroke
89 is achieved by lightly pressing the dan kar into the head. For the hand side, the open stroke consists of a single strike with the palm on the edge of the head so that the fleshy base of the thumb takes the brunt of the force. It is important to emphasize that this stroke should land primarily o n the palm; players often stretch their fingers outward and away from the head so that they do not muffle and therefore interfere with the stroke. The closed stroke on the hand side, however, is characterized by simply placing the palm on the head while al lowing the fingers to touch, therefore muting the ringing of the drum. On both the boom and hand sides, if closed strokes are used, they are virtually always played in quick succession after an ope n stroke. In other words, the closed strokes are used to rh ythmically mute the ringing head to keep it from muddying the sound of the bass and the ensemble overall. The proper placement of closed strokes contributes to the precision and therefore sweetness of an ensemble. The exception that proves the rule of clos ed strokes immediately following open strokes is evident in strokes on the hand side that are meant to sound like a light thud rather than a resonant tone. Drummers will often use only a light tap of the fingers to execute this stroke while others may use the their full palm. I notate these strokes with an x shaped notehead. Jhal Tassa repertoire demands a tremendous amount of stamina from all players, especially the shoulders. However, proper jhal technique requires both support from and constant flexing of the biceps. Over the course of an extended performance session, the rather
90 weighty jhal th erefore can tire even the most seasoned players. In my experience, jhal is therefore the most difficult instrument to play well for this very reason. Jhal may be played either in a horizontal or vertical position. In the horizontal position, one cymbal re mains in an upward facing position while the other cymbal is used to strike downward upon it. While this technique is useful for beginning players, it limits development of more advanced technique. By contrast, the more common vertical position allows for greater freedom of movement for each cymbal, therefore facilitating more advanced technique including some variation and improvisation when appropriate. with successi ve strokes. The cymbals should not be allowed to dangle from the straps. keeping the straps from loosening. The handle of each cymbal is bifurcated by the strap; the fingers should grasp the handle at about this midpoint with the end of the handle butting against the fleshy part of the outside edge of the palm. This grip will prevent slippage of the handle and allow for the kind of secure yet loose grip needed for fast and ac curate performance. There are three fundamental jhal strokes, though players I have talked to generally do not have specialized names for them. Rather than break down rhythmic patterns into individual strokes, players regard rhythms as complete phrases or repetitive grooves. For analysis sake, however, I refer to the three fundamental jhal strokes as the crash, sizzle, and tap. The crash consists of striking the cymbals together and immediately pulling them s in the air. The sizzle consists of
91 against one another. This sizzle is then resolved by sliding the cymbals closed with a pressed staccato. The vast majority of jha l patterns use a combination of the crash and sizzle. The tap is an advanced and rarely used technique but one worthy of mention here. This simply consists of tapping the edges of the cymbals together to create a pinging metallic sound. I have seen this te chnique used to create rhythmic and improvisational interest, primarily in the context of staged shows and competitions. In everyday performance contexts, this technique is rarely present. Cognates with Creole Drumming Ensembles One evening I sat with Len ny Kumar looking over photos and listening to tassa recordings Alan Lomax had made during a trip to Trinidad in 1962. I wanted to see if Lenny knew any of the people in the photos or could clarify some points about the music. Eventually, we came to an audi o clip of Lomax interviewing a drummer named Isaac, now deceased yet in his day a well known tassaman from north Trinidad: Isaac: My age is about forty two. I started to play drums since I was about ten Lomax: And what kind of drums do you call these? Isaac: Lomax: Isaac: is a bassman, a bullerman and I am the cutter; including a jhanjh, a Lomax: And the other drum? What do you call that? The other kettle drum? [Indicates the second tassa.]
92 Isaac: The same, tassa. It is the same tassa, but he is a bullerman You see? I am the cutter. 36 quality speakers on my laptop computer were at full vo lume, though the audio clip was together. know what a bullerman whispering. As it turns out, buller is derogatory slang used throughout the Anglophone Caribbean such since at least 1987, 37 though it has probably been in common use for much longer. 38 Lenny suggested that Isaac was trying to trick Lomax, obscuring the truth from this outsider who came out of nowhere and clearly displayed a certain naivety in talking about Trinidadian music and culture. I chalked it up as a mystery to be solved and continued liming with my friends. 39 36 Al Equity Sound Recordings, Caribbean 1962 Collection, T1088.0, Track 14: Charlieville, Trinidad: 6 May 1962. My transcription with italics added for emphasis. 37 Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (Mona, Jamaica: The University of the West Indies Press, 1996), 120. 38 See, for example, Interrogating Caribbean Mas culinities: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses ed. Rhoda Reddock (Mona, Jamaica: The University of the West Indies Press, 2004). 39 jokingly suggest that liming is a national pastime (and I t end to agree).
93 Only after I had returned home a few months later did it begin to make sense. I was re The Steelband Movement an excellent musi c o nationalist history of steel pan th at I had not touched in years but which had initially propelled me into the study of Trinidadian music in graduate school. I had forgotten all search of my own inspiration while writing up my research. As I read, I happened upon the following passage concerning the history of tamboo bamboo, the bamboo stamping tube ensemble from which steel pan emerged in the 1930s: Trinidadians had developed tamboo bamboo bands with a dist inctive format by the early twentieth century. [ Donald ] Hill describes three basic bamboo instruments the boom foul and cutter and suggests that they had roles similar to those of the three different sizes of drums common in Afro Trinidadian drum ensemb were by no means standardized. For example, Lennox Pierre, a solicitor who was an early advocate of the steelband movement, describes a three foot boom; a buller and fuller (foul), which consis ted of pieces of the same length but with different numbers of joints; and a cutter that was tapped with a stick and, when a band was stationary, was also struck on the ground. 40 Though I had spent time studying calypso, my narrow focus researching Indo Ca ribbean music had clearly come at the cost of being rather ignorant of traditional Afro Trinidadian musics. Upon reading this passage, however, I was immediately struck with the commonalities between tassa and tamboo bamboo. As I studied more closely, I be gan to realize that the parallels between tassa and Creole drumming ensembles are indeed compelling. like searching for a needle in a haystack. The task is especially compli cated in the 40 Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement 23 24.
94 Caribbean region where European, African, Asian, Amerindian, and subsequent Creole languages form a linguistic complexity that defies deconstruction. Nonetheless, there are some commonalities that cut across linguistic and political boundaries One similitude relevant to the study at hand is drum nomenclature. The term kata is a common Afro Caribbean drum name. Cata in Cuban rumba refers to a timekeeping instrument and the pattern that it plays. Kata similarly refers to various aspects of percu ssive timekeeping in Haiti. 41 The related term ka is used for lead drums in St. Lucia as well as in Guadeloupean gwo ka 42 These examples are but a few in which the kata role provides either a guiding musical timeline or serves as a lead drum, signaling musi cal cues and perhaps improvising solo sections to accompany kata derives apparently from the Ki Kongo speaking Antilles the similarity of [ kata ] (both in sound and meaning) to the English word cutter 43 One finds, for example, a lead cutter in Carriacouan Big Drum and a lead cutter drum in the ensemble used to play kalenda for stickfights in Trinidad. Traditional Afro Caribbean drumming in Carriac ou and Trinidad feature numerous common alities thanks to a shared history of francophone settlement 44 41 Gage Averill, A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey: Popular Music and Power in Haiti (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 217n; 239 240. 42 Lorna McDaniel, The Big Drum Ritual of Carriacou (Gainesville, FL: Univer sity Press of Florida, 1998), 88. 43 Averill, A Day for the Hunter 217n. 44 With the Cedula of Population in 1783, The King of Spain encouraged French planters from neighboring islands to settle in Trinidad, luring them by grants of land proportional to the number of slaves they brought with them. By the time the British took Trinidad in 1797, French Creole speaking slaves formed the majority of the Trinidadian population. Because of this influx of francophone slaves, so me aspects of Afro Trinidadian folk music came to closely resemble that of the French West Indies. During
95 boula another common drum name in the Caribbean, especially in francophone or formerly francophone re gions. Haitian Rada batteries include a supporting boula drum. Gaudeloupean gwo ka features at least two boulas accompanying the lead drum. Similarly, Carriacouan Big Drum ensembles feature two boulas accompanying the lead cutter. Trinidadian kalenda ensem bles share a common heritage with Big Drum and therefore the two are strikingly similar, each featuring barrel shaped goatskin drums called buller (or boula) and cutter. These drums perform similar roles in each ensemble as well, supporting and leading res pectively. Lorna McDaniel, who has extensively studied Carriacouan Big Drum, suggests that boula is an Anglicization of the now obsolete fula 45 a term she suggests is derived not from African roots, but from the French refouler ive 46 This claim is difficult to accept, however, given the prevalence of the word boula throughout the francophone Caribbean. Perhaps a better explanation is that boula and fula or as it is often spelled and pronounced in Trinidad, foul at one time existed alongside each other either as synonymous or separate but related roles. This could explain the presence of both a buller and foul Trinidadian tamboo bamboo. Indeed, kalenda ensembles served as an important musi cal model for tamboo bamboo, and today at least boula and foul seem to be the colonial period, Carriacou was first settled by the French, changed hands a few times, and eventually was ceded to the British in 1783. 45 McDaniel, The Big Drum Ritual of Carriacou 88. 46 Dictionnaire Franais Anglais (Paris: Librairie Laro usse, 1983), 393.
96 synonymous within the kalenda ensemble. 47 If foul is synonymous or at least related to buller, then it makes perfect sense that Isaac would refer to the supporting tassa as a buller tassa ensemble from an exogenous Creole model. What does it mean when nomenclature of one ensemble is mapped upon another? This kind of transference indicates at the very least a recognition of some kind of similarity between the two ensembles. Steelband innovators of the 1940s and 1950s, for example, borrowed a naming scheme from European art music to describe their instruments. Gone were the ping pongs, cuff booms, and gr umblers characteristic of the early days of pan, these replaced by more refined basses, tenors, cellos, and guitars. 48 T he adoption of century trajectory toward ment and a respectable symbol of Trinidadian nationalism. Ideas about ensemble hierarchy were already in place by the time names were changing therefore, the identification of pan bands with Western orchestras strengthened ensemble stratification and led to important innovations in the arrangement of steelband repertoire in ensuing decades Therefore while the ensemble was not restructured to suit an imposed nomenclature the native divisions within the na s cent steelband were reinforced by identification paradigm 47 See for example: Errol Hill, The Trinidad Carnival: Mandate for a National Theatre (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1972), 46 Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (New York: Routledge, 1998), 959. 48 Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 51.
97 I suspect the mapping of Cr eole names upon tassa catalyzed a similar strengthening of the four part nineteenth century dhol tasha certainly indicates that tassa, dh ol, and jhanjh were commonly played in an ensemble in the past, though he makes no clear reference to a differentiation between roles corresponding to Trinidadian cutter and foul. Both Richard Wolf and Peter Manuel confirm that contemporary dhol tasha gro ups commonly comprise a four part ensemble, though these roles especially those co rresponding to Trinidadian foul and jhal are perhaps not as essential as they are in Trinidad. 49 With this precedent in mind, it would be wrong to assume that the coalescence of the contemporary tassa ensemble was dependent upon Afro Trinidadian models. Nonetheless, it is possible that along with borrowed Creole nomenclature came ideas about drumming hierarchy that reinforced the multilayered ness of the tassa ensemble. In kal enda drumming tassa musicians perhaps found an intriguing corollary to their own music, and therefore adopted the terms cutter and foul (and also buller, though this term is obsolete in tassa drumming today) as these roles became distinct and standardize d within the tassa ensemble. As will be discussed in the following chapter, the music of tassa itself remains rooted in Indian style and repertoire and bears little overt Afro Caribbean influence. The borrowing of a naming scheme, however, importantly sugg ests that tassa did not develop in a vacuum. 49 Richard Wolf, E mail to author, November 25, 2012; Peter Manuel, E mail to author, November 24, 2012.
98 Summary The Indian dhol tasha. In Trinidad, t he ensemble retains the four part, three instrument configuration of its Indian forebears, w hile the manner of playing each instrument has also remained large ly the same As will be discussed in chapter five, the relative isolation of Indian communities, both physically and socially, functioned in part to preserve links with Indian traditions. As such, Indo Trinidadian musical activities including tassa, remained fundamentally untouched by Afro Creol e musical influence. The instruments and technique of the tassa ensemble therefore reflect this isolation yet simultaneously suggest an inner creativ ity, an idiogenerative impuls e largely unreliant on exogenous input. As d escribed in the analysis above however tassa is certainly not a static object, but a dynamic ensemble that responds to innovation while retaining a core set of distinctly Indo Tri nidadian characteristics As my analysis shows, each instrument features some degree of technical modification from its original form. While some of these changes were prompted by necessity, others appear to have been idiosyncratic responses to and facilit ators of increasingly virtuosic technique and repertoire. First, the shrinking size of the jhal allowed for faster and cleaner performance Comparison of indication of this. S econd, the use of fiberglass chopes is another innovation aimed at developing more durable and resp onsive sticks. And finally, the nut and bolt tassa similarly provides for durability and convenience yet also facilitates a transformed aesthetic that tends toward tuning of higher pitched drums, mor e volume, and, without the need to heat the drum, longer performances. With these modifications also came
99 corollary innovations in technique. The speed and virtuosity of contemporary Trinidadian tassa simply could not be achieved with the resources available to tassa drummers just forty or fifty years ago. In the following chapter, I continue discussion of tradition and change in tassa performance practice by way of musical analyses of common repertoire.
100 CHAPTER 3 REPERTOIRE Since tassa is a Caribbean musical phenomenon one might assume a certain degree of fusion with Afro Trinidadian musics. Yet, there is little evidence to suggest musical creolization at anything more than surface level in tassa repertoire Ana lysis of common repertoire on the contrary reveals that tassa drumming draws upon an eclectic mix of source material adapted within a cohesive Indo Trinidadian musical scheme characterized most importantly by, as discussed in chapter two, instrument morpho logy and ensemble stratification; and as examined below, consistent fo rmal structure and compositional strategies. These aspects were distilled from and continue to be informed by reified fragments and reconstructions of North Indian musical style as they developed in isolation from India. 1 In this chapter, I provide musical analysis that points to tassa drumming as existing within an insular musi cal system (though not an all together closed one) that is at once removed from its Indian ancestry and in many ways detached from Afro Creole musical influence. Proceeding from sses aspects of the Trinidadian experience in diaspora. 2 While Indians were relegated to insular, rural communities throughout the colonial period, many traditions were preserved, 1 John Blacking, How Musical Is Man? (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1973), 89. 2 Ibid.
101 transformed, and created anew without a gr eat deal of outside motivation. Upon emergence from industrial segregation in rural areas throughout the 1900s, Indo Trinidadians continued to be relegated to outsider status. Therefore, the musical ins ularity evident in tassa reflects a broader notion of Indo Trinidadian cultural isolation. The transformative, idiogenerative processes inherent in this socio cultural sequestration discussed in more depth in later chapters, gave rise to a multilocal iden tity at once Indian and Caribbean, insider and outsider that continues to inform Indo Trinidadian belonging General Characteristics of Tassa Repertoire Tassa repertoire is surprisingly diverse despite conventional melodic or harmoni c capabilities. Though I leave more detailed description that the core of tassa repertoire lies in accompaniment for Hindu weddings and Muslim Hosay the local term f focused entirely upon wedding repertoire. Therefore, the dynamic and historically significant music associated with Hosay is largely beyond the scope of the present study. 3 As such, this chapter aims to su rvey tassa repertoire as commonly performed during the three day set of Hindu wedding rituals. material contributed by the four instruments of the ensemble. Therefore, hands ar e distinguished from one another according to the variations within these layers. The 3 The most comprehensive co verage of Hosay tassa includes the following: Korom, Ho say Trinidad ; John Bishop and Frank J. Korom, Hosay Trinidad VHS (Documentary Educational Resources, 1998); Manuel,
102 bass, jhal, and foul work together to create a foundational groove upon which the cutter contributes both hand ns. In general, there are three musical units that comprise the formal structure of tassa hands. Two of these, theka and taal 4 are always present, while the third, barti is less common. I n Hindustani classical music a skeletal articulation of the tl the rhythmic cycle of a given composition In Trinidadian tassa, however, the theka is simply the basic composite ostinato of a hand, usually in duple or quadruple meter. In relation to theka, the barti of tassa drumming is a contr asting, usually short section of music that commonly features rhythmic and metric articulation distinctly different from its corresponding theka. Chowbola is the most common hand that features both theka and barti and the only such hand described at length below. As Manuel points out, the closest analog to theka/barti is found in a number of Indo Caribbean singing genres. Kabir bhajan and thumri for example, feature distinct theka and barti sections as do the corresponding tassa hands derived from these ge nres. 5 Though cognate with the Hindi term tl a tassa taal h as nothing to do with the kind of prescribed metrical cycles of Hindustani classical music. Rather, the taal of Trinidadian tassa is essentially a cadential rhythmic sequence that cues the ensem ble to start, stop, change tempo, or transition into barti or another hand. Many hands also incorporate taals that do not serve any transitional purpose but function only to inject 4 tl However, Trinidadians often render the spellin I retain this spelling here for clarity. 5 A demonstration of the theka and barti sections of kabir bhajan and thumri singing can be seen on Manuel, Tassa Thunder
103 all others as appropriate times. As the cutter breaks taal, the bass and jhal inter rupt their ostinato patterns and join with rhythms specific to the taal. The foul often also joins in unison with the cutter, but may in many cases continue to play the basic foul pattern. There are a handful of all purpose taals that are appropriate for a variety of hands (see the end taals for nagara and chutney, for example). However, many hands include specific taals that are relatively standardized. A number of hands also include more than one distinct taal (as in nagara, for example). Hands are rare ly played singly; only in exhibition or in the recording studio are hands artificially isolated from one another. Rather, they are usually played together as a suite. Though there are certain conventions as to how hands should progress tikora, for example, is often framed as a welcoming or introductory hand and therefore often played first there are no hard and fast rules that dictate how hands are ordered within such a set. An important exception is in music for Hosay where the sequence of hands is intende d to accentuate the Karbala narrative (figure 3 1) 6 Drummers often talk of t hem. Some drummers suggested to me that the typical number of rhythms in a suite is five (though this is not necessarily true based upon my observations), therefore drummers of long ago must have seen a similarity in the number of rhythms and fingers 6 Korom, Hosay Trinidad 167.
104 on th indeed cognate with the Hindi hath a term that Manuel reports is used by North Indian n agara drummers to refer to the individual rhythms they play. 7 To avoid confusion, I Figure 3 1. Drummers accompany a tadjah procession du ring Hosay. St. James, Trinidad. January 2009. Photo by Nicholas Laughlin. The repertoire of commonly played tassa hands is quite small, perhaps no more than fifteen. Inexperienced drummers are limited to only about five or six, while veteran drummers claim to know upwards of thirty. These hands fall into t wo broad emic categories: those played for Hosay and those played for Hindu weddings. While Hosay 7 Peter Manuel, E mail to author, March 16, 2009.
105 hands are (or should be) exclusively performed for Hosay, the latter categorization is perhaps a bit misleading. In reality, these hands are appropriate for a ny number of functions birthday parties, Carnival, political events, etc. but receive their most widespread use as accompaniment for the three days of Hindu wedding rituals. In the past, tassa was also commonly performed for a number of Hindu life cycle ce remonies. This has largely fallen out of fashion, though bands are sometimes hired to accompany cremations and funerals. observance. Seasoned drummers suggest that the performance of Hosay hands in any context outside of Hosay is disrespectful. Nonetheless, a number of bands often play Hosay hands at weddings, a practice that stakeholders in tassa tradition look upon with disgust. According to Sanjeet Soogrim Ram, I was taught that playing H osay hands at weddings is wrong because Hosay is Hassan. So it is [about] funeral and war. Also vice versa, one cannot play wedding hands at Hosay. Today it is common for many tassa dru mmers to be playing Hosay hands at weddings. 8 In this sense, Hosay hands represent the only sacred category of tassa repertoire. Though tassa is played for Hindu functions, the drums and the music they provide are not necessarily sacred. Wedding hands in some hands can serve in both capacities. Breakaway hands are frenetic, up tempo hands like nagara, dingolay, chutney, and calypso hand meant to facilitate dancing at specific points during the thre e days of Hindu wedding rituals. Played at walking tempo, 8 Sanjeet Soogrim Ram, E mail to author, April 28, 2013.
106 breakaway hands (especially calypso) may occasionally be used for processional accompaniment during matikor or lawa (see below). However, the processional hand par excellence is the aptl y named wedd ing hand a complex and regal hand with emphatic bass motives. All of these wedding hands are also common in a number of other contexts. One might hear breakaway hands played for parties, celebrations, or even as entertainment in West Indian nightclubs in Florida, while wedding drum in particular might be used to welcome local and international dignitaries during political rallies or national events. So called classical hands may also be played during weddings either as introductory hands or for entertainme nt during particularly tedious parts of the ritual. Despite their colloquial classification, classical hands have little to do with North Indian classical music. Rather, they are by and large esoteric adaptations of rhythms used in musics of Bhojpuri herit age common in the Caribbean, especially Indo Caribbean vocal genres, like thumri druphad tillana and kabir bhajan among others, and from vernacular North Indian metric schemes as is the case with chaubola and khemta hands. Owing to their relative comple xity, most classical hands are not common in the repertoire of beginning and average drummers. However, there are some classical hands, like tikora and chaubola, for example, that are among the most common hands (though they primarily serve as introductory music leading to other hands). These two overlapping categories wedding and classical hands comprise the bulk of tassa repertoire. Notes on Musical Analysis and Transcription Tassa repertoire deserves a great deal of analytical attention though very litt le work has been devoted to such an endeavor. Among ethnomusicologists, Peter Manuel
107 has heretofore made the greatest contribution in this regard based upon his work with drummers in Trinidad, Guyana, and New York. 9 With his depth of knowledge regarding No rth Indian musical traditions, Manuel provides insightful comparisons that shed light on both musical and socio historical trends. I am grateful to him for sharing materials and conversations that have aided in my own analysis. Our collective work, however is only the first small step toward formally examining the depth, abundance, and profound vibrancy of tassa repertoire. Musical analysis provides a quantitative framework from which to scrutinize stylistic continuity. In this way, my analysis below, in d first to identify a loosely normative structural pattern as manifest in existing repertoire and as informs composition of new hands. Analyses of individual hands in historical and contemporary perspective secondly address is sues related to creolization, innovation, and creativity across the repertoire. Though I aim for breadth, I also work from a relatively small, though I think representative, sample of tassa recordings for my analyses. The first substantial recordings of Tr inidadian tassa were released by Emory Cook in 1956. Alan Lomax subsequently recorded tassa during his tour of Trinidad and Tobago in 1962. These two resources offer important points of comparison for contemporary tassa practice. I also draw upon commercia lly available tassa recordings released by Country Boys Tassa Group, Caribel Fun Lovers Tassa Group, San Juan Youngstars Tassa Group, and a 9 Tales, Tunes, and Tassa Drums For more on the relation of tassa to other Indo Caribbean and North Indian musics, see also Caribbean Folk Music from Ora Re constructing Place and Space: Media, Culture, Discourse and the Constitution of Caribbean Diasporas ed. Kamille Gentles Peart and Maurice L. Hall (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2012), 53 72; Manuel, singing
108 these are cataloged in more detail in the discography in Appendix A ). Addit ionally, I have made numerous audio and video recordings in the field that have aided my analysis. The bulk of my field recordings focus on the music of Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa, a group founded and led by my tassa teacher Lenny Kumar, with branches in south Trinidad and Tampa, Florida. Appendix D comprises twelve audio examples (as embedded objects) as performed by T&T Sweet Tassa. Objects D 1 through D 7 are an excerpt from a larger suite of hands. For ease of listening, I have separated them into individual audio tracks. When played consecutively, however, the resulting twenty one minutes of audio is representative of how a suite of hands is performed in practice. Objects D 8 through D 12 were recorded individually in a relatively controlled record ing environment in August 2012. For the referenced with the audio examples upon which each transcription is based. However, the transcription excerpts in this chapter as well as the full transcription s in Appendix B should be regarded as general roadmaps rather than definitive arrangements of each hand. Indeed, t here is no authoritative arrangement of any tassa hand and certainly one will hear striking continuities. Despite the lack of a strictly normative canon, there is however general consensus among drummers about the skeletal f orms of each component of this communally maintained repertoire. Individual drummers and bands may routinely practice variants of this or that hand, yet their variation does not deviate so much from the norm as to preclude recognition of the repertoire by their musical
109 peers. With such a tradition of variation, it is difficult to create a transcription that reflects the dynamism of the repertoire. As is often the case with many non Western musics, tassa is difficult to quantify using Western musical notatio quadruple meter, downbeats are frequently ambiguous. Moreover, the metric disagreements between and often within sections of music (taals in particular) stymie efforts to impose a Western sense of regularity upon the music. That being said, conventions of the repertoire frequently establish a sense of equilibrium (or dis equilibrium as the case may be) in patterned ways. The notation of the micro timing of particular strokes is also problematic. Thi s is perhaps most obvious in the pervasive repertoire. For example, the default eighth note foul pattern is virtually always swung, even if the cutter or bass may be sound ing non swung rhythms. This kind of rhythmic discrepancy is difficult to notate with clarity. The reader is therefore advised to regard my transcriptions as best understood when used in conjunction with provided and referenced audio examples. I have also c reated a notational scheme, based upon modified Western percussion notation, to convey idiosyncratic tassa techniques. The notation key in Appendix B should aid the reader in understanding this scheme. Variation and improvisation is an important part of ta ssa performance. Bass and jhal players frequently introduce a modicum of variation in their ostinato parts (though the foul should and virtually always does not), the cutter by definition engages in virtuosic improvisation throughout any given performance Therefore, it is virtually impossible to convey a normative performance experien ce using conventional notation
110 As such, I omit variation and improvisation from my transcriptions, though I often provide limited transcription of idiosyncratic cutting pass ages played virtually the same by every cutter. Folk and Classical Hands As mentioned above, many tassa hands have entered the repertoire by way of adaptation from Indian and Indo Caribbean musical source material. In this section, I describe four of the se hands: tikora, chaubola, nagara, and wedding hand. This is but a small sample of a great many hands that easily fall into this category. I limit my discussion to these four as they are among the most common. Though some hands like nagara, wedding hand, and others most likely coalesced as part of the tassa repertoire sometime after Indians first came to Trinidad, I discuss them here as largely indebted to identifiable North Indian forebears (though in the case of tikora, there is no clear precursor). Tiko ra Object D 8 Tikora is a classical wedding hand that is regarded as an introductory hand and s notion of introduction is carried over on the Fun Lovers, Country Boys, and Youngstars CDs where tikora appears as the first track on each. Just as nagara hand (discussed below) is drawn from rhythms typically played on the North Indian nagara drum pair, it is possible that tikora too is derived from typical rhythms played upon an eponymous
111 the treble end of the Moorish kettle 10 le is tasha. 11 both tasha and a distinctly different semi sphe 2; see figure 2 17 for full sketch) From an organological perspective, the instrument is certainly a kettledrum that bears striking resemblance to nagara as well as the large clay dabbu been absent from the literature surrounding North Indian music image could very well be misidentified. However, he quite accurately identifies other instruments in his sketches. Therefore, it is not wholly u nreasonable to suggest that this perhaps served as a model for the tassa hand tikora. Figure 3 2. Detail of tikara drum Sketch reproduced from Martin, The History, Anti quities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India Vol. III (London: 1838) 601. 10 A Di ctionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English. (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1884), 358. 11
112 Fig ure 3 3 Tikora theka. The theka for tikora is sparse in the foul, bass, and jhal, therefore leaving room dominant hand plays buzz rolls on the second and four sixteenth notes, leaving the dominant hand to alternately place downbeat accents on the edge and center of the drum ( f ig ure 3 3 a variant of this technique (in my experience, a less common variant) requires both hands to roll instead of only one. In either case, the rolls are punctuated by subtly accented single strokes in the midst of the rolling. Lenny Kumar routinely places th ese single strokes on beats one and/or two, though I have heard other drummers who place them in a slightly more syncopated pattern. Cutters will often play improvisatory passages in tikora that diverge from the rolling technique, but are usually built fro m it. This improvisation is often quite brief and returns to the basic pattern rather quickly. By convention, tikora is a rather brief hand, rarely continuing for much more than two minutes or so in performance. On each of the Fun Lovers, Country Boys, You ngstars, and T&T Sweet Tassa recordings, tikora runs
113 for less than two minutes. Emamalee Mohammed stretches his rendition out to more than five minutes though his cutting makes extensive use of highly repetitive rhythmic motives. Figure 3 4 Tikora insid e taal. Figure 3 5. Tikora end taal. taal, that is a taal that does not signal a musical change but is inserted only for musical l, that is a taal that signals the end of the
114 hand and instruct s the band to stop or continue to the next hand. In figures 3 4 and 3 5, I have transcribed these taals as heard in Object D 8 The inside taal can be played with some variation, though the hal f note roll/four eighth note pattern is always present. While the inside taal is specific to tikora, the end taal is rather generic despite its metric irregularity (the end taal is the same for tikora, chaubola, and nagara therefore suggesting an associati on with classical hands ). In transcribing this taal, I have strategically placed bar lines to emphasize the phrasing as Lenny Kumar articulated it to me. My transcription describes the most common variant of tikora frequently referred to as wedding tikora There are other variants (figure 3 6) The hand called bhatee or bhatee drum is identifiable as tikora given the presence of the ro lling figure in the cutter line, yet uses a significantly different bass line and often features a different inside taal. M oreover, the cutting for bhatee is distinguished by a focus on triplet figures, though some cutters emphasize this more than others. 12 Nadidin is another tikora variant, though less common than bhatee. 13 Its most distinguishing feature is yet another diverge nt bassline featuring a prominent two beat rest Hosay tikora is yet another variant played exclusively for Hosay. 14 Perhaps the most obvious link between Hosay convent ionally rather sparse in comparison. Moreover, Hosay tikora features its own 12 Bhatee can be heard on track thirteen (liste Caribel Fun Lovers Tassa Group CD, as the first hand on track nine on Country Boys Tassa Group CD, and as the first hands on tracks five and seven on San Juan Youngstars Tassa Group CD. 13 Nadidin can be heard as the second hand on track seven of Country Boys Tassa Group CD. 14 Hosay tikora can be heard as the first hand on track three of the Country Boys Tassa Group CD and East Indian Drums of Tunapuna Trinidad
115 distinct bassline Drummer Raiaz Ali whose family is associated with the venerable Ghulam Hussein yard, the oldest Hosay yard in St. James suggests that wedding drummers introduce d Hosay tikora into the Hosay repertoire rather recently. Manuel 15 Nonetheless, Hosay tikora has been around at least since the mid 1950s given it appearance Fig ure 3 6. B hatee, nadidin, and Hosay tikora basslines. Chaubola Object D 2 According to Manuel, the word chaubola ( chowbola or chowbhola ) references a poe tic form commonly used in nautaki theatre, th e late nineteenth and early twentieth century Trinidadian manifestations of which often rendered songs in a sequence that comprised a metrically free doha a chaubola accompanied by nagara drumming, and an up tempo daur. 16 These prosodic forms played a sig nificant role in the coalescence of local classical singing. Given the peculiar development of local classical music 15 Quoted in 16 Manuel, singing 30 31.
116 emerging as a coherent genre from the fragmented retentions of indentured immigrants uple meter used to accompany singing. It is from this conceptualization of the term that the tassa hand apparently derives. Fig ure 3 7. Chaubola cutter modules. Chaubola comprises both a theka and barti. The theka is rendered in quadruple meter and featu res at least three idiosyncratic and rather formulaic cutting passages. 17 I find it best to consider these as cutter modules that can be deployed in nearly any order ( figure 3 7 ). A common feature of modules one and two is the emphasis on the second half of beat one. This is most obvious with the accented flam of module one, though it is also hinted at by the drag like figure (which approximates a technique characteristic of 17 st considered a variant of the tikora but only taps the head. Therefore, I do not include it here. Moreover, this pattern was not common among the bands I had the opportunity to hear in south Trinidad. It therefore may be a particular feature of north style drumming, though it does not appear on the San Juan Youngstars recording and appears only in based in north Trinidad, San Juan and Tacarigua, respectively.
117 nagara hand) in the same place in module two, though its emphasis is somewhat dilute pattern effectively ruptures this pattern in the cutter line, though the upbeat touch strokes in the bass maintain the groove. Furthermore, typical cutter improvisations tend to also revolve around elaborating this focus on the upbeat of beat one. Manuel tension that is resolved only on the following downbeat at which point the cycle b egins with another syncopated kick. While Manuel suggests these modules generally follow a particular sequence, this is not the case in my experience. Rather, cutters tend to begin with module one and subsequently incorporate each other module as they see fit in no particular order, often omitting some or returning to previously played modules, all the while improvising elaborations of them. Each rendition of chaubola on the source recordings in Appendix A for example, follow a distinctly different pattern proposed sequence apart from beginning with module one. At any rate, there are two taals played for chaubola. The first is a hand specific taal comprised of a thrice repeated rhythmic figure in quadruple meter It is generally played at three points: once as an inside taal, once to transition from the theka to the barti, and once to exit the barti The end taal for chaubola is the same as that played for tikora ( figure 3 5 ). Chaubola features a barti section that is co mmon to numerous classical hands and is indeed a fascinating musical construction that emphatically resists notational quantification despite its sonic simplicity I have transcribed the barti in 2/4 meter for
118 convenience though in practice the music tends toward slightly elongated strong beats tending at times toward a 6/8 feel therefore giving the rhythm a galloping groove This metrical feeling is emphasized by a specialized tassa technique in which the player face with the tip of the chope (Lenny Kumar intention is clearly to create a fricat ive sound to further enliven the galloping feel. Before proceeding to the next hand, it would be an injustice not to mention Tassarama CD. To say the least, it greatly diverges from the normative model I have described above while maintaining many salient features that identify the hand as chaubola. Mohammed smoothly weaves in and out of the rhythmic modules described above while elaborating upon them in virtuosic ways that must be heard to apprec iate. Intriguingly, he plays module three only once and very briefly toward the end of his five minute rendition. Furthermore, his performance relies heavily on a sixteenth note figure (as hinted at by ical chaubola cutter patterns) that develops into a full fledged module in its own right. from a contemporary performance of chaubola. First, his inside and exit taals are very different ( figure 3 8 A ) and more closely resemble taals played for steelpan hand the 1950s. Mohammed also introduces what functions as a minor inside taal (letter B in figur e 3 8). Though this rhythm constitutes a very common cutter pattern (both on
119 heard it constructed as Mohammed and company deploy it here. Namely, the bass and jhal briefly int errupt their ostinato to join in dialog with the cutter. Fig ure 3 8. barti. At the point where one would expect it to begin, that is after the exit taal which occurs at about 2:00, there is no barti in the conventional sense. Rather, Mohammed instead modifies the timbre of his cutting by landing his chopes on the extreme edge of the drum. This is a clear break f r om what comes before and after. Where a conventional barti is executed in a contrasting meter and with a contrasting ostinato, Mohammed here varies timbre rather than metric or rhythmic elements. Moreover, after about thirty seconds of cutting in this fashion, Mohammed transi tions into module two at which point the band follows his lead and begins a brief episode that takes on all the features of nagara hand. After another thirty seconds, Mohammed breaks taal and returns to the
120 familiar chaubola theka only to take up another s hort nagara episode immediately before the end taal. To finish, Mohammed employs two back to back taals as is his fashion to do (letters C and D in Fig 3 8). Therefore the end taal is a complex conglomeration that combines (in modified form) the minor insi de taal with a variant of the conventional chaubola end taal. contemporary tassa practice. Its animated dialog among cutter, bass, and jhal and its purposeful confusion of hands and taal s harkens to an era of tassa performance that the repertoire. Nagara Object D 9 Nagara is a North Indian semispherical drum pair comprising one relatively large and one relatively small drum. The drums rest on the ground and are played with two sticks. The nagara set is closely related to tasha in terms of morphology and Indo Persian heritage. 18 In the past, nagara drumming was apparently widespread throughout the Indo Caribbean, including Trinidad. Though it may have been played in a variety of contexts, nagara served an especially important role in accompaniment for nauta ki theatre. For informal gatherings, nagara also accompanied biraha a vernacular song form characterized by extemporaneous Bhojpuri singing (Trinidadians sometimes 18 Kathryn Hansen, Grounds for Play: The Nautaki Theatre of North India (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 210, 213; Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture 152 153.
121 drumming has faded in the Caribb ean, it is still remembered by many of the older tassa drummers I talked to. Moreover, the basic pattern nagara drummers played to accompany song and dance is preserved in the cutter line of the tassa hand named nagara. Evidence suggests that tassa bands a ccompanied biraha singing a role traditionally relegated to nagara since at least the early 1960s though this association probably has a lengthier history in Trinidad. 19 Biraha singing has itself faded along with the decline of Bhojpuri as a common language among Indo Trinidadians. It is today the domain of a few elderly musicians whose grasp of Bhojpuri is strong enough to demonstrated for me his ability to cut nagara on ta ssa while simultaneously singing biraha. Fi gure 3 9 Nagara theka. 19 Lomax recorded two birahas sung by Mike Mathura with accompaniment from a tassa band playing nagara hand. In the recordings, the cutter breaks taal leading into more active improvisation between the minute performance, an ral Equity Sound Recordings, 3.
122 like stroke on beats one and three in the tassa lines, is the hallmark of nagara ( figure 3 9 ). Cutters often also incorporate this stroke into their improvisations. As described above, a variant of this motive is integral to the conventions of chaubola as well. As a brisk and lively hand appropriate for vigorous dancing, nagara offers ample opportunity for complex cutter improvisation Figure 3 10. Nagara inside taal with three measure bass and jhal tag. Though a number of generic taals are appropriate for nagara, Manuel identifies several nagara specific taals that need no repeating here. However, his analysis focuses on the cutter patterns exclusively. In nagara in particular, the cutter and bass (with jhal often following the bass) commonly engage in what might be regarded as call
123 and response patterns during the taals. The extent of this dialog varies among bands, but is an import ant aspect of nagara and should not be overlooked. In figure 3 10, for example, I have transcribed a version of the first taal Manuel lists in his discussion of nagara. This taal, as played by Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa on Object D 9 includes a three measure tag within which the bass and jhal continue and elaborate their lines while the cutter reverts either to the foul part or to improvisation. Though bass player George Bab o olal, this kind of cutter/bass dialog is not unique. It can be Wedding Hand Object D 5 Wedding hand 20 is played for the most anticipated events of a Hindu wedding, namely the entrance (or arrival, if not a house wedding) of the bride, arrival of the barat unique among wedding oriented tassa hands for several reasons. Most saliently, the bass takes on the most prominent role, though the cutter remains the leader of the ensemble guiding the bass through a sequence of rhythmic modules. Moreover, asymmetrical and categorically defies conventional analysis; this is in contrast to the majority of wedding repertoire, which for the most part is easily conceptualized as duple or quadruple in nature. Further 20 be it north or south
124 complicating analysis are two distinct though quite similar variants known as north wedding hand and south wedding hand. In the analysis below, I focus upon a single performance of wedding hand played by T&T Sweet Tassa at the wedding of Vishal Deo, a member of the band currently residing in Florid a who traveled with his then fianc to Trinidad for their nuptials in April of 2011 This re ndition of wedding hand is a variant of south wedding hand. As the name implies, this hand is played primarily by bands in South Trinidad, geographically defined as the area lying beyond the southerly slopes of the Central Range. Fernando (and including it) and stretching from the western tip of the southern peninsula to Mayaro Bay in the east. Drummers I talked to gave varying reasons why South drummers developed an idiosyncratic version of wedding hand, though most suggested it was the relative rural isolation and large Indian population of the region that fostered an insular communi ty of musicians who cultivated their own style. While this is a plausible hypothesis, it does not fully explain the divergence between north and south wedding hand and further urges one to consider why most other hands played by north and south drummers ar e virtually identical. Even among bands that play south wedding hand, there are considerable variations beyond a few common modular rhythms. 21 Nonetheless, the performance transcribed here should provide general notions about the formal structure of any ren dition of wedding hand, north or south. 21 Of the sample of recordings referenced in thi taals. The limits of the recording studio, however, could very well have abbreviated Country B performance. All other sampled recordings of wedding hand feature markedly different arrangements, though each is easily identifiable.
125 The defining structural characteristic of wedding hand is its alternation of a 22 of modular thekas and taals, the distinctiveness of which is largely determined by the bass. In the case of wedding hand, the meanings of theka and taal are necessarily modified beyond the basic definitions established above. Wedding hand thekas are best considered holding patterns in which the bass plays a repetitive ostinato in anticipation of a cue from the cutter t preference and the progress of the accompanied action, thekas may be played for relatively long or short periods. Given the lengthy arrangements common among more knowledgeable bands, thekas are frequently brief, ther efore allowing for an efficient progression through the formal components of the hand. In contrast to the succinct taals played for other hands, wedding hand taals are complex and at times lengthy rhythmic sequences. Table 3 1. Formal structure of weddin g hand. Section Rehearsal Letter Structural Component I A Taal 1 B Theka 1 C Theka 1 Exit Taal (Same as Taal 1) D Theka 2 E Theka 2 Exit Taal (Taal 1 fragment) F Tacit Bass1 II G Taal 2A H Tacit Bass 2 I Taal 2B J Tacit Bass 3 K Ta al 2C L Tacit Bass 4 M Taal 2D III N Theka 3 O Theka 3 Exit Taal (Taal 2 fragment) 22 See discussion of wedding hand in
126 P Theka 4 Q End Taal Though taals do not feature ostinatos, wedding hand taals and thekas have some rhythmic fragments in common. Throughout a performance o f wedding hand and during taals in particular the bass becomes the most prominent instrument in the ensemble, sounding out quasi melodic sequences that distinguish taals and thekas from one another. At several points, the bass is tacit, creating metrically static points of repose allowing for extended moments of cutter improvisation. At the appropriate time, the cutter cues the bass to (re)enter with the next taal in the sequence Throughout wedding hand, the jhal keeps time using a basic upbeat emphasizing pattern and joins the bass during taals; meanwhile the foul pounds out an unwavering, slightly swung eighth note ostinato, landing the chopes firmly and directly in the center of the drum. ominence of the bass cause wedding hand to stand out among wedding repertoire. A C B D Figure 3 11. Wedding hand thekas. A) Theka 1, B) Theka 2, C) Theka 3, D) Theka 4.
127 Fig ure 3 12 Wedding Hand, Taal 1 Fig ure 3 13 Wedding Hand, end of Taal 2 In Object D 5, T&T Sweet Tassa play wedding hand with four thekas and six taal s which comprise an overarching form with three interrelated sections diagramed in table 3 1 The kas 1 and 2 appear at the beginning of the arrangement while thekas 3 an d 4 appear at the end (figure 3 11) While t heka 1 may be regarded as a diminution of Taal 1 (figure 3 12), Theka 2 may be regarded as an augmentation of it. Theka 3 is seemingly unrelated to any other material, while Theka 4 is a diminution of the sixteen th / dotted quarter pattern first heard in Taal 2A (measure one of figure 3 13) The middle section of wedding hand consists of a series of four variations (Taal 2A through Taal 2D) each ending with a characteristic three part passage indicated in figure 3 13 this hand. They are a joy for drummers to play and a delight for audiences to witness. The fourth and final taal is a generic end taal. In comparison to other hands discussed in this chapter wedding hand is indeed anomalous. Where most common hands have regular metric schemes and therefore a moderately clear sense of downbeat, this is lacking in wedding hand. A perfunctory
128 examination, however, will reveal that wedd ing hand sounds very much like a Hosay hand called teen chopa ( Hosay teen chopa teen chopra tn chopra ). 23 Moreover, teen chopa shares with wedding hand (both north and south) strikingly similar rhythmic passages, metric irregularities, aspects of musical structure, and prominence of the bassline. This leads Manuel to logically surmise that wedding hand is indeed derivative of teen chopa. 24 In turn, the irregular metric passages in particular suggest a strong connection between teen chopa and the practice o f adapting lexical patterns (i.e. La Muharram drummers. 25 The lexical meaning of these dhol passages has been long forgotten by Trinidad Hosay drummers though the drumm ing itself has taken on greater meaning in their absence. 26 There is no clearly delineated path by which teen chopa to wedding hand. 27 This or some similar transference from Hosay repertoire into wedding repertoire indeed seems likely. However, drummers I talked to acknowledged the similarities between teen chopa and wedding hand, yet ultimately cited the convention of k eeping Hosay hands out of weddings as evidence that the two are not related. This application of current conventions to explain historical developments tellingly demonstrates a streamlining of 23 name of the hand, however, seems to have little bearing on the actual structure of the music. 24 25 Ibid 101. 26 Korom, Hosay Trinidad 164 169. 27
129 musical categorization, one in which separation of Hosay and no n Hosay repertoire is perhaps more strict today than in the past. Caribbean Hands A number of common tassa hands likely emerged well after Indian immigration and according to conventional wisdom benefited from cultural and musical exchange between Afro and Indo Trinidadians. In this section, I discuss two such hands: dingolay and calypso. Dingolay Object D 10 28 Therefore, the hand is aptly named for its funct ion as the character, dingolay is often assumed to have been influenced at least to some degree by African drumming. Critical listening suggests dingolay on the contrary bea rs a much closer and indeed more logical continuity with percussive patterns that accompany a variety of Bhojpuri derived Indo Caribbean musics. The Krishna bhajan Lomax recorded in Charlo Village in 1962, as just one example, features a dhoalk pattern ana logous to Dingolay likely assumed its current form sometime before the mid inspection is essentially what we know today as dingo lay, complete with rudimentary 28 Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago (Montreal, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario: McGill Qu
130 imposed labeling which cannot be wholly trusted; he identified Hosay mahatam as formal structure of the music itself was well known at the time at least among the group of drummers Cook ld have that kind of but with a slightly different articulation in the foul. f oul pattern can be reduced to the rhythm shown in figure 3 14. As I was learning dingolay, Lenny Kumar indicated this to be the i n practice drummers virtually always play a busier sixteenth note pattern including what character of the hand. This busier pattern is indicated in figure 3 15 including bracketed ghost notes. Fig ure 3 14. D ingolay theka with simplified foul.
131 Fig ure 3 15 Dingolay foul with bracketed ghost notes. Though executed with considerable variation, three distinct taals have been played in dingolay since at least the 1950s. The first two are inside taals while the third is an end taal. In the following pages, I co mpare historical renditions of these taals side 1950s, made of Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa led by Lenny K umar in August of 2012. I chose these recordings as representative of three generations of tassa performance: Ali who was already a respected member of the aging tassa vanguard at the time of his recording represents a transitional period. Kumar, now in his early 40s, is still today an active performer and innovator.
132 Fig ure 3 16. Comparison of cutter pattern, dingolay, taal one. Figure 3 16 features a comparison of taal one (the first inside taal) as pl ayed in these three examples. identical save for rhythmic elaboration at the end of the phrase. T&T Sweet Tassa incorporates two variants of this taal into their arrangement of dingolay. The first v ariant ( transcribed in figure 3 16) The most important difference is the buzz rolls that maintain momentum through the space where rests would normally be. This motion is further emphasized in the bas s and jhal whose patterns also move through the rests. The second iteration of taal one in discussed below However, it comes as a tag tacked onto taal two as in figure 3 18. What I call taal two is essentially composed of sixteenth notes with alternating accents between the right and left chopes. This taal as played in the three examples is transcribed in figure 3 17
133 Though there is some variation between the examples, the large scale rhythmic s cheme of each is rather homogenous. Differences lie primary in the preparation and the ending of the taal. Ali does not prepare the taal with what is today a common eighth not pattern as played by Mohammed. Rather, he most likely gives a visual cue, as is common among players today, to signal the preparation of the taal which the band then follows. T&T Sweet Tassa includes two variants of this taal in their arrangement; the first is transcribed in figure 3 17. Lenny Kumar replaces the eighth note preparatio n bar with a full measure of buzz rolling. Yet, the most interesting aspect of this iteration is the last measure in which the cutter and foul execute a couple of unison rolls and land quite forcefully on beat four; all the while the bass and jhal play un ison rhythms in sync with the tassa lines. After such a busy theka, this sparse pattern creates something of a
13 4 Fig ure 3 17 Comparison of cutter pattern, taal two, dingolay. rhythmic vacuum that surprises the ear and is unlike any other arrangement of t his taal that I have heard. This taal also appears in a number of classical tassa hands recorded by Lomax in 1962, including tilana dhurpat ( dhrupad ), and sadwa the last of which bears very close resemblance to contemporary renditions of dingolay both in terms of theka and taal
135 are quite common in folk oriented dholak playing. 29 The prominence of dingolay associated rhythms in classical hands and in dholak performance, lends credence to a strong affinity with Indo Trinidadian musical aesthetics. Fig ure 3 18. T&T in dingolay. end of the ir arrangement ( figure 3 18) a nd deserves some special attention. This second time around, the accented target notes of the first iteration have been 29 For example, Myers documented a dholak taal quite similar to what I have labeled as dingolay taal two played by a female drummer accompanying Bhojpuri lachari singing at a Hindu wedding in Felicity during fieldwork in the 1970s. Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad 166 167; CD Track 5.
136 transformed into buzz rolls. Even though the articulation of the standard taal is now missing, a seasoned listener will easily identify the taal based upon the accents alone. As mentioned above, the second iteration of taal one, now nearly identical to measures after H). The customary end taal for dingolay i s a short and simple pattern (figure 3 19) B ands play variations of it, yet for the most part taal A comparison of this end taal with taal two as articulated by Ali suggests that ongated form of the final section of taal two. Fig ure 3 19 Dingolay end taal Calypso Object D 11 Calypso hand is alternately referred to as steel pan (or iron hand), though this nomenclature is a matter of debate. Some agree with Sanjeet Soogrim Ram wh o suggests that the two hands are one in the same and assert s that the hand should properly be called calypso hand since it is calypso that steel pans play (i.e. it would not make sense to say that calypso plays steel pan). Others, however, identify subtle variances between calypso hand and steel pan hand. Analysis of recordings by bands that differentiate between the two, however, reveals the only significant differences
137 being in the number, composition, and placement of taals. 30 For clarity, then, I will r efer to this hand as calypso hand. 31 Nagara, dingolay, and calypso hand are the most common and enduring breakaway hands though when executed at a walking tempo calypso might be played as a processional hand from time to time. Many drummers I talked to ge nerally assume that calypso hand is modeled upon aspects of the Afro Trinidadian pop music genre calypso. This is most clear in the bass, whose theka pattern closely mirrors the kind of habanero rhythm typical of classic calypsos as performed by steelbands 32 calypso hand ( figure 3 20). 33 styl e is further note ostinato emphasizes a rhythmic pattern virtually identical to that typically played by the congas in figure 3 21). Steel pan pioneer Neville Jul es intriguingly suggests that this conga pattern was in turn derived from the foul rhythms of tamboo bamboo. 34 30 Caribel Fun Lovers Tassa 31 confusion between the pop music genre and the tassa hand. 32 33 Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 277. 34 Ibid., 45 46.
138 Fig ure 3 20 Comparison of calypso hand bass pattern Fig ure 3 21 Comparison of steelband conga pattern and calypso hand theka. The tassa notes in parentheses are ghost notes. Cook identifies his recording of calypso and bass patterns discussed above are clearly present in this performance as is an abbreviated variant of the taa l typical of calypso hand as it is played today. Therefore calypso hand had largely assumed its current form at least by the mid 1950s. While hand, Krishna Soogrim Ram quite emphati cally insisted that it was composed by legendary tassaman Harry Latchman. Putting aside both of these largely unverifiable claims, it is nonetheless clear from circumstantial evidence that calypso is indeed a New World creation and not an import from India First, its name is identifiable as a Creole
139 song form. And, second, some of its structural elements correspond with striking similarity to those o f typical steelband repertoire. Simultaneously, however, calypso hand bears typical musical characteristics of tassa repertoire including the presence of taals and theka arranged in conventional fashion. Recently Composed Hands As we have seen so far, tassa repertoire is largely generated based upon pre existing musical models distilled into composite rhythms co mpatible with the tassa ensemble and consistent with conventions of performance including the creation or adaptation of theka, taal, and (at least in the case of classical hands) barti. Popular repertoire emerging since the late 20 th century continues to f ollow this pattern. As since received widespread performance in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the diaspora. Composition of new, original repertoire is indeed quite co mmon though only on rare occasions do these creations enter the mainstream tassa canon with the kind of permanence enjoyed by chutney hand. 35 With the advent of formal competition and a move toward staged tassa performances a number of bands routinely crea te new hands, some of which follow familiar generative practices and some that buck this trend in important ways. Chutney Object D 12 35 on Country Boys Tassa Group Caribel Fun Lovers Tassa Group
140 Chutney is an Indo Caribbean popular music genre emerging from Bhojpuri derived vernacular songs like lachari bawdy tunes sung by women accompanying themselves on dholak (a small two headed barrel drum), chac chac (West Indian maraca like shakers), and dhantal (a native Indo Caribbean idiophone comprising a metal rod and horseshoe shaped beater). 36 These lively songs sung in Bhojpuri explore sexually suggestive themes and were most often sung during matikor, lawa, and other 37 From the 1970s, Sundar Popo, Anand Yankaran, Drupatee Ramgoonai, and others began staging arrangements of lachari like songs sung with a mixture of Bhojpuri and English and featuring orchestrations consisting of dholak, dhantal, harmoniu m, synthesizers, drum machine, and a horn section. Over the ensuing decade, into Bollywoo d films. Since the 1990s, a number of fusions have emerged that take advantage of mixing chutney with other musical genres. Chutney soca, which blends Indian oriented orchestration and melodic contours with a soca like groove, is the most popular and profi table of these. folk songs as his model: 36 Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad 162 172; Ramnarine, Creating Their Own Space 106. 37 Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad 55 56.
141 soca] is not chutney barahi and chaiti 38 [where] women, t hey sing folk songs. When women singing them songs, the beat they does play is chutney 39 Fig ure 3 22 illustrates rudimentary dholak and dhantal patterns one might hear accompany ing this kind of chutney singing. 40 When compared alongside the foul pattern commonly played on tassa for chutney hand, the two are indeed quite similar. The foul closely follows the dhantal pattern yet includes a flam on the second eighth note of beats t wo and four, thus emphasizing similarly positioned offbeat dholak strokes. Perhaps one of the most important features of the chuntey foul is its asymmetry, a full four beat pattern in contrast to all the two beat foul patterns examined thus far. The foul is indeed the most characteristic aspect of the hand with little else to differentiate chutney from other breakaway hands. Fig ure 3 22 Comparison of chutney patterns with foul for chutney hand. 38 Hindu ceremonies performed twelve and six days, respectively, after birth of a child. Like matikor and lawa, these rituals are the domain of women and included s humorously details the exploits of a devious husband who sneaks into a barahi ceremony to watch the women dance. 39 Le nny Kumar, Interview by author, April 24, 2011. 40 For other common dhantal patterns, see Ramnarine, Creating Their Own Space 67.
142 The taals played for chutney are for the most part simi larly generic. Bands generally use the two inside taals from dingolay, though some cutters incorporate a one measure quarter note pattern here and there to evoke a common dholak variation that in some arrangements functions like a mini taal signaling a bri ef stop time effect. Lenny Kumar includes an elaborated and elongated version of this quarter note taal (without the stop time effect) in his arrangement of chutney ( figure 3 23). With its suddenly intense eighth note patterns, this taal in clearly indebte d to fast, virtuosic chutney style dholak playing. Fig ure 3 23 Some bands play a variant of chutney hand called chutney soca. The fundamental differences in this hand include a faster tempo, more rhythmically active foul (though maintaining the same outline as the chutney foul), and a soca derived bassline ( figure 3 24). Fig ure 3 24 Bass pattern for chutney soca hand
143 George of the Jungle Object D 7 Always the innovator, Lenny Kumar continues to compose new hands. In 2009, tion (discussed in chapter five ) included a hand he calls Punjabi and is modeled upon a typical bhangra groove. More recently, Kumar composed a quasi samba hand based upon rh ythmic this hand, which he simply calls George of the Jungle, all parts of the ensemble essentially play the same repeated pattern ( figure 3 25 s generally hover quite close to the foul pattern, forgoing flashy virtuosity. The inside taal, which includes a three measure preparation, is adapted from the rhythm of the text from the original and includes a one beat rest at the end to provide a sense of repose before returning to the theka.
144 Fi gure 3 25 George of the Jungle theka and taal. Collective Composition Not all new compositions are based on preexisting music, and very few are attributable to a single composer. A n interesting example of collective and indeed spontaneous composition was illustrated one evening at a matikor in St. Madeline near San Fernando when Lenny Kumar, members of T&T Sweet Tassa, and I were liming during some downtime. We were chatting by Lenn tapping out rhythms on the hood. Soon, someone else joined in, then someone else, until everyone was tapping out an improvised composite rhythm with jhal, bass, cutter,
145 and foul parts. Like in ter parts in this new piece rarely ventured too far afield from minor elaborations of the foul and bass patterns. Fig ure 3 26 Partial transcription of hand improvised by T&T Sweet Tassa. After a few minutes of arranging parts and continuing to practi hood, a new hand was born (figure 3 26) When the band was called to play again at performance, the first time it was played on any instrument other th week later at another wedding, they also inserted this new hand into a post wedding jassle It has since become a regular part of their repertoire though it has yet to be named. Summary Analysis in this chapter has pointed toward Trini dadian tassa as principally informed by Indo Trinidadian musical aesthetics emerging primarily from North Indian vernacular traditions. As described in chapter two, dhol tasha in India and Pakistan is a non erudite ensemble used in a variety of sacred and secular contexts, a status that has been retained by tassa ensembles in the Caribbean. Therefore, one expectedly finds
146 folk rhythms (e.g. nagara) and metric cycles (e.g. chaubola) in Trinidadian tassa repertoire Given this grounding in folk practice tass a drummers have not cultivated a set of theoretical precepts as might be found in Hindustani classical tradition. Though most drummers can discuss aspects of musical form, virtually none are able to articulate concepts related to the placement and identifi cation of downbeats or beat counts in general, much less more complex notions of metric cycle. This is clearly not to say, however, that drummers have not fostered emic systems of understanding that serve their needs. Despite the focus on vernacular eleme nts, aspects of Hindustani classical music are marginally manifest in taal, theka, and barti. As described above, the notion of taal and theka in particular are reconceptualized as applied to tassa, a practice that reflects corresponding rearticulations of them in local classical singing, a thoroughly Indo Caribbean genre itself formed from fragments of North Indian vernacular and light classical musics. In both tassa and local classical singing, Indo Caribbean musicians were obliged to fashion repertoire a nd performance practice from Indian musical praxis, such that their progeny would cultivate fascinatingly vibrant and virtuosic traditions rooted in Indian sensibilities yet wholly Caribbean. Though surface level listening may suggest to the unaware that the tassa ensemble bears signif icant affinity with Afro Creole drumming, analysis of tassa repertoire indicates no fundamental fusion with Afro Trinidadian musical style. For example, dingolay is often assumed t o exhibit some sense of African musical aest hetics
147 41 O n the contrary dingolay quite clearly assumed its present form by the mid 1950s, nearly two decades before calypsonian 42 In this case, I think dingolay more logically corresponds to an Indo Trinidadian source as mentioned earlier, than an Afro Trinidadian one My analysis further shows that rhy thms ways to fit the conventions of tassa repertoire, complete with theka and taa ls 43 This is also the case with more recent additions to the repertoire including chutney hand and George of the Jungle. D espite only marginal input from Afro Caribbean sources, tassa is nonetheless a distinctly Caribbean phenomenon despite its essential ly Indian character As Manuel suggests, tassa could not have acquired a repertoire drawn from such eclectic sources outsi de of the Caribbean context. The most important generative phenomenon guiding the evolution of Trinidadian tassa music has been a proc ess of creative development and elaboration occurring on purely Indian structural and aesthetic lines. This process equally evident in local classical music generates musical idioms in some ways distinct from anything found in India, but which are neverthe less overwhelmingly Indian in character rather than acculturated or creole. 44 41 Korom, Hosay Trinidad 167. 42 Though a topic of hot debate in some circles, Trinidad music aficionados and academics alike like dholak and tassa grooves with calypso as is apparently evident i era Lord Shorty songs. Tejaswini Niranjana, Mobilizing India: Women, Music, and Migration Between India and Trinidad (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 89. 43 Manuel also discusses kalinda hand, which is evidently derived from the ep onymous Afro Trinidadian genre. 44 Ibid.
148 In other words, the musical system that nurtures tassa is one born from fragmented India n survivals, retentions, and re articulations organized in a way distinct from their Indian forebears but compatible with a general Indian, rather than Creole musical aesthetic. 45 This musical structure implicates a broader social structure in which Indo Trinidadians have historically been held at some distance from mainstream society. With such cultural segregation, indentured Indians and their descendants maintained, reconstructed, and rearticulated Indian traditions with little fundamental interruption from colonial elites or Afro Trinidadian compatriots. 45 Ibid.
149 CHAPTER 4 I GOIN IN A MATIKOR TO S EE THEM LADIES F TE HINDU WEDDINGS AND TASSA PERFORMANCE Hindu weddings are a center of familial and communal activity where Indo Trinidadians remember and reaffirm multilocal identities. L argely separated from but not exclusive of mainstream Afro Creol e culture, weddings are spaces where Indo Trinidadian cultural memories and identity orientations are enacted in tangible ways. While few attendees pay close attention to tedious wedding rituals, most will wear Indian clothes and eat Indian food and many w ill admire or be moved to dance by tassa. Though wedding DJs and ostentatious Indian orchestras have displaced many aspects of traditional wedding music, tassa remains very much an iconic soundtrack for specific components of Hindu wedding rites, specifica lly lawa matikor and agwaani among others. As an embodied music, one that facilitates religious rituals as well as celebratory revelry, tassa has emerged as a multivalent, yet powerful symbol of Indo Trinidadian identity via repeated association with the se common practices. As indicated in the previous chapter, wedding repertoire forms the core of common tassa hands. Likewise, weddings are the most common venue for tassa performance. As year round events, weddings provide a space for beginning drummers to cut their teeth, for developing bands to rehearse and perform, and for seasoned bands to test the waters with new arrangements and sometimes new material. Weddings also importantly provide an opportunity for bands to informally compete with one another du ring good natured jassling sessions. Though jassling results in loud, noisy, and often aggressive showboating on the part of op posing bands, jassles are welcome wedding events and indeed add to the excitement of wedding day festivities.
150 Moreover, they prov ide a public forum for friends and neighbors to critique musical In this chapter, I provide a descriptive analysis of Hindu wedding tassa performances. While I frequently draw upon specific events to illu minate particular points, my narrative largely represents an amalgamation of ethnographic experiences both in Trinidad and Florida. Introduction: Matikor, Lawa, and Agwaani Until 1945, colonial law in Trinidad and Tobago did not recognize Hindu marriages without a separate civil registration. 1 maro (traditional wedding canopy), without a civil component often faced legal troubles down the road, not least of which were rights of inheritance for widowed spouses and ostensibly illegitimate children. Despite these and other state sponsored colonial policies aimed to subdue and control Indians, the Indo Trinidadian community maintained a striking number of Indian socio religious practices. For Hindus in particular, this is due in no small part to the dominance of Sanatan Dharma virtuall y impossible to identify a homog enous orthodoxy, Sanatan Dharma is characterized by a reliance on Brahmanic leadership and intricate rituals. A variety of Hindu reform movements have challenged the dominance of Sanatan Dharma in the Caribbean over the year s, most importantly Arya Samaj beginning in the early 1900s. In 1 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian (Trinidad and Tobago, January 3, 2013).
151 contrast to Sanatan Dharma, Arya Samaj holds that the caste system is a corruption of Vedic tradition, therefore directly challenging those like the Sanatanists who argue for the primacy of th e priestly caste. 2 Sanatanist Brahman priests in Trinidad persistently pushed back against heterodoxy, eventually consolidating their power under one banner anatan 3 The SDMS immediately used its collective financial and political influence to advocate for Indian, particularly Hindu, interests across the country. A significant aspect of their program included construction of temples and schools, often in close proxi mity to those operated by competing religious organizations. While working in the village of Felicity in the 1950s, a time when the SDMS first began to wield national influence, Morton Klass witnessed the opening of an SDMS school very near a Presbyterian Canadian Mission ( C.M.) school. One of the C.M. schoolteachers had converted from Hinduism at age fourteen so he could leave the at the SDMS school. 4 This anecdote is emblematic of the ways SDMS influence gained in strength throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, the operative results being a more powerful collective Hindu voice in local politics and a more homogenousl y practiced Hinduism in Trinidad and Tobago. 2 Morton Klass Singing with Sai Baba: The Politics of Revitalization in Trinidad (Prospect Heights, Il: Waveland Press, 1991), 38 39. 3 Ibid., 39. 4 Klass, East Indians in Trinidad 141.
152 Even before the advent of the SDMS, however, the largely rural Indian population had begun to settle upon commonalities of worship and belief pieced together from disparate Hindu practices. Klass notes: There is considerable variation among the villages of northern India, even when they are not widely separated, in terms of which festivals are locally celebrated. It is impressive that, despite this background, the villagers of [Felicity] should have achieved such a large measure of uniformity in the religious sphere over the should be celebrated, by whom, and in what way. 5 With the SDMS, came streamlining and codification of this disti nctly Indo Caribbean pattern. Most relevant at present, the most common form of the Hindu marriage ceremony in Trinidad and Tobago is that sanctioned by the SDMS. The remainder of my discussion of Trinidadian Hindu weddings highlights this type of ceremony and excludes those practiced by relatively marginal sects including among others Arya Samaj, the Divine Life Society, and so Madras who follow Kali centered rites sometimes involving animal sacrifice a practice abhorrent to Sanatanists. In India, auspicious dates for Hindu weddings are generally chosen by learned celestial charts. This practice remains a theoretical aspect of Trinidad ian weddings, though its import is greatly reduced. In his slim volume Rites, Rituals, and Customs Associated with the Hindu Marriage Ceremony in Trinidad and Tobago Ramsundar Persad acknowledges the practice of determining wedding dates based upon 5 Ibid., 237.
153 6 Along with and during and a few to be avoided. This calculation of auspiciousness, however, is largely downplayed in practice. Though wedding rituals spanned an entire week in the pas t, 7 today they generally run a course of three days, typically beginning on Friday evening and lasting through Sunday afternoon when the wedding proper takes place. Therefore, when wedding dates are determined by astrological favorability, they are virtual ly 8 Weddings involve the most intricate complex of rituals in the entire Trinidadian Hindu ritual corpus, beginning with engagement and week after the wedding when the bride traditionally leaves her family home for the last 9 With in this corpus of rites and traditions, pundits conduct only the central wedding rituals while all others are planned and carried out collaboratively by family and friends. Steven Vertovec observes, for instance: Certain people generally know what to do at each stage of these informal but complicated proceedings; others correct, modify, or criticiz e them; most know through which sequence to move at what time; some have their own interpretations of what various items or motions mean. At each point, certain 6 Ramsundar Persad, ed., Rites, Rituals and Customs Associated with the Hindu Marriage Ceremony in Trinidad and Tobago 7 Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad 153. 8 Ibid., 152. 9 Steven Vertovec, Hindu Trinidad: Religion, Ethnicity, and Socio Economic Change (London: MacMillan, 1992), 202.
154 persons prescribe what is to be obtained, created, or undertaken; others follow their lead and quickly habitualize the pattern. 10 Most relevant at present are matikor and lawa two of these kinds of folk rituals. They form part of a sequence of rites simultaneously performed at the respective homes of the bride and groom in the days leading to the wedding proper. Importantly, matikor and lawa fall within the domain of women. In reference to ritual is for the appeasement of the elements: earth, air, fire, water, and bring favor upon the bride and groom. 11 More specifically, however, the two rituals are clearly rooted in rites to ensure fertility for the new bride and other women in the community. These rites are indeed communal activities that are just a s much about history, heritage, and womanhood as they are about the efficacy of ritual performance. Rosanne Kanhai, for example, metaphorically frames matikor as an affirming, expressive space for Indo Caribbean women: Matikor provided a rare opportunity for plantation and post plantation women to sang traditional songs, and performed dances that were celebratory and sexually suggestive. Matikor was a place of healing where women could act out their resistance against the degradation and depersonalization imposed upon them by activities, thus bringing together the sacred and the profane, the carnal and the spirit Caribbean majority, matikor remains a closed, ethnic space where Indian women do not carry the burden of minority status. 12 10 Ibid., 204 205. 11 Persad, Rites, Rituals, and Customs 9. 12 Rosanne Kanhai, ed., Matikor: The Poli tics of Identity for Indo Caribbean Women (St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: School of Continuing Studies, the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, 1999), xi xii.
155 purview, there are indeed variations in their performance, yet one is able to describe such events in general terms. Matikor Matikor aticore, matikonwa, 13 muti kurwa, 14 matti khora with Hindi ). 15 The corresponding Guyanese ritual is most commonly called dig dutty 16 This nomenclature is derived from the primary action of matikor, which involves digging the earth. Trinidadian writer Lelawattee Manoo Rahming d escribes a fictionalized though not atypical account of matikor: matikor. The Friday night before the wedding when all the women in the village and all the young girls went to the river to dig up pure dirt and collect clean water and to pray for blessings for Champa in she married life. To ask Goddess Ganga, who is the mother of rivers, and Mati, Mother happiness and later on, with children. It was the duty of the already married women to show Champa what to do on she wedding night. To help them do this, they carried baskets of shiny, purple baigan [eggplant, to use as phallic objects] to the river where they did sing rude chut ney songs and dance to tassa drumming. 17 13 Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad 153. 14 Vertovec, Hindu Trinidad 203. 15 Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago (Montreal, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario: McGill Queen 16 Knowing How to Know: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Present ed. Narmala Halstead, Eric Hirsch, and Judith Okely (New Yo rk: Berghahn Books, 2008), 101. 17 Lelawattee Manoo Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 7, no. 1 (2009), http://anthurium.miami.edu/volume_7/issue_1/manoo rhaming nightofchampa.html.
156 The sort of matikor imagery called upon by Manoo Rahming is indeed powerful among Indo Trinidadians, men and women alike. Chutney and local classical singer Rasika ing DJs both in Trinidad and in diaspora, similarly captures the joyous and celebratory mood of this evening event. With moderate tempo accompaniment from a synthesizer (imitating the timbre of a harmonium), dholak, and dhantal, Dindial sings: matikor to see them ladies fte, to see them ladies fte. a they breath! 18 to see them ladies fte. At this point, the dholak breaks taal; a drum machine enters and the t empo increases as the singing continues with characteristic Trinidadian English mixed with Bhojpuri: Matikor night is for ladies to get away... 19 When they go to dig the dirt, the tassa does play. As soon as they fi 20 21 In these lines and those that follow, Dindial effectively outlines the major compone nts of the matikor ritual as discussed below. 18 catch their breath. 19 20 poles are commonly erected in a yard, parking lot, or other open area to protect wedding guests from the elements. 21
157 Around dusk, women begin to gather at the family home. Food and drink has been prepared, and often a DJ has been hired to play chutney and Bollywood film songs to entertain guests. Some families are able to hir e an Indian orchestra, usually comprising at least a rack of synthesizers, a drum machine, and a male and female pair of singers; larger groups might also feature dholak, dhantal, guitar, and electric bass. I once attended a rather non traditional matikor where the family had hired the band Trin d Pop, a band equally versed in film songs, chutney, and high energy soca. Along with tassa, these kinds of music DJs and professional bands have largely displaced the traditional singing described by Manoo Rhaming and discussed in the previous chapter as the precursor to contemporary chutney. mother teekays 22 m of the tassa ensemble (figure 4 1) 23 As the drummer holds the instrument perpendicular to the ground, she places five dots of sindoor (vermillion powder) on the edge of the upward facing drumhead. On top of each dot, she places paan (betel) leaves, paan nuts, flowers, coins, and rice. Once these are in place, she opens the end of her headscarf ( orhni ; 24 ) within which she catches all the items as the drummer tips the drum and lightly taps the head with the dankar. She then places the items back upon the drumhead, this time in a disorderly pile, and 22 Persad, Rites, Rituals, and Customs 8 9. 23 I use English language kinship terms to indicate the prescribed kin who should perform various rituals. I base these on consensus among Myers, Vertovec, Persad, and my own observations. In all cases, stand ins including complete strangers may be used if the prescribed kin are not available These stand ins subsequently become the prescribed kin for the purposes of the pr esent ritual. Stand ins are particularly common in Florida where extended families may not be present. For more on this kind of ritual specific kinship, see Klass, East Indians in Trinidad 107. 24 Myers, M usic of Hindu Trinidad 153.
158 once again she catches the items in her headscarf. This process is repeated five times, at the conclusion of which she carries away the mixture in her headscarf (and, in my experience, usually dumps it on the ground or in the garbage after fishing out the coins). The drummer wipes away any remaining resid ue, though the sindoor leaves permanent stains on the drumhead. A B C
159 Figure 4 1 The betro St. Madeline, Trinidad. August 2012. A and B) items are placed upon the drumhead, C) these items are caught in her headscarf Drummers I talked to were unable to give any theological reason for blessing the bass apart from a vague assumption that the drums need to be purified. Tassa is not sacred according to Trinidad Hindu tradition, and drumming is certainly not required for the efficacy of religious ritual. If the purpose is to purify the drums, why do they not also teekay the tassas, the jhal, and the drummers themselves? The practice may very well extend from some kind of taboo against skin drums. After all, members of the untouchable cha mar leatherworking caste were hired as drummers in the past, though caste is largely a non issue in Indo Caribbean contemporary experience apart from religious leadership. Furthermore, if the idea is to maintain purity, conventional Hindu pr actice tends toward keeping impure items out of pure spaces, not to invite them in and much less to make physical contact with them. The practice of teekaying the bass therefore makes more sense when examined not from a theological angle, but an economic o ne. paper money perhaps forty to one hundred dollars upon the head along with the other items. The drummer will pocket this cash while tapping the other items into the headscarf. M ore often than not, she will also give the drummer a seeda a small sack traditionally containing rice, flour, oil, money, and other subsistence items. Lenny Kumar suggests that the practice of teekaying the bass actually grew up around the act of giving t he seeda, a method of payment in days gone by. The seedas given to tassa drummers today, however, are largely symbolic, and often contain only a bottle of rum
160 paid at some oth er point after services are rendered). Consumption of rum and alcoholic beverages of any sort are however taboo for the duration of wedding rituals (yet, one can always find a group of men a small distance from the festivities gathered around a trunk full of rum and beer). tray of ritual items on her head (in the same manner as in figures 4 5 and 4 6). Tassa drumming signals to gathered guests that the matikor proce ssion is about to depart. The band then leads the women in procession with the tray bearing girl walking just behind the drummers to a small clearing by a body of running water. In Trinidad, I have seen matikor take place by a creek, a river, and at a neig Florida, flowing water is more difficult to come by in densely packed suburban neighborhoods. In this case, matikor might take place by drainage ponds, fire hydrants, and sometimes without adjacency to water at all. When the procession reaches its destination, oftentimes after dangerously dodging traffic, tassa ceases and the drummers relax at a distance. At this point the puja begins. In the past, women would sing songs during the procession and throughout the puja (this can recordings, for example). With the loss of the Bhojpuri language among more recent generations, this tradition is in decline. Only on a few occasions did I witness Bhojpuri songs sung during matikor puja, the most extensive repertoire of which was provided by a hired group of singers reading from chapbooks at the wedding of a well to daughter.
161 or colorfully decorated garden hoe to clear away brush and grass, exposing a small paan leaves, oil, sindoor, paan nuts, A B C D Figure 4 2 Matikor puja. A and B) r performs matikor puja [using corn instead of rice i n A] C) older women assist, D) t catches dirt in her headscarf. St. Madeline, Trinidad, August 2012. Screen captures from video by Olga Ballengee. rice, and flowers in five places on the earth (figure 4 2) She then sprinkles water on the items (the water can come from the creek or river, but is often carried in a lotah [brass be carried back to the home where it will be used symbolically in constructing the marriage altar. At this point, the primary aspects of the puja have concluded and khurma (sweet fried
162 paneer ) is distributed as prasad (food consumed as a religious offerin g) to those in attendance while sindoor is applied to the foreheads of all married women. Typically the presence of men is taboo during matikor, especially at the puja and subsequent dancing. The only men present during intimate moments are usually weddin g photographers and tassa drummers. Writing of his fieldwork in the 1950s, 25 In common practice today, however, a few men and boys are almost always standing in the shadows, looking on and talking amongst themselves. That too is my place. In the many weddings I attended during my fieldwork, I never felt comfortable to intrude further 2012, m y wife Olga accompanied me to Trinidad to help with audio and video recording for the film Sweet Tassa: Music and Tradition of the Indo Caribbean Diaspora As a woman, Olga was able to more closely observe the puja, and it was only upon review of her tapes that I got my first up close view of matikor and lawa pujas despite years of studying tassa. During the distribution of khurma and sindoor, the tassa starts again, this time playing breakaway hands (figure 4 3) Women young and old are encouraged to join the their arms and spin gracefully. Most often, the party will form a circle; less enthusiastic dancers tend to ring more boisterous soloists or couples who come and go from the center. Commonly, older women will be among the first to enter the circle engaging in humorous and sexually suggestive dancing. On several occasions, I have witnessed an 25 Klass, East Indians in Trinidad 192.
163 aged auntie emerge from the crowd, lift the hem of her dress, slip it through one clasped hand to form a phallic extension about her groin, and proceed to thrust her pelvis in mid air or against another dancer. Sometimes a cucumber or eggplant serves the same purpose. As the dancing continues, teenagers and younger girls will also take to the center. While they wine and mildly gyrate, it is rare for them to engage in highly suggestive displays in front of their mothers, aunties, and grandmothers. Fig ure 4 3 Ladies dance to tassa after matik or puja. St. Madeline, Trinidad. August 2012. Overtly sexual dancing is meant to mimic and in some way instruct about the space. Among older women who are indeed the most suggestive dancers the lewdness remains there, though young women might dance equally as suggestively among their peers at parties and nightclubs. Klass noted, for example, [Felicity], who tend to be demure, shy, and self effacing normally, become bawdy,
164 raucous, and riotous when 26 This kind of dancing is indeed an expected part of matikor tradition and further links the occassions with fertility rites. After a suite of breakaway hands lasting for about twenty minutes, the tray is placed aga processional hand, and the group returns. The bride and groom at their respective homes are now ready for hardi (turmeric paste) to be smeared upon them by five young girls. The first of t hree such rubbings in as many days, this particular rite has a dual effect: it ritually purifies the body and purportedly softens and brightens the skin in preparation for the wedding day. Cooking Night activities are centered on preparing food for the next day. This name is comparable with the less common Bhojpuri roughly 27 ). Virtually every Trinidad Hindu wedding features the same foods: curry channa (chickpeas) and aloo (potato), pumpkin, curry mango, baigan choka (stewed eggplant), dhal (split peas), bodi (a kind of green bean), rice, and generous helpings of paratha roti buss up rambled texture (figure 4 4 ). In addition to alcohol, meat nal evening of singlehood for the bride and groom. 26 Ibid. 27 Persad, Rites, Rituals, and Customs 153.
165 respective family homes. Guests are given food and drink and are entertained by DJ music or an Indian orchestra. Someti mes young girls will present a Bollywood style choreographed dance. Often enough, a tassa band may also be hired, though their job is only for entertainment; tassa bands have no particular ritual duties to perform on cooking night. Figure 4 4 Some t ypic al weddi ng foods. C urry channa and aloo, rice and dhal, buss up shut, bodie, and pumpkin served on a banana leaf. hardi is once again smeared upon the betrothed. Second, and mor e importantly, women gather to parch a few handfuls of paddy rice 28 ( lawa ) to be used in the Sunday morning lawa ritual and subsequently tossed into the Sacred Fire while the bride and groom circumambulate it during the final stages of the wedding proper on Sunday afternoon. 28 I observed families in Trinidad and Florida use popcorn instead of rice. It is appare ntly a recent trend. I have yet to come across a definitive explanation why popcorn is a suitable and apparently popular substitute. However, the smell, taste, and appearance of popped paddy rice closely approximates popcorn. For example, Lomax mistook par ched rice for popcorn in his observations of a lawa in 1962.
166 rice into a metal pan placed upon a chula (small clay oven) and stirring the grains with a whisk or small broom made from the hard stems of coco nut fronds. Most often today, the chula is replaced by a propane fed heating element therefore providing for portability. Figure 4 5. Sunday morning procession going for lawa. Charlo Village, Trinidad. May 1962. From the Alan Lomax Collection, American F olkli fe Center, Library of Congress. Used courtesy of the Association for Cultural Equity. declining repertoire of songs women sang for various parts of the wedding, including while par ching lawa. 29 For the most part, parching songs are rarely sung today. In their 29 Myers, Music of Hindu Trinidad 154; 206 208.
167 chutney m a traditional Bhojpuri language lawa partching song sung by older Indo Trinidadian women. In all cases, the music should be somewhat upbeat to facilitate dancing. As such, if a tassa band is hired, they might accompany the parching ceremony. Figure 4 6 Women going for lawa led by T&T Sweet Tassa. Santa Flora, Trinidad. August 2012. Lawa On Sunday morning, each of the betrothed undergoes a final hardi rubdown, the bass is once again t (figures 4 5 and 4 6). For the latte r, the parched rice from the night before is placed upon a tray along with another set of the same items used for matikor. A young girl is again recruited to carry it. As y 30 While the procession, parts of 30 Ibid., 154.
168 the puja, and subsequent dancing of lawa resemble that of matikor, the core of law a is markedly different. Lawa should be done indoors, though it is acceptable to simply be under some kind of cover: the underside of a raised house, a covered walkway, or garage will do. mother then places five oil and sindoor dots on the floor or ground as the case may be (these are the items as was done in teekaying the bass and in matikor puja. Some times, a piece of cardboard or plywood is used to keep the sindoor from staining the floor. Perhaps more often, however, this part of lawa is skipped over. another and cover their heads with a bed sheet. Other women may help by holding the sheet so it does not fall off. In all cases, the action performed under the sheet should not be seen by anyone. Under cover, the women pass the parched rice back and forth between one anothe r five times. Though many Trinidadian Hindus know what to do in particular ritual contexts, they often have little idea why they do it or what the rituals mean. 31 Those in the know, however, understand this passing of rice to symbolize sexual intercourse, o rice, the gathered women traditionally sing bawdy Bhojpuri songs. The repertoire of such songs was ap parently much richer and more broadly understood in times past, 31 Vertovec, Hindu Trinidad 205.
169 women know a song or two, but do not expressly understand their Bhojpuri texts. As such the repertoire has dwi ndled to only a handful of tunes with repetitive refrains. After the women have finished exchanging the rice, the tassa band begins playing breakaway hands for dancing. The dancing is equally as suggestive if not more so than that of matikor. Indeed, lawa dancing can be quite vulgar, perhaps because it is done in relative privacy compared to the open air matikor ritual and because the lawa group is generally smaller and the participants therefore less inhibited. There is always a half joking paranoia that m dance. When the dancing is finished, the tassa band transitions back into a processional hand to lead the group back home. Lomax provided on the spot commentary for a lawa he observed in Charlo Village in 1962. Though his impromptu symbolic analysis could use some revision, year old account is worth quoting at length as it bears striking relevance to lawa performances today. I have partially transc rib ed his words below. Figures 4 5 and 4 7 contain photos taken by Lomax during this lawa. When we arrived this morning, the drums the two kettledrums, the big bass drum, and the cymbals were drumming away like crazy. They played two or ocession marched to go down the road. In the front of the procession there was a woman with a tray covered with a cloth; she was immediately behind the drummers and then came a crowd of about thirty women with their head veils on. They walked down to the m ill and went inside. The drummers remained outside. All the women went into the interior of the building. mistakes parched rice for popcorn] that was popped before. Three or four red mar ks were put on the floor. And the mother sat down next to the tray of popcorn, and she and another woman with their heads both covered with a cloth, a cloth that covered both heads and joined them poured the popcorn back and forth [between two tin trays] s everal times. They were very careful not to lose a grain of popcorn. There was a great deal of laughter and singing during this period of
170 the ceremony. And after this was over and all the popcorn had been passed back and forth several times symbolizing the exchange of the fertile principle of the child between the two parties of the marriage, the drumming continued and the A B
171 Figure 4 7. Dancing at lawa. A) dancer with raised arms and twisting waist B) w oman in right foreground extends her apron i n phallic imitation. Charlo Village, Trinidad. May 1962. From the Alan Lomax Collection, American Folkli fe Center, Library of Congress. Used courtesy of the Association for Cultural Equity. women put coal [he means sindoor], red marks, along the hairline; woman by woman was decorated with great messy splotches of red, a clear vaginal and menstrual and birth symbol. There was a great deal of laughter over this, and the [Then] there proceeded a period of abo ut fifteen minutes of very vigorous and sensual dancing. One woman picked her two great breasts up in her hands and shook them as she danced. Another woman imitated male masturbation. All the women were moving their hips and their bellies, although their f oot woman with the gold teeth and the orange brown dress put the popcorn back onto her flat tray, put it on her head, and following her, the women moved out of the house and back down the road with the drummers in the lead; the women still And when this was done, the mother came and passed two red dollar bills across the surface of the big drum symbol that had provided all the pleasure[able] feeling to the whole ceremony that had just taken place. 32 singing. Otherwise, he may as well be describing lawa as it is performed today. As discussed in the previous chapter, the decline of Indian native languages in Trinidad resulted in the loss of the lexical meaning of the bass passages in Hosay tn chopra. In turn, the drumming took on increased narrative significance. This too is the case for wedding singing. As Bhojpuri has disappeared as a native language among recent generations, the songs to accompany various stages of the Hindu wedding songs that have largely been the domain of women have likewise declined. The few who sing 32 on weddi
172 them today largely do n ot understand the words apart from a general impression especially meaningful in this r egard. In the past, tassa often accompanied many different kinds of singing. This is the case for biraha, as discussed in chapter two, which was more commonly accompanied by nagara in north India. As documented by Lomax and Myers and corroborated by drumme rs I talked to, tassa also accompanied wedding songs, though this is not the case today. As the texts and tunes of these songs faded, the tassa remained, to some degree absorbing the emotional and affective character of matikor and lawa songs in particular Agwaani respective family homes, two tassa bands are usually hired to facilitate festivities in each location. Once both families have completed the lawa by about noon on Sunday, the barat style speak ers blasting Bollywood film songs. The music signals to the community that a wedding ceremony is about to begin. In the summer of 2012, I attended two separate weddings in which the mike man role was occupied by sound trucks. Usually used to blast the late st soca hits during Carnival parades, these small flatbed trucks are piled high with enormous speakers. One of the weddings was held in a tightly packed residential neighborhood with streets so narrow no other vehicles could pass the truck as it thumped do wn the road. With their audible intrusions into the private spaces of all within
173 earshot, mike men, sound trucks, and tassa drumming all seek to sonically demarcate Indo Trinidadian cultural territory when a wedding is nearby. The barat usually stops a sho rt distance from the wedding venue. This signals the commencement of agwaani (welcoming of barat). 33 The men exit their vehicles and continue to walk in front of an elaborately decorated car, complete with garlands of flowers, within which the groom and clo se male family members are driven. The tassa side. As the two families move very slow ly toward one another, taking halting steps as directed by the pundit, the tassa bands slip to the side of the road and allow the fathers of the bride and groom to embrace. After their embrace, women come to greet the groom and escort him out of his car. A gwaani ends as the groom, fathers, and pundits 33 Persad, Rites, Rituals, and Customs 12.
174 Figure 4 8. Post agwaani wedding jassle. Aranguez, Trinidad. July 2007. Rolling and female jhal player). proceed to a space prepared for dwaar puja 34 From the moment the barat arrives and into the beginning moments of dwaar puja, the two bands play wedding hand asynchronously such that their competing sounds create a sort of sonic chaos. 35 The bands continue to play like this until the presiding pundit or other authority figure has had enough and tells them to stop. Wedding Jassles These cacophonous agwaani tassa sessions often turn into jassles musical battles between opposing bands ( figure 4 8 and 4 9 ). After the wedding is over, bot h bands also return to play for the send off of the bride and groom after which they usually engage in a much more intense jassle. Usually good natured, these confrontations can sometimes lead to physical blows if emotions flare. There is indeed a lot at stake A poor showing is not only embarrassing, but could result in the loss of revenue as potential customers look elsewhere for a better band. Jassling is also an important aspect of Hosay, though in this context, the clashes are more organized and often rationalized as part of the martial symbolism of the observance. 36 In wedding jassles, bands usually attempt to best each other on a number of fronts. First and foremost, jassling 34 Ibid., 13. 35 Some bands opt to begin with tikora, then proceed to wedding hand. Sometimes, bands will move from tikora through a classical hand or two before starting wedding hand, though this is not common in my experience. 36 Korom, Hosay Trinidad 180.
175 mited musical canon, each band is likely to know the same A B
176 Figure 4 9. Sc enes from a wedding jassle. Charlo Village, Trinidad. May 1962. The band depicted here is jassling with the band depicted in figure 4 5 (the From the Alan Lomax Collection, American Folkli fe Center, Library of Congress. Used courtesy of the Association for Cultural Equity. the practice survives today in the Bomb Tune Competition, which is a regular part of Panorama, t he annual national steelband competition. 37 ) These hands may include more esoteric classical hands or newly composed material, though the latter is rare. Jassles often proceed in a question and answer fashion; as one band pulls out a hand, the other answers it by playing it back then switching to a new hand. The opposition must then match the new hand, and introduce yet another. Hands asynchronously overlap, contributing to a loud and confusing spectacle. The jassle proceeds in this fashion until one of the competitors exhausts its store of new material. It is an embarrassment for a band to run out of hands to play while the other continues to demonstrate its depth of knowledge. It is therefore a tacit admission of defeat when a band is forced to either rever t to a previously played hand or simply quit and walk away. Bands are also judged on the quality of improvisation displayed by the cutter. Both drummers and audiences alike appreciate a cutter who can at once honor traditional tassa style by playing famili ar cuts while also demonstrating an ability to innovatively mold improvisation in musically interesting and creative ways. During 37 practiced these tunes time. In the early days of the bomb tune practice, opposing bands were often caught off guard and would have nothing nearly as unique to answer the challenge. For a detailed account of the history and practice Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 113 135.
177 more advanced stage than the oppo sing cutter. Simultaneously, the cutter aims to throw placed and surprising cuts. Jassling indeed is band while attempting to bes t the other at the same time. Some inexperienced cutters tend to rely on overwhelming volume to throw off the opposing band. However, this can backfire if a cutter relies on greater volume alone without attention to quality of performance. A band whose per formance falls apart due to lack of concentration comes across as amateurish and is quickly dispatched by a more experienced opposition. Some cutters also rely on tricks or gimmicks to surprise the opposing band and please the crowd. In 2007, I saw a light hearted jassle at a Ramayan in Dinsley Village (which is an odd place to find a jassle; they usually happen only at weddings). The cutter of one band was a skilled player who was holding his own and in no need of resorting to gimmicks to prove himself. At a certain point, however, he suddenly flipped over his nut and bolt drum and began playing on the metal shell. This surprising move prompted cheers and laughter from some in the crowd, while his performance immediately lost credibility among others. My fr iend Kalloo, a dholak player who had suggested they only made the cutter look silly. In the summer of 2012 in the small community of St. Madeline just east of San Fernando, I witnessed one of the most intense wedding jassles I have ever seen. It was a temple wedding, and I was tagging along with Lenny Kumar and T&T Sweet Tassa hoc group organiz ed by a drummer who had a history of boastfulness. The post
178 agwaani jassle featured some interesting moments, but the enclosed courtyard of the temple was an inconvenient space for a prolonged contest and the pundit was adamant that the noise should cease once the groom had entered the temple. With the jassle cut blocks away to relax until the wedding was over and tassa was again needed to send off the newlyweds. After a few hours of liming, we heard the sound of the other band and decided to make our way back down the hill. I had to gather some camera equipment before setting out, so I reached the temple a minute or so later than Lenny and the other band members. By the time I got there, an intense jassle was in full swing. I had a difficult time finding a good vantage point since a substantial crowd had already surrounded the drummers on all sides. With both Lenny and his opposing cutter being seasoned drummers, the two band s initially matched each other hand for hand. However, the opposing band quickly began falling apart; the foul and jhal players were younger and relatively inexperienced, and the cutter was far too focused on besting Lenny than holding his own band togeth er. After about ten minutes of jassling, Lenny pulled out George of the Jungle. The opposing cutter laughed, then attempted to mock Lenny by playing along with this unfamiliar hand, which he had quite a bit of trouble doing. After playing through George of the Jungle for a while, Lenny flamboyantly stretched out his left arm and handed one chope to Keron, his foulman. With his right hand, Lenny then gave the cue to begin chaubola and subsequently demonstrated his ability to cut with only his right hand. Th is clearly surprised the opposing band, that had all but stopped playing by this point. After a minute or two, Lenny signaled the end taal, and T&T Sweet Tassa ceased drumming. Lenny immediately bowed to the opposing
179 Lenny resorted to his one handed gimm ick. The implication of this gesture namely that was congratulated T&T Sweet Tassa on a job well done. Sum mary While speaker thumping DJs and loud Indian orchestras may have forced the demise of Bhojpuri wedding songs, tassa stubbornly remains the most essential musical element of the Indo Trinidadian wedding soundscape. As an accompaniment for weddings tass a is linked with rites that bring together friends, neighbors, visitors from abroad, and passersby in ritual and communal revelry; tassa accompanies and activate s this celebration of tradition In all cases matikor, lawa, agwaani, and jassles the sound of tassa boisterously announces the most anticipated parts of the wedding while simultaneously demarcating and reaffirming Indo Trinidadian cultural space. The latter is all the more apparent in diaspora; in the densely packed residential subdivisions of cent ral Florida, tassa drumming represents an audible intrusion into surrounding multicultural space, often prompting calls to police by unsympathetic neighbors. The various rituals that require tassa accompaniment feature a certain flexibility. As such wedd ing repertoire is necessarily flexible as well. A good cutter understands at least the major parts of the accompanied action and can therefore adjust the music accordingly by changing tempo, moving on to another hand, or playing cuts that best
180 complement t he dancing. With repetition, drummers become intimately aware of the rather complic ated process. Jassles are a particularly fascinating aspect of tassa performance practice. They are an expected and welcome component of wedding day festivities despite their often aggressive and cacophonous nature. Most importantly, jassles present an int en tire community to see and hear. Despite intimate association with Hindu weddings, neither the tassa ensemble nor the music it provides is considered particularly sacred. Therefore, tassa i s just as likely to be heard in a nightclub or accompanying a solemn Hosay procession as it is to facilitate a matikor d ancing session. The drummers themselves also represent an eclectic mix. T hough drummers are predominately Hindu, so are most Indo Trinid adians. There is no taboo against Muslims or Christians drum ming for Hindu weddings, just as there is none against Hindus or Christians to drum for Hosay. In this way, the popularity and ubiquity of tassa suggests an intra ethnic common ground among Hindu, Muslim, and Christian Indo Trinidadians explored more deeply in chapters six and seven Trinidadian commu nity no doubt facilitated the rise of formal tassa competitions in the 1980s. In the following chapter, I discuss ways in which wedding repertoire and images associated with Hindu weddings become important in these formal contests
181 CHAPTER 5 TRADITION AND TRANSFORMATION IN COMPETITIVE TASSA PERFORMANCES The often intense jassles that rout inely cr op up at Hindu weddings, Hosay and less commonly at other venues pit tassa bands against one another in a musical battle for honor and prestige. In th is sense, jassling is perhaps an extension of north Indian practice. Sharar, for example, described tasha drumming contests as a regular part of Muharram in nineteenth century Lucknow. However, musical competition has a long and robust history in Trinidad as well. Freed slaves, for instance, staged informal singing contests amongst themselves as early as the 1 830s. 1 This test of verbal skills eventually developed into picong a style of good natured, extemporaneous calypso aimed at besting a musical opponent. Indeed, Carnival bands have long competed with one another in numerous ways. Even after the banning of African skin drums in the 1880s and tamboo bamboo in the 1920s, an aggressive competitive spirit remained in frequent steelband clashes of the mid twentieth century. By that time, formal masquerade, calypso and steelband competitions were a regular part o f the Carnival season By the 1990s, the competitive model established by t hese contests had been extended to all manner of Trinidadian musical competitions While wedding jassles are at least in part rooted in dhol tasha tradition, the advent of formal t assa competitions in the 1980s are perhaps best considered a trope on the broader phenomenon of Trinidadian music contests, for the latter diverges greatly from the head to head battle engendered by the former. Though fleeting tassa contests continue to be organized here and there, the two most enduring formal 1 Jocelyne Guilbault, Governing Soun (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 68.
182 competitions are Tassa Taal and the National Tassa Competition. With strict regulations regarding expectations of performance and cash prizes a nd potential prestige to back these up competitions have shaped tassa performances both on and off the competition stage in noticeable ways, most importantly in a move toward slick arr angements of a few common hands. This comes at the expense of an increasingly esoteric set of classical repertoire that is quickl y disappearing as older drummers pass away. On the socio political front, formalized tassa competitions also seek to legitimize tassa drumming as deserving of critical attention within a nationwide competitive forum. In this way, tassa competitions elevat e tassa from a village folk music, to one of national import. Competitive rules and regulations demonstrate that tassa drumming is capable more mainstream musicultural commo dities, calypso and steelband. While the mechanism of competition propels tassa out of the communal and functional spaces it has traditional ly occupied and into the re alm of the staged and folkloric, this transformative process refocuses attention upon tas sa drumming as a unique and encapsulating Indo Trinidadian musical expression. Contesting Tradition The 1970s were a tumultuous period for Trinidad and Tobago. First, ripples of the Black Power Movement reached the country in 1970, this evidenced by a seri es of sometimes violent demonstrations against the Afro Saxon ruling class that rocked Port of Spain early in the year. Black Power leaders tried early on to co opt Indo Trinidadians into the Movement by virtue of a common history of exploitation by coloni al elites. Indo Trinidadians, however, reacted with skepticism and distrust. After all, since the
183 indenture period, Indo Trinidadian identity had been defined in many respects in counterpo int to that of Afro Trinidadian orientations 2 Therefore, attempts t o impose Trinidadians had the unforeseen affect of further distancing them from their Creole compatriots. At nearly the same moment, the sugar workers union, comprised primarily of Indo Trinidadians, went on strike in Central Trinidad With the threat of other labor and political organizations s taging actions in solidarity Prime Minister Eric Williams declared a state of emergency. In general elections the following year, opposition parties called for a boycott at the polls citing per ruling party, the Peoples National Movement (PNM), which ha s historically been linked with Afro Trinidadian interests. The PNM expectedly swept the elections, thus assuring that the primarily Indo Tri nidadian opposition would not figure in national politics for the remainder of the decade. The global energy crises of the 1970s further complicated matters as Trinidad l production boomed, bringing with it unprecedented revenues that all si des claimed were misspent in some way or another. Nonetheless, average Trinidadians, especially those working in petro chemical production in Central and South, saw their wages and standard s of living rise rather dramatically. For many Indo Trinidadians, t he economic shift from agriculture to industry meant a shift from lower to middle class status. 3 This affluence in turn spurred an Indo Trinidadian renaissance, 2 Munasinghe, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? 230. 3 Ibid., 232 233; Vertovec, Hindu Trinidad 143 154.
184 consolidation of po litical control. 4 This renaissance importantly saw a resurgence of socio religious and cultural practices, especially an increase in the performance and promotion of Indo Trinidadian arts like never before; most relevant at present, this included the organ ization of a number of amateur music competitions. Mastana Bahar The television program Mastana Bahar (Joyful Spring) is perhaps the most enduring example. Structured as an Indo Trinidadian talent contest, Mastana Bahar was based upon a competitive model exemplified by calypso and steelband contests, one consisting of a series of semifinal and final rounds in each of wh ich entrants give individual stage d performances that are adjudicated by a panel of judges. 5 Conceived by Sham Mohammed, a member of a poli tically and culturally influential family including Moen and Kamaluddin Mohammed, Mastana Bahar premiered in 1970 and has since longest running television show and is still produced by members of the Mohammed family. The progra m is open to all ages and races, featuring a number of preliminary heats staged at various locales across the country entrants compete against one another regardless of the ir talent. As such, local classical singers, Bollywood dancers, and Indian orchestras are lumped together along with a variety of other acts including tassa bands. Prior to Mastana Bahar, there were virtually no other enduring venues for formal competitive tassa performance. 4 Ray Kiely, The Politics of Labour and Development in Trinidad (Kingston, Jamaica: The Press Universit y of the West Indies, 1996), 114 131; Manuel, singing 12; Vertovec, Hindu Trinidad 124 127. 5 Manuel, singing 51.
185 A B C D Figure 5 1 Actors playing a bride, groom, and pundit appear on stage with Harr y Lutchman Tassa Group, C and D) female dancer. Screenshots from Ma stana Bahar finals of 1983. Many bands have been featured on Mastana Bahar over the years, including a memorable appearance by the Harry Lutchma n Tassa Group in the 1983 final round In this performance, the four members of the band took the stage in carn ivalesque Indian outfits, complete with sequined crowns, and played a suite of hands that included tikora, khemta (a classical hand), dingolay, and calypso hand. While the band played, three actors sat around a stylized marriage altar: two dressed as a Hin du bride and groom sat on one side of the altar while another dressed as a pundit simulated ritual actions typical o f th e marriage ceremony (figure 5 1 ). When the band began to play dingolay, an Indian
186 dancer emerged, her movements perhaps best described a s an amalgam of generic Bollywood poses combined with typical Trini gyrations. into theatre that clearly plays upon the symbolic and functional importance of tassa as an indispen sible accompaniment for Hindu weddings. The performance, however, takes great liberties in expressing these associations. Tassa would never accompany the rites associated with the marriage proper as is reenacted in this performance Rather, drumming typica lly accompanies pre marriage matikor, lawa, and agwaani and the post marriage send off; jassling is of course a secular component of the post marriage festivities as well. Likewise, tassa would never accompany classical dance; the appearance of the dancer seems only to highlight the role of dingolay and calypso as breakaway hands and to add visual flair to an otherwise stoic group of performers on stage. The performance therefore compresses the kind of protracted tassa performance one might typically find i n a traditional context into the constraints of a five minute eclectic performing arts entries in the ever Competition, a cont est initiated by Eric Williams after independence to encourage the development of local cultural art forms. Tassa Taal and the National Tassa Competition The competitive format established by Mastana Bahar, one in turn gleaned at least in part from calyps o and steelband competitions readily served as a model for tassa competitions and continues to nurture the spectacle of such contests. In 1984, the Penal branch of Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT) began sponsoring the l t
187 of its local branch es with organizing social activities for its respective service areas. Augustine Young Lai, Penal branch manager a t the time, consulted a handful of commercial customers regarding ideas for a community program. Discussions among customers and staff soon turned to the idea of a tassa competition. Current RBTT representative in charge of coordinating the competition Nar esh Ragoonanan recalls that the contest was first organized under competition [,] 6 Tassa Taal quickly bec ame a popular community event, drawing bands and audiences from across the country. Given the climate of Indo Trinidadian cultural resurgence of the 1980s, conditions were well suit ed f o r the emergence o f a well funded, well organized, and persistent Indo Trinidadian folk music competition nurtured by the dominant Indo Trinidadian demographic of South Trinidad Other grassroots competitions would come and go for nearly two decades until veteran entertainment promoter Vijay Ramlal Rai began staging an annual competition under the purview of the Tassa Association of Trinidad and Tobago ( TATT ), an organization he founded and assumed presidency of in 2000. 7 The TATT competition was first billed as the National Tassa Monarch Competition to reflect the nomenclatur e of Carnival time competitions (e.g. Calypso Monarch, Soca Monarch, Chutney Soca 6 Naresh Ragoonanan, E mail to author, June 12, 2013. 7 Ramlal Rai is also founder and president of National Cultural Promot ions of Trinidad & Tobago, the national Chutney Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, the Carnival/Cultural Judges Association of Trinidad and Tobago (this orga nization oversees judging for TATT Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation, and Trinidad and Tobago Entertainment Company. As discussed in chapter five, Ramala national instrument.
188 Monarch, etc.) but has since been renamed the National Tassa Competition of Trinidad and Tobago with sponsorship by British Petroleum, Trinidad and Tobago ( bpTT) (item A in figure 5 2 ). Though various promoters and community organizations plan occasional competitions (such as Tassabration, which is pa rtly sponsored by TATT [item B in figure 5 2 ]), Tassa Taal and the National Tassa Competition are the most enduring and indeed most prestigious. In the following discussion of these tassa competitions, the reader is advised to refer to Appendix C fo r full copies of all referenced rules, regulations, and score sheets. A B Figure 5 2 Posters advertising tassa competition s. A) The 2006 National Tassa Competition, B) 2007 Tassabration. Rule s Regulations, and Performance Expectations Tassa competitions tend to be ostentatious affairs. Bands usually perform on a raised platform or a proper stage with lights and sound reinfor cement. Those who can afford it will buy elaborate Indian style costumes. A number of clothing shops around
189 the country carry Indian outfits generally worn by a groom and other men in a wedding party. As such, it is not uncommon to see a four member tassa band on the competition stage dressed like identical Bollywood grooms, complete with sequined turbans and pointy up turned shoes. Bands with corporate sponsorship like the Tropical Power Country Boys Tassa Group, the Caribel Fun Lovers Tassa Group, and the RBTT Dragon Boys Tassa Group are able to buy less generic and therefore more d istinctive and colorful outfits While some tassa competitions award a special Best Dressed title dress into the National Tassa Competition (though judges could conceivably tak e dress into ones selected as Best Dressed, this therefore reinforcing tassa with Indianness, no matter the degree to which these costumes signal a largely imagined and romanticized connection to India. In Tassa Taal and the National Ta ssa Competition, bands are given a short space of performance time on sta ge (twelve minutes for Tassa Taal and ten minutes for the National Tassa Competition) Within this period, bands are expected to play five ic precision and balance within the ensem ble. This category counts for 35 % in Tassa Taal and 25% in the National Tassa Competition.
190 (since reduced to 10%) while Despite these similarities, judging criteria differ between the two competitions in important ways. Tassa Taal allocate s 35 authenticity of performance. This interest in authenticity is highlighted in the rules for the 2007 Tassa Taal: 3) Points will be lost for any oth er hand played not mention[ed]. 5) Hands: Tikora, Chowbola, Classical Wedding Hand, Dingolay, Kalinda. 8 11) Each group must be represented by not more than four (4) performers: Cutter Man, Foolay Man, Jhaal Man and Bass Man 12) The only pieces allowed: C utter, Foolay, Jhaal, Bass. Rules eleven and twelve effectively limit bands to the customary set of four instruments and four players, therefore leaving no room for innovation, neither in number of players nor instrumentation. Meanwhile, rules three and f ive give express guidelines for the music bands should play, even to the point of indicating that deviation from the prescribed hands either through omission or replacement results in an unspecified deduction. In 2010, the strictness of these guidelines we re revised upon complaints by bands who wanted more room to showcase innovation. 9 From the 2010 competition tikora, chau bola, wedding hand, and calypso all of which ar e decidedly traditional and very common hands The hand of choice may be a new composition or some other 8 Kalinda is a breakaway hand apparently derived from Afro Trinidadian dr umming to accompany Carnivaltime kalenda stick fights. 9 Naresh Ragoonanan, E mail to author, June 12, 2013.
191 hand. Moreover, the rules now also allow for up to six performers on stage at a time, therefore reflecting many bands whose personnel includes extra pl ayers beyond the traditional four. Despite these revisions that indeed allow for a modicum of innovation, Tassa Taal nonetheless steers performances according to traditional expectations and largely limits them to music commonly played as processional or b reakaway wedding hands. On the other hand, the judging criteria for the 2005 National Tassa Competition placed significant weight (20%) on assessing eac ( to c hange from one hand to the next) with no explicit consideration of the overall accuracy choosing, at least one was required to be an original composition. Fully 25% of each no specific guidelines were given for judges to evaluate it. Despite the ambiguity of the indicates a progressive interest not found in the judging criteria for Tassa Taal. Where Tassa Taal for the most part rewards contestants for authentic interpretation of a set of canonic repertoire, the National Tassa Competition places greater emphasis on creativity and innovation. When compared against the sta ndards that drummers use to evaluate each other during wedding jassles, the divergent directions of these competitions are not altogether incongruent. In jassling, bands routinely test each other in terms of depth of knowledge and accuracy of interpretatio n but also value innovative deployment of uncommon and, on occasion, original composition. Indeed, including the
192 requirement of an original piece in the National Tassa Competition is an effort to inject innovation and creativity into what is otherwise a ra ther static repertoire. Extra musical elements also enhance the competition experience. In addition to the afore mentioned glitzy costumes, competitors often supplement their performance with dancers, props, and actors on stage, much like Harry Lutchman Ta Mastana Bahar performance described above. The guidelines for the 2005 National tation colorful costumes, dancers, and elaborate props, competition often takes on a carnivalesque atmosphere. To illustrate, I discuss below an elaborate example of a com Competition held in Debe on August 29, 2009. ter, Keron Ramkeessoon on foul, George Bab o olal on bass, and Kevin Mohammed on jhal The band wore elaborate Indian dress but they were quite visually overshadowed by a total of thirteen ancillary dancers and actors on stage Throughout the nearly eight minute performance, actors maintained poses that each represented contexts in which tassa is often heard. On stage left, there were actors evoking a Hindu wedding dressed as an Indian bride and groom and standing under a maro improvised from a garlanded re d umbrella. Joining them were actors dressed as a Carnival masquerader and as Krishna, these to respectively represent Carnival and the Hindu Ramleela festival that is
193 particularly vibrant in Trinidad and Tobago. On stage right, there were Afro Trinidadian s miming performance on a steel pan and a small djembe, these meant to suggest A B C D
194 E F Figure 5 3 T&T Sweet Tassa at the 2009 National Tassa Competition. A) Punjabi, B) nagara, C) chutney, D) dingolay, E and F) calyps o. drummers were two young men wearing long white kurtas and holding a miniature be information. As the music progressed from one hand to another, groups of dancers passed across the stage acting out vignettes representative of Trinidadian multiculturalism ( fig ure 5 3 ). The first hand w hand Lenny created based upon bhangra purple sequins appeared on stage with Bollywood inspired choreography. These dance rs were intended to represent Indo transitioned into nagara, this accompanied by a vignette depicting matikor. A small procession entered from stage left led by a young girl carrying a tray on her head followed b y four older women wearing headscarves, one carrying a long garden hoe. Once the procession crossed to stage right, the women lowered the tray to the ground
195 while the hoe wielding woman began to mime digging the earth. Once this scene was established, all five commenced dancing in a sexually suggestive manner, much to the approval of the gathered crowd. Lenny then broke taal to transition into chutney hand. With this emerged a solo female dancer with a Carnival style who Lenny described as a This is the only incongruous vignette in the performance. It seems the dance had no intended ideological associations with the music; it was merely for entertainment. The fourth hand was dingolay accompanied by two teenage girls in red, white, and black c ostumes dancing a hybrid of Indo and Afro Trinidadian styles. This transitioned into calypso at which point a solo female dancer emerged with dress and choreography typical of Afro Trinidadian bl dancer was appropri ate to accompany calypso hand, which as discussed in the previous chapter, is derived from Afro Trinidadian musical forebears. Both calypso and bl share roots in the music and dance transplanted from neighboring French islands in the late 1700s. As Lenny signaled the band to increase the tempo of calypso, dancers began forming the final vignette downstage right. The bl dancer continued her choreography as the dancers from dingolay came out to flank her. A female actor in a Chinese costume began moving f rom upstage to downstage right behind them. Then, a male dancer in white trousers, a red sequined top, and a black sash draped across his shoulder, therefore embodying an image of the national flag, danced Carnival style into the center of the group. As th fireworks shot up from behind the stage and the male dancer thrust aloft a large red,
196 umbrella of Trinidad and Tobago roared with enthusiasm. Tradition Contested In general, competitive tassa performance s diverge considerably from what might formances in a wedding context. The mus ic is not used to facilitate procession, accompany improvised dancing, or announce the arrival of regulations to emphasize form over function. In the following pages, I summariz e four important ways that competitions deviate from wedding performances, namely repertoire, narrative, spectacle, and competitive format. Repertoire With stipulations invariably requiring bands to play common wedding appropriate hands, Tassa Taal in part icular emphasizes what is perceived to be fundamentally traditional repertoire and ensemble arrangement. In this way, conceptual linkages with wedding performances are unambiguous even if competitive performance is expected to be necessarily more flashy an d virtuosic than run of the mill wedding music. Repertoire requirements as laid out for the National Tassa Competition maintain similar association with wedding repertoire, yet also give ample incentive for innovation and creativity. As discussed in chapte r three new compositions are sometimes introduced in wedding contexts, however original compositions receive more exposure, appreciation, and critique in the context of competition. The brief time slot allotted in competition is intended for bands to dist ill their most impressive skills into a compelling st aged show. One result is that hands traditionally
197 played for extended periods of wedding procession or dancing are abbreviated, their full scale development cut short in favor of artful arrangement. In a ll cases, repertoire is prescribed according to competition rules. Though hands may be rotated from year to year, they rarely fall outside of the handful of common hands discussed in chapter three. Wedding hand is sometimes an option, though Hosay hands ar e never required in competition, this keeping in line with the notion that they should not be performed outside of Hosay. Therefore, the rules and regulations of competitive tassa performances essentially require a highly stylized suite of wedding appropri ate hands. Over time these hands, in their showy arrangements work their way back into band s wedding performances with the ultimate result being a reduction in the diversity of wedding and classical hands common in times past. The expectations of compe titive tassa performance strongly emphasize form over function. Where good cutters can read an audience of dancers in the context of a lawa or matikor performance and therefore know when and where to break taal for maximum effect, successful competitive ta ssa performances are largely built upon pre arranged sequences that, as noted above, limit the full development of each hand. Rehearsed arrangements feed back into expectations of virtuosity while simultaneously tion to accompanied actions in a traditional, non competitive setting Narrative Varying concepts of narrative are important for competition success. In some cases, this may be as simple as arranging hands in a way that emphasizes a typical musical develo pment. For example, playing tikora and other classical hands first then
198 to progress through a drumming suite. More commonly, however, bands use props, actors, and dancers to draw upon notions familiar to competition judges and audiences who are primarily Indo Trinidadians. This tradition is clearly indebted to precedents of the Best Village com petition among other sources. performance that indeed prefigured the advent of elaborate competitive tas sa arrangements ), images of Hindu weddings are common and can be particularly effective otherwise musical narrative. l ayers of deeper musical and socio historical meaning are frequently embedded comp etitive performances Rather than limiting himself exclusively to Indo Trinidadian images, for example, multicultural fram ework of Trinidadian society. Therefore the staged symbolism of T&T as described above centers on a broader narrative about national belonging deployed by way of a distinctly Indo Trinidadian art form and presented within nationwi de competitive forum Spectacle Competitive tassa is not just about the music. Indeed, music is often backgrounded, both literally and figuratively, as bands assume an extreme upstage static position allowing for ancillary performers to act the music in the downstage area closest to the audience. Music and dance come together with elaborate costumes, props, stage lighting, and sound reinforcement to create an amalgamated spectacle that
199 often overshadows the music itself. With the aid of such a spectacle, bands can play a simple arrangement of hands and still come out on top. On the other hand, musical risk taking and therefore uncanny innovation is not always rewarded if judges are not impressed with extra musical elements of performance. Competitions are also spectacles in and of themselves. With upwards of thirty bands in some rounds, the sheer number of performances and collection of so many drummers in one space at a time can be astounding. Local radio, television, or cultural celebrities often emcee co mpetitions while commercial vendors hawk their wares around the competition grounds and DJs play soca and chutney through massive sound systems in the interstices between performances. These elements all contribute to a heightened sense of occasion for bot h contest participants and audiences alike. Competitive Format As described above, the most likely competitive models for tassa contests are Mastana Bahar and Carnival time calypso and steelband competition s, all of which feature preliminary and final r ounds with judging criteria focused upon both musical and non musical elements. Importantly also, entrants in these contests are given a specified amount of time on stage, with consecutive individual performances throughout the course of an event. Though t his is a common competitive model for a wide variety of contests in Trinidad and elsewhere, it has no precedent within tassa tradition in and of itself. Indeed, the most immediate competitive format in this regard is jassling. Though the unwritten rules go verning wedding and Hosay jassles make at least a partial appearance in the judging criteria for formal competitions, there are clearly fundamental differences. Most importantly, formal competitions lack the kind of hand for hand battles between two simult aneously performing bands that form the foundation of jassling. To
200 my knowledge, there has never been any attempt to incorporate this kind of competitive format into formal competitions. Extra musical factors like behavior, dress, and overall presentation (including actors and dancers) are significantly important for success in formal contests. Bands with corporate sponsorship generally fare better in this regard as they are better able to offset costs, while an unsponsored band might end up spending more money out of pocket than they could hope to recoup from competition winnings. Prize money is indeed rather minimal; the 2013 Tass a Taal winner received only TT$10 000 (about US$1 700 ), a rather paltry sum when divided among four musicians and an even paltr i er sum considering the costs associated with build ing props and costumes for a stage full of ancillary performers. 10 Prize money, however, is not the most important incentive for most bands who routinely earn more by performing for weddings and other functi ons. Rather, it is the prestige of winning that drives most to compete. Not only can a band boast a first place trophy, they also receive nationwide publicity in newspapers, on the radio, on television in some cases, and more recently on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. This in turn leads to winners being hired for more gigs. A band who does consistently well over the years can turn tassa into a decent secondary income stream. Virtually no one, however, can live from tassa alone. Citing both a n unfair advantage in favor of sponsored bands and the tendency toward carnivalesque spectacle rather than musical competition, many drummers have consistently argued for removal of extra musical criteria from judging rubrics, thereby 10 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian (Trinidad and Tobago, May 20, 2011).
201 refocusing attention on the music alone. Indeed, Lenny Kumar, Muskesh Ragoo, and others have gone so far as to suggest that competition is a divisive force fracturing the tassa community. Some advocate the abolition of formal competition in favor of what Kumar compete with one another; ticket sales and vendor fees from t he event could also go toward a substantial appearance fee for each band, ensuring that no one walks away empty handed. Consiste nt claims of corrupt or inept judging exacerbate this negative view of competition. Given the insular nature of tassa student teacher relationships, competitions are routinely judged by mentors, protgs, or other relations of competitors. On the flip side bands are just as likely to be judged by rivals. Further frustrating matters, contest organizers who are rarely musicians themselves commonly recruit judges who are not tassa drummers nor have any musical training. After a particularly disappointing expe rience with apparently inept judging, Ragoo expressed his frustration in a Facebook message to the supporters of his band Were you there last night to witness what happened? Once again, this competition reeked with poor judging and the same old thing year after year. We had numerous meetings with the organisers for this event and a lot of the same things happened again. One is having a whole dance school on the same stage as the drummers, blocking them from view, and putting full at tention to the gyrating dancers. The main hand to be judged on was the creative piece. Wow! I beginning to wonder again, how come alot of the 40 plus tassa groups did not bother to show up for the qualifying round. Did they know something I didn't? who will win before the event takes place? 11 11 Mukesh Ragoo, Facebook message to D Evergreen Tassahulics Group, August 30, 2009.
202 In response to consistent complaints like these, organizers have trie d to mitigate problems by soliciting suggestions from the competitors and implementing democratically agreed upon improvements. Still, accusations abound and will probably never completely go away. Tellingly, the same sorts of problems have long plagued ca lypso and steel band judging as well. The National Stage Jocel yne Guilbault frames Trinidad 12 While the history of contempora ry Carnival is rooted in the spontaneous creativity of enslaved Africans and their descendants, state entities effectively usurped control of Carnival revelry by the 1950s and have since played an important role in regulating mechanisms of cultural identif ication, including Carnival time music competitions. As state deployed implements of subsidy and control, music competitions associated with Carnival especially Calypso Monarch and Panorama, and exclusion of specific sounds, 13 As disc ussed more in chapter six, one effect of this was the concretization of Afro Tri nidadian culture especially C arnival, calypso, and steel pan as national culture. In this light, t he socio political drama so often embedded i n calypso and pan competition s therefore takes on national import. Dudley reminds, however, that Carnival time competitions are essentially that is recent creations given socio historical significance through 12 Guilbault, Governing Sound 40. 13 Ibid., 68.
203 repeated association wi th important cultural occasion s or ideas that have considerably reshaped the communal music al practices they purport to celebrate and preserve. 14 implicated with comp lex, mu ltivalent motivations the expectations of music contests have clearly shape d musical style and mu performance For steel pan in partic ular, Dudley notes, for example : [Pannists] may enjoy playing for dancers, but they a lso aspire to master a cosmopolitan repertoire, and they pride themselves on the kinds of discipline, uniformity, and formal complexity that are associated more with concert stage performances of the classics than dance parties. The Panorama competition ha s encouraged such aspirations to presentational standards of performance, affecting both the structure of the music and the manner of rehearsal and performance. 15 T he repercussions of this transformation are a popular subject of debate with many old sch contests 16 T here is little doubt however, that the presenta tional mode of pan performance, as exemplified in Panorama has been subsumed within the rubric of a similarly tr ansformed notion of tradition redefined according to contemporary trends. State control of Carnival and Carnival time competitions in the mid 1900s were clearly an effort to subsidize, promote, and control the production of national culture. This notion of competition as improvement persists today (and is discussed further in chapter six). Dudley indeed suggests that an often cited premise for staging music 14 Dudley, Music from Behind t he Bridge 212. 15 Ibid., 213. 16 Ibid ., 202.
204 incentivizing exemplary performance as delimited by contest rules and regulations. 17 These sentiments are echoed in the words of Tassa Taal coordinator Naresh Ragoonanan who frames the advent of tassa competition as rooted in a desire to garner national at tention for tassa: The [advent of the Tassa Taal] competition came at a time when tassa was considered less than the other art forms in Trinidad and Tobago. The art form suffered from a stigma of being one of low standard and skill. Very few [people] know the tassa as we know it is unique to Trinidad and Tobago. The [individual drums of the ensemble] can be found in India but the combination of the cutter, foolay, bass, and the jhange is unique to Trinidad and Tobago. Like the steel pan it is indigenous to us. The tassa competition being [put] on by [an] organization like Republic Bank allowed for tassa to be view[ed] on a stage of elevated value. The reputation of the B ank loaned itself to the art form and allow [ed] the image of tassa to be lifted. 18 The Na tional Tassa Competition was initially organized with similar goals. More to the point, however, the National Tassa Competition serves as a symbolic center in Ramlal a second national instrument as described in the following chapter. As discussed earlier, the constraints of tassa competitions point toward a perception of tassa regulations that act to preserve time musi c competitions have shaped performance in a way that disrupts the communal practices they seek to maintain, so too do tassa competitions dislocate and decontextualize wedding repertoire for the competition stage. N either of the two tassa competitions disc ussed in this study are synchronous with the Carnival season. On one hand, it is simply a practical matter to stage tassa 17 Ibid., 2 03. 18 Naresh Ragoonanan, E mail to author, June 12, 2013.
205 is understandably focused on mas querade calypso, soca, and pan during this per iod. On the other hand, however, the organization of significant and purportedly national competitions without reference to the nationalist frame of Carnival revelry suggests a move toward nationalizing tassa performance on its own terms in an Indo Trinida dian space of revelry and celebration 19 it is difficult to ignore the similarities between the operative mechanisms of tassa a nd Carnival time competitions. With a similar competitive format and motivations for organization, tassa contests come into view as a trope on the broader phenomenon of music competitions in Trinidad and Tobago and therefore suggest a desire to advance tas sa performance as equally deserving of the kind of critical attention afforded calypso and steel pan in their respective, state sponsored competitions. T assa contests therefore seek to foster a national forum for compari son, critique, and improvement conce ptually linked with, separate from, yet equal in stature to Carnival time competitions however unlikely the latter may be in practice In this way, tassa competitions are on e vehicle for not only claiming but performatively activating Indo Trinidadian sp ace within a particularly important tradition of national competition Summary The changes in tassa performance practice catalyzed by competition are similar to those described by Amy Stillman in her work documenting Hawaii a n hula Stillman notes that t he expectations of formal hula competition s have spurred changes both in 19 Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 203.
206 repertoire and performance practice. Though hula contests were first organized in the 1970s as a means to generate interest in and therefore preserve hula, Stillman notes that competi tions also fostered transformations that gave rise to new understandings about and orientations toward tradition: That competitions have become venues of prestige accounts in large part for their impact on the hula tradition, in terms of both repertoire an The formulation of rules and regulations imposes constraints on performance; working around those constraints has resulted in solutions that depart from customary procedures in presentation and enactment. To some extent, those same constrain ts can also be indicative of particular perspectives on traditionality in terms of what they explicitly exclude. 20 excluding tourist oriented performances and incl uding newly composed choreography that meets the demands of judging criteria and audience expectations. In the case of the latter in particular, hula competitions have shifted attention away from the functionality of hula and toward staged spectacle: Devel opments in the hula tradition, as practiced in hula competitions, manifest a clear orientation toward an emphasis on purely visual aspects of appearance and movement. The intent is to impress audiences. Part of what impresses is excellence, innovations, or visual display within individual performances that are presented onstage; part of what impresses is the sheer spectacle of events that feature mass numbers of consecutive performances. 21 Despite significant numbers of hula practitioners who eschew the per ceived inauthenticity of competitive hula and therefore distance themselves from contests, Stillman concludes that competitions should rightly be regarded as an extension of tradition: 20 The Journal of American Folklore 109, no. 434 (1996): 375. 21 Ibid.
207 Initially intended as venues for the presentation of hula and the celeb ration of its survival in the late 20 th century, hula competitions have provided stages for innovative creativity; those stages in turn provide critiques of approval or not alw ays correspond). Having become a vital part of what is presented on a competition stage, creativity has been restored within the hula tradition itself, thereby anchoring contemporary hula practice in the realm of a truly living, rather than merely preserve d, tradition. Thus, for all the controversy they can provoke from time to time, and for all the changes they have already effected in the hula tradition, hula competitions have in fact become robust celebrations of flourishing Hawaiian cultural practices. competitive tassa. While tassa contest rules reinforce a rather limited set of common hands while simultaneously driving performance toward slick, staged arrangements, the r esulting changes in repertoire and performance have come to represent a vital component of tassa practice that is now an irrevocabe part of tassa tradition. While Stillman suggests creativity has anchored contemporary hula performances, tassa competitions by comparison are anchored in the repetition of what is deemed the form of a few common wedding hands. Competition regulations furthermore reward bands that create polished arrangements of this limited repertoire, therefore de incentivizin g knowledge of a broad repertoire of increasingly rare classical hands, most of which would not be very exciting to put on stage given current competitive conventions anyway. Nonetheless, competitions have injected new ideas into tassa performance practice The National Tassa Competition requirement of an original composition is indicative of the ways in which competitions are mechanisms for change. Though n ewly composed hands rarely become a regular part of the repertoire, especially since a new ha nd is
208 Moreover, competitions have introduced an alternative competitive format, one that mitigates the aggression of jassling while by its very nature allowing competitors to enter on an even, egalitarian footing despite perennial protests against perceived failings in adjudication. Overall competitions have subtly encouraged tassa bands to be entertainers, not just facilitators of lawa, matikor, and agwaani. In the end competitions situate tassa as more than noisy village music, but a legitimate art form deserving of serious recognition. Unlike the Chutney Soca Monarch competition which has been a part of Carnival festivities since 1996 and, as Dudley asserts, has been officially def Trinidadian terms, 22 I suggest that the establishment of tassa competitions outside of the nationalist context of Carn ival represents an alternative narrative of nationality that need not depend upon Carnival, and therefore mainstream Afro Creole culture, as a touchstone of legitimacy. In chapter role within it. 22 Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 2 17.
209 CHAPTER 6 CO NATIONAL INSTRUMENTS? RACE, CREOLIZATION, AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AS EMBLEMS OF TRINIDADIAN IDENTITY Forged from the love of liberty In the fires of hope and prayer With boundless faith in our destiny We solemnly declare: Side by side we stand Islands of the blue Caribbean sea, This our native land We pledge our lives to thee. Here every creed and race find an equal place, And may God bless our nation Here every creed and race find an equal place, And may God bless our nat ion. 1 In this chapter, I discuss Trinidadian understandings of creolization in constructing orientations toward national belonging by examining the current debate over musical instruments as markers of national identity In doing so, I situate tassa as a particularly emblematic encapsulation of Indo Trinidadian identity, one that transcends intra ethnic boundaries of religion, gender, and class. I begin by describing colonial constructions of race and show how r acial division was by the mid twentieth centu ry translated into political rivalry based upon inclusion and exclusion from a nationalized creole culture. I then describe events surrounding the institutionalization of steel pan as Trinidadian challenge s to it, especially the proposal of tassa as co national instrument. I conclude by discussing new perspectives offered by contemporary Trinidadian multicultural discourse and suggest 1
210 two possible Indo Trinidadian orientations toward national belonging as e xemplified in the national instrument debate. range of erudite and vernacular contexts in which these terms are routinely deployed. sixteenth century New World Spanish word criollo 2 Moreover, criollo and its Portuguese cognat e crioulo tended in this period to indicate a white person born in New World colonies. Robin Cohen and Paola Toninato point out, 3 Firs t, we have the colonial, born in the old country, or anchored there psychologically and affectively. Second, we have the Creole, born in a new place of foreign parents, who nonetheless identifies with his or her immediate surroundings or is so identified b whose ancestors had lived there for so long that they are assumed to, or claim imported labourers (often African slaves) who were put to work in the plantati ons and enterprises usually established by the colonial powers and managed by the Creoles. Creolization was the outcome of the interactions cultural, religious, linguistic, economic, political and sexual between these four groups. 4 Eventually, the epithet 5 The specific meaning s of Creole would 2 Robin Cohen and Pa in The Creolization Reader: Studies in Mixed Identities and Cultures ed. Robin Cohen and Paola Toninato (London: Routledge, 2010), 3. 3 Ibid., 3 4. 4 Ibid., 4. 5 Ibid.
211 vary from place to place. Where it originally indicated a foreign born white person, in Trinidad, as just on colony indicating a colony born Indian, in 1890s Guyana. 6 In disciplinary terms, linguists studying creole languages in the 1800s were first constituent parts. By the 1970s, social scientists h ad widely appropriated this linguistic concept as a metaphor to describe broader socio cultural processes of cultural hybridity. describes to the creation of new langu ages, cultural creolization connotes the creation of new cultural formations emerging upon long term interaction among parent cultures. 7 Embedded in this idea is an assumption of resilience and creativity at points of contact often under harsh conditions l ike slavery or forced exile resulting in novel practices that eventually come to characterize cultural regions. Tina Ramnarine, for example, describes which, by virtue of their abrasion, re sults in continued construction and negotiation of socio cultural meaning. 8 With time, the tensions and products of such a process form a 6 Timehri: The Journal of the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society of British Guiana New Series, no 11 (1897): 136cultu 7 8 Tina K. Ramnarine, Beautiful Cosmos: Performance and Belonging in the Caribbean Diaspora (London: Pluto Press, 2007).
212 familiar, understandable, and comfortable anchorage upon which individuals and groups moor their identities. As Aisha Khan points out, however, processes of creolization are often taken for granted both by academics and the ruling classes of post colonial nati on states who agency, resi 9 domain in which people all people and correlate concepts including hybridity, fusi on, and more recently, multiculturalism tends to blur or even ignore hegemonic strategies of control and subordination. 10 To reinvigorate the analytical import of creolization, Khan therefore calls for a turn away from the abstract more concrete ethnographic insight into the processes of creolization in practice. In an effort to answer this call, this chapter examines the current debate over national in s truments in Trinida d and Tobago as a case in point. By the mid twentieth century, the rise of party politics allowed the so called Afro Saxon middle class to inherit power from British elites in the run up to independence in 1962. With the advantage of political supremacy, t his new ruling class set about defining Trinidadian nationality in opposition to foreign political and cultural models. Creolization, narrowly defined in terms of Afro European hybridity, emerged as a marker of Trinidadian indigenousness and also therefore of cultural authenticity. This authenticity 9 10 Ibid.
213 was then concretized in the promotion of distinctly Afro Trinidadian expressive arts, especially steel pan as national culture Indo Trinidadian demands for inclusion in the national portrait have routinely bee n met with reluctance by the state and strident opposition from Afro Creole stakeholders. The abrasiveness of Trinidadian racial politics to indicate, Trinidad and T obago is an inclusive nation where as quoted in the text of resolve them using the rubric of creolization? Patterns of Race based Competition in Trinidad Orientalism Amar Wahab characterizes 11 in a Saidian sense the laboring masses in relation to themselves therefore helped justify, educate about and reinforce the colonial social hierarchy. 12 In the following pages, I discuss ways in which elite conceptions of racial difference affected racial tensions during the colonial period and were transmuted into p olitical rivalries by the mid 1900s 11 Amar Wahab, Colonial Inventions: Landscape, Pow er and Representation in Nineteenth Century Trinidad (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2010), 7. 12 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 31 49.
214 Racial Tensions in the Colonial Era At Last: Christmas in the West Indies provides numerous examples that illustrate elite conceptions of race in nineteenth century Trinidad. An engraving facetiously ( figure 6 1) is particularly illustrative in this regard. It depicts three groups of onlookers most prominent non 13 The engraving is presented without comment, save its title, yet clearly is meant to visualize the stereotypes Kingsley constructs in his writing. The Indians occupy the center third of the image and are depicted as a cohesive family unit with the upright fathe r figure dominating the center of the frame. Flanking them are a group of Negroes and a Chinese couple, the former depicted as slouched and lazy and the latter as drab, distant, and statuesque. Tellingly, each group keeps to itself. 13 Charles Kingsley, At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies (London: MacMillan and Company, 1889), 304.
215 Fig ure 6 Charles Kingsley, At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies (London: MacMillan and Company, 1889), 304. Throughout At Last nume rous passages compare Afro and Indo Trinidadians in particular, setting up a normative dichotomy that pits the lazy, unreliable Negro against the demure, hard If you took notice of a [Coolie] child, not only the mother smiled thanks and delight, but the men around likewise, as if a compliment had been paid to their could say the same of the Negro. His treatment of his children and of his beasts of burden is, but too often, as exactly opposed to that of the Coolie as are his manners. No wonder that the two races do not, and it is to be feared never will, amalgamate; that the Coolie, shocked by the unfortunate awkwardness of gesture and vulgarity of manners of the average Negro, and still more of the Negress, looks on them as savages; while the Negro, in his turn, hates the Coolie as a hard working interloper, and despises him as a heathen. 14 prescient. Yet, in truth, the non amalgamation of Indo and Afro Trinidadians throughout the colonial period owes much to a colonial policy of divide and rule rather than biog enetic or even socio cultural in compatibility. The laboring classes about each other very much resemble those imposed upon them by elites. Much recent scholarship has indeed demonstrated how British conceptions of race, coupled with the psychological and economic hardships of slavery and indentureship, c atalyzed inter ethnic rivalry between Afro and Indo Trinidadians. 15 As each group lacked power on its 14 Ibid., 100 101. 15 See especially Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad ed. John La Guerre (St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: University of the West Indies Extra Mural Studies Unit, 1985), 135 Afro Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad ed. John La Guerre (St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: University of the West Indies Extra Mural Studies Unit, 1985), 77 92; Brereton, Race Relations ; Patricia Mohammed, Imaging the Caribbean: Culture and Visual Translation (Oxford: MacMillan, 2009), chapter 7; Wahab, Colonial Inventions: Landscape, Power and Representation in Nineteenth Century Trinidad chapter 4.
216 own to fight against the violence of bound labor and colonial racism, the result was an inward turn in which they vented frustrations upon each other. In the colonial era, t his rivalry was compounded by wage competition. The indenture system first brought Indians to Trinidad in 1845 and dropped the last shipment in 1917. Afro Trinidadian labor groups consistently argued against Indian indenture under the p remise that the importation of evermore workers depressed wages for all unskilled laborers. This, of course, was exactly the point. Numerous commentators have described how Trinidadian ex slaves had little reason to remain tied to estates after emancipatio n. Rather than work under conditions little changed from their time in bondage, freed blacks moved to urban areas or more often tended to subsist on their own terms squatting on abundant vacant land. In the absence of a labor surplus, those who remained on the plantations could work at a decent wa ge. However, with a steady stream of contract labor facilitated by Indian immigration, wages were suppressed to a point unattractive for all but the most desperate. 16 Indentured Indians for their part were bound by contracts that paid meager task work wages. Moreover, they were confined to their respective estates and faced stiff penalties including fines and jail time for being absent without permission. Any indentured Indian venturing off the estate had to obtain a pass. Lik e wise, time expired and colony born Indians were required at all times to carry so indicating their status as non indentured. Despite these and other discriminatory policies, m ost Indians decided to forego repatriation when t heir contracts were up and usually settled in predominantly Indian villages adjacent to their former estate s In the 16 Brereton, Race Relations 190.
217 latter stages of indenture, time expired Indians were given incentives of cash and grants of Crown lands to remain in Trinidad. This was me ant to offset costs of repatriation and to encourage the growth of a peasant class independent of estate care. As such, most who stayed earned personal income by cultivating their own land and by working seasonally on the estates. In 1901 only 8.5% of Indi ans and their descendants in Trinidad and Tobago remained under indenture, though the majority were still engaged in cultivation. 17 This resulted in a concentration of Indo Trinidadians in rural areas where access to education and participation in economic and political centers of power were out of reach until well into the 1900s 18 Upon coming to Trinidad, Indians (and indentured Chinese for that matter) were introduced into an already firmly established social order: blacks at the bottom and plantocratic wh ites at the top with middle class mulattoes and poor whites in between. As late arrivals in this scheme, Indian immigrants and their descendants were essentially forced to exist outside of it. As an 1885 issue of New Era a periodical of the black and mula tto middle class, suggested: The Coolie is notoriously with us only, but not of us. He gives nothing for what he takes, and thus contributes but little to the wealth of the country. He hoards his treasure to take it back to his native land, and while among us, consumes hardly anything of our imports. 19 Though it would be a stretch to suggest indentured Indians were ethnically homogenous, most were indeed culled from the peasa ntry of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Therefore, despite some regional (a minority were recruited from south India and 17 Ibid. 18 145. 19 Quoted in Brereton, Race Relations 188.
218 embarked from the city of Madras) and religious differences (the majority were Hindu, though many Muslims and a handful of Christians were also among the indentured), most Indians had Bhojpuri culture in common, which eased t heir post indentu re settlement and resulted in c loistere d Indo Trinidadian communities that preserved cultural and psychological continuities with India more strongly than Afro Trinidadian links with Africa. Perhaps because of this, and despite generations of settlement, it took In do Trinidadians until the middle of the twentieth century to begin to shed their outsider status. Until then Indians were often regarded as interlopers, little more than transient 6. 20 With Indo Trinidadians largely excluded from colonial systems of control, the state was relatively free to implement discriminatory policies that ensured the continuity of an uneducated class of Indians while simultaneously discouraging (or at least no t encouraging) Hindu and Muslim religious practices. By the early 1900s, these kinds of policies were often indirectly biased against Indians, couched in a consensualist approach to governance whereby they were wrongly assumed to form an integrated segment of a broader West Indian political unit. 21 In this way, the particular concerns of Indo Trinidadians, whether related to issues of race, religion, or working conditions on the estates, were frequently ignored or at best unknown to those in power. Despite o fficial consensualism, however, colonial elites clearly recognized Indians as a unique segment of society as evidenced by, among other policies, special laws prohibiting Hindu and Muslim clergy from being recognized as marriage officers laws forbidding 20 Mohammed, Imaging the Caribbean 253n. 21 ro
219 Hi ndus to cremate their dead, and government support for Canadian Mission schools that almost exclusively served Indian students, even to the point of providing instruction in Hindi. 22 Party Politics as Racial Politics Meanwhile, Afro Trinidadians were alread y socialized within the colonial system. Indeed, it was the so Christian, educated and relatively wealthy blacks and mulattoes who were gradually bequeathed power as the British ruling class receded early in the 20 th centu political assertiveness after World War I, race became an important factor in industry, they often sided with Indo Tr inidadian pol iticians arising f r o m the ranks of the sugar unions, most importantly Adrian Cola Rienzi, a charismatic socialist labor leader, and Bhadase Maraj, an often ruthless businessman whose personal wealth helped found the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. Afro Trinidad ians largely rallied around Oxford educated historian Eric Williams who had returned to Trinidad and Tobago in the late 1940s after a brief stint teaching at Howard University. Entering civil service as Deputy Chairman of the Caribbean Research Council, Wi lliams soon turned to politics. In 1956, he formed the Peoples National Movement (PNM), a nationalist political party founded upon the refutation of foreign cultural models. In general elections that year, the PNM won thirteen of twenty four elected Legisl ative Council seats, and after a month of debate, the Secretary of State for the Colonies finally granted Williams, as leader of the majority party, the right to appoint the remaining five members of the 22 Ibid., 81.
220 Council. 23 In all, the PNM controlled eighteen Counci l seats establishing a clear majority with Williams as Chief Minister. This early success gave the PNM an advantageous incumbent status in the 1961 elections when Trinidadians would essentially decide who would lead the colony to independence in 1962. As i ndependence loomed, however, based rivalries. Williams received considerable pushback from members of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) the largely Indo Trinidadian opposit ion to the PNM initially led by Bhadase Maraj. In elections for the nascent West Indian Federation, within which Trinidad and Tobago was allotted ten seats, the DLP emerged with a six to four majority to their ability to win the support of rural Indo Trinidadians who turned out en mass on election day. Frustrated by what he perceived as an opposition rooted in racial rivalry, Williams gave a now immortal speech in Woodford Square a week after the electi on in which he 24 Williams was referring to a letter he received presumably from the DLP in which he was ac t anti PNM stance 23 Kirk Meighoo, Politics in a Half Made Society: Trinidad and Tobago 1925 2001 (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publ ishers, 2003), 44. 24 Quoted in Daurius Figueira, Simbhoonath Capildeo: Lion of the Legislative Council, Father of Hindu Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2003), 236.
221 25 Williams was unapologetic about his choice of words, yet they have certainly lived to haunt the PNM ever since. In the has become a virtual get out of jail free card for members of the Indian community 26 Perhaps to ease tensions, Kamaluddin Mohammed, an Indian member of the PNM (and brother of Sham Mohammed discu ssed in the previous chapter), promoted make a drive to educate their members with a view to preparing them for complete 27 exactly what Indo Trinidadians feared; in the minds of many, it was code for miscegenation, religious conversion, and cultural homogenization. The debate grew so fierce that Hindu businessman Hari Persad Singh p ublished a number of anti nationalist pamphlets advocating drastic action to counter Afro Trinidadian hegemony. In a pamphlet titled Hour of Decision policies negatively affecting Indians provided 28 Thankfully, this demand was never met. 25 Quoted i n Scott B. MacDonald, Trinidad and Tobago: Democracy and Development in the Caribbean (Ne w York: Praeger Publishers, 1986), 119. 26 The Eternal Pantomime: One s Take on the Politics and Culture of Trinidad and Tobago August 27, 2012, http://eternalpantomime.com/2012/08/27/so about that recalcitrant and hostile minority/. 27 Kamaluddin Mohammed, Unifying Our Cosmopolitan Communi ty: A Speech on Interracial Solidarity (Port of Spain, Trinidad: P.N.M. Pub. Co., 1960), 2. 28 H. P. Singh, Hour of Decision (San Juan, Trinidad: Vedic Enterprises, n.d.), 10.
222 Echoes of mid century tensions are clearly evident in the racially charged politics of the 1970s as mentioned in chapter five and they certainly show no sign of going Trinidadian prime minister, and in 2010, Kamla Persad Bissessar became the second Indo Trinidadian A B C D Figure 6 2 Oceanic and marit ime imagery of Indian presence in Trinidad and Tobago. A) Indian arrival monument depicting a ship with an Indian family inside (note the garlands of flowers placed upon the ship and its occupants reflecting similar treatment of murtis of Hindu deities and portraits of revered ancestors), Cedros, Trinidad, August 2012 ; B) cover of a childr book; C) a model of the ship that brought the first Indian immigrants to supports the ship), Maha Sabha Indian Caribbean Museum, Carapichaima, Trinidad, August 2012 ; D) advertisement for Indian Arrival Day fe stivities in south Florida.
223 and first female prime minister. In both cases, anxieties about Indian infiltration into the highest ranks of government were expressed in various public forums. More recently, Hilton Sandy, a Tobago PNM representative allegedly warned a group of supporters in Bissessar) That ship is waiting to sail to Tobago; they are waiting to get the results of this election, if you bring the wrong results, Calcutta ship is coming down for you! You must stop that ship! 29 important image of Indian presence in Trinidad, that of the Indian voyage across the kala pani (black water) from India to the Caribbean (figure 6 2). While Indo Trinidadians evoke this ima ge as a touchstone of their Indian heritage, Sandy turns this notion on its head, appropriating the ship as an ominous emblem of invasion, infiltration, and creeping hegemony. Stacy Ann Wilson characterizes racial politics in Trinidad and Tobago in self 30 As discussed above, the seminal rift between Afro and Indo Trinidadian s began with osed racial stereotypes By the rise of party politics in the mid 1900s these stereotypes had become normative categorizations among average Trinidadians. 29 Trinidad Express (Trinidad and Tobago, January 6, 2013). 30 Stacy Ann Wilson, Politics of Identity in Small Plural Societies: Guyana, the Fiji Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 151.
224 Cultural contestation that is, competition between Afro and Indo Trinidadians for equal recognition and respect is ultimately what fuels ethnopolitics and the Therefore, it is not simply a matter of material benefits and pol itical power, but of symbolic benefits and issues of respect and dignity. The post independence era has been marked by Indo Trinidadians seeking respe ct for their needs and wants by, as Khan points out, opportunit y on the basis of an ethnocultural distinctiveness that resonates alterity in a 31 arily falls outside of the C one Music and Nation Unlike early New World nationalist movements in which landed class es sought to break ties largely over economic reasons, with European metropoles, 32 a general feature of mid 20 th century nationalisms in the Cari bbean was a culturally aware and poli tically assertive middle class desire to define an indigenous national identity dial ectically opposed to that of a ruling class whose cultural roots lay elsewhere. Music often played a central role in nationalizing a ne w sense of rooted identity. 33 Numerous commentators have shown how, in the Caribbean region especially, re definitions of nation relied heavily upon recovered or reinvented Afro Caribbean idioms, especially music and dance, in the absence of easily identifi able indigenous practices. 34 In turn, 31 32 Anderson, Imagined Communities chapter 4. 33 Consi Latin American Music Review 24, no. 2 (2003): 169 209. 34 See, for example, Paul Austerlitz, Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Identity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997); Averill, A Day for the Hunter ; Robin D. Moore, Nationalizing Blackness:
225 the nationalist sentiment stirred by the reification of such forms played a significant role in validating self rule. This was certainly the case in Trinidad and Tobago as the PNM prepared for indep endence in the early 1960s. Steumpfle suggests, for example the class to define a Trinidadian cultural identity which in turn could help justify claims for 35 In othe r words, as representatives of a dominant culture group, the PNM linked Afro Trinidadian culture with national culture and thereby margin alized Indo Trinidadian cultural expression an equation that Indo Trinidadian stakeholders have been battling ever sin ce. In particular, Williams and the PNM identified Carnival, calypso and steel pan as symbols of the burgeoning nation. In the following pages, I instrument. Steel Pan and Trinidadian Nationalism In the late 1920s, a small but influential middle class Trinidadian intelligentsia urged a break from metropolitan cultural models, especially in the arts. 36 Many of these thinkers belonged to The Maverick Club, a reading group of ed ucated Afro Trinidadians who had a common interest in literature, art, and music. C. L. R. James later recalled the impact of his membership in the Club: It came into existence in Trinidad after World War I. People said that Negroes could not organise anyt is part of the history of nationalism in Trinidad. I ought to know. I was just from Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revol ution in Havana, 1920 1940 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997). 35 Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement 122. 36 Munasinghe, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? 194 195.
226 Thackeray, Flaubert, and Victor Hugo. I had some knowledge of English politics. American Negro magazine called The Crisis. They were familiar with the Negro Question in the United States. About all this I knew nothing They were not militant, but the intellectual atmosphere and the very existence of the club was a symbol of things to come. 37 The group founded a literary magazine edited by Alfred Mendes called Trinidad It was published only twice, once at Christmas 192 Typical of the works published in Trinidad these stories were set in working class neighborhoods and featured narratives that centered on the hard won successes and failures of working class Afro Trinidadians, plots that starkly contrasted with the middle Having recently returned to Trinidad after studying journalism at City College of New York, Albert Gomes befriended the Club and helped the group publish a new magazine called The Beacon in March 1931. 38 As editor, Gomes published twenty eight leaning, a nticolonial ideology and earned The Beacon a reputation as an anti establishment magazine. 39 The Beacon featured a variety of literature including news, fiction, reviews, and commentary. Trinidadian intellectuals of all ethnic backgrounds gravitated toward The Beacon forming a loose organization that scholars would later call the Beacon Group. Unlike the Maverick Club, the Beacon Group was multiracial and coalesced 37 The Nation (Trinidad and Tobago, February 28, 1959 ). 38 Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio Bibliographical Sourcebook ed. Daryl Cumber Dance (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1986), 319. 39 Ibid.
227 around the common experience of opposition to colonialism. Influenced in no small way by the n gritude movement, Trinidad and The Beacon however short lived, allowed a space for testing then radical notions of Trinidadian national identity built upon a rejection of metropolitan hegemony yet paradoxically dependent upon colonial power structures pa rliamentary government, the banking system, education etc. to achieve independence. As early as emancipation in the 1830s, whites had already reluctantly relinquished creative control of Carnival to the masses. Since that time, Afro Trinidadians shaped fe stivities in their own ways, importantly giving rise to two of and steel pan. Calypso emerged as a distinct carnival song genre around the turn of the twentieth centu ry, with steel pan developing in close contact with it, first as an accompaniment for singing and later emerging as an ensemble of pans in the 1930s whose core repertoire still today includes arranged instrumenta l versions of popular origin story is well known among Trinidadians and often recited in abbreviated and stylized forms at national events, its history drawn upon to evoke a sense of collective identity and shared history.
228 Figure 6 3 Tenor steel pan. Photo by Debangsu Sengup ta. Figure 6 4 Sagicor Exodus Steel Orchestra rehearsing in their panyard. St. Augustine, Trinidad. February 2009. Photo by Georgia Popplewell.
229 The main points are as follows: 40 With restrictions on drummi ng among Afro Trinidadians in the 1880s, revelers were forced to turn to alternative materials to make music. First, drummers took up bamboo tubes of various lengths, stamping them on the ground with one hand and tapping out rhythm wit h a stick in the ot her hand. Hierarchically, large tubes approximated rhythms of lower pitched drums while sm all tubes approximated the lead of bamboo stamping tubes came to be known as tamboo ba mboo in reference to the Creole word tambu meaning bamboo for many of the same reasons drums were banned: the music was offensive to ite of Afro Trinidadian solidarity. Furthermore, bamboo tubes were easily repurposed as weapons during frequent clashes between Carnival bands of this period For these reasons, authorities cracked down upon tamboo bamboo just as they had upon its skin dru m forebears During long periods of revelry, moreover, bamboo instruments would eventually disinte grate under the constant pressure of repeated stamping. Some musicians therefore began taking up discarded bits of metal paint c ans, dust bins, biscuit tins, e tc. to replace their broken tubes. Musicians began to notice that pou nding upon metal containers produced concave indentions whose relative pitches could be determined with strategic tuning. By the 1930s, tamboo bamboo was largely displaced by bands of met al instruments by that time made almost exclusively from oi l drums and large biscuit tins organized 40 The narrative in this paragraph is distilled from my own discussions with Trinidadian musicians, countless reports in the popular press and news media, and summar ies of relevant points in the following: Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge ; Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement
230 around the tamboo bamboo model with its stratified instrumental layers. With successive refinements throughout the twentieth century, steel orchestras emerg ed capable of play ing all genres of music and form ing a profoundly important part of the soundscape of Trinidad and Tobago. As a testament to the popularity and uniqueness of this Trinidadian invention steelbands are common throughout the world where non West Indians have organized talen ted orchestras Therefore, the steelband was born out of creative necessity catalyzed by colonial oppression that forced Afro Trinidadian musicians away from skin drums to tamboo bamboo and eventually to the invention of th e steel pan whose sound has mesmerized the world. G omes in particular was perhaps the earliest public champion of the nascent steelband movement. In it, he saw the potential to rally Trinidadians around an expression they could call their own. Perhaps frus trated with elitist characterizations of 41 Gomes opined in a 1946 Sunday Guardian column, self expression that are indigenous to his na 42 He elaborated: Most of the critics of the steel orchestra miss the real point. What is important is not whether the steel orchestra offends the ear, edifies or outrages good taste. Such considerations are irrelevant. It is as a social phenomen on that the steel orchestra must be viewed and with its own, natural context. Is it any argument against the rather bizarre method of self expression to insist that its votaries are drawn from the dregs of the social milieu? So what if they are? 43 41 Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement 65; 120. 42 Quoted in ibid., 80. 43 Ibid.
231 Figure 6 5 Beautification Committee of San Fernando Borough Council in December 1977. San Fernando, Trinidad. Photo by Eric Mannweiler. Gomes asks detractors to examine steel pan on its own m 44 Moreover, he and other likeminded proponents of pan importantly situated the steelband as an art form, an embryonic one to be sure, but an art form it as an abomination we 45 like, unemployed ruffians. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, bands often clashed with each oth er, during Carnival 44 Ibid. 45 Ibid., 82.
232 especially though the violence was ever present throughout the year. 46 With the support of Gomes and other public figures, bandsmen formed the Steel Band Association in the early 1950s, an organization aimed at mitigating violence and ad vocating for the needs of the emerging steelband movement. As they rose to prominence in the mid 1950s, Williams and the PNM latched onto Carnival, calypso and pan as symbols of the burgeoning nation. One strategy in doing so was the nationalization of Ca rnival through the authority of the newly created Carnival Development Committee (CDC), which was charged with overseeing, promoting, and subsidizing Carnival arts. 47 By 1959, the CDC had assumed control over the previously commercially sponsored Carnival Q ueen competition and established, among other promotional programs, regional and national calypso and steel pan competitions. The prize money from these contests catalyzed continued development in these genres while simultaneously greasing the palms of PNM supporters across the country. Williams also took advantage of formal and informal communication networks, like the Steel Band Association, that pan players had forged for themselves. Like politicians before him, Williams engaged steelbands for political support, but did so in a much more systematic way. The PNM gave preferential status to steel pan musicians in terms of jobs and housing and routinely hired bands for political events. 48 This political patronage spurred innovation and experimentation, allowi ng for the refinement and growth of the steel pan. In turn, bandsmen, their families, and their audiences gave their 46 Ibid., 87 89. 47 Ibid., 120; Guilbault, Governing Sound 48. 48 Dud ley, Music from Behind the Bridge 77.
233 pan performance outside of Carnival, especially for p olitical rallies and nationally observed holidays and other events, thereby linking steel pan with celebrations that highlighted national unity. This kind of state subsidy continues today. Williams died in 1981, and in 1986, the PNM was ousted for the firs t time in thirty years by the National A lliance for Reconstruction a coalition party led by A.N.R. Robinson. By the late 1980s, however, the economic situation was dire, and many this economic and political strife, the radical Muslim organization Jamaat al Muslimeen staged a coup taking control of Trinidad and Tobago Television (the only broadcast station at where for six days its members were held hostage. 49 Meanwhile, widespread looting and violence broke out across Port of Spain leaving at least twenty two dead and many more wounded. he group was prosecuted thanks to a promise of amnesty. In the wake of the coup, the public was on edge and the already shaky government continued its downward spiral. New elections were called for the following year, and the PNM once again regained contro l, this time under the leadership of Prime Minister Patrick Manning. In part to reset 49 For a fascinating account and analysis of the state of the country during and after the coup, see Kevin K. Birth, Bacchanalian Sentiments: Musical Experiences and Political Counterpoints in Trinidad (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 157 167.
234 national confidence in the wake of recent events, Manning declared steel pan Trinidad 50 Just as Williams framed Carnival as a unique expression of national culture in the 1950s, so too did Manning evoke an image of national cooperation as exemplified in the ingenuity and creativity inherent in the history and practice of steel pan performance: Other societies often use their creativity to make weapons of destruction. It is a happy circumstance that we have used ours to make music. And while it is true in this country we play many kinds of music, the steelpan as a musical instrument is the one which we ourselves invented. In declaring that the steelpan is our development which we neglect at our own peril. For unless we are prepared to look to creativity and invention in our search f or national problem solving devices we shall bequeath a legacy of diminishment for which generations to come will never forget us. 51 evidenced by decades of subsidies for pan education, performances at home and abroad, and national competition. Tellingly, however, neither Manning nor any member official status remains only by virtue of this prime ministerial decree; there is no Parliamentary legislation to back it up. If the issue had been raised in Parliament, the True to form, their vehemence commenced in e 52 50 I University, 2006), 103 104. 51 Quoted in Ibid., 92. 52 Ibid., 92 93.
235 The promotion of steel pan as a national instrument was part and parcel of a nationalist project that, as we shall see below, continues its transformativ e processes still today. State support of the development and refinement of pan deeply involved a cosmopolitan instruments, sounds and genres within a 53 Throug olitical 54 of Carnival, pan became enmeshed with identifications of Trinidadian nationhood. Moreover, long term state attention and especially state subsidies resulted in the refining of the steelband into a cosmopolitan steel orchestra whose sustained popularity lend greater import to its status as a national symbol. 55 The National Instrument Debate While numerous commenta others cited the move as yet another a ct of unequal representation. Always an outspoken critic of the state, Secretary General of the SDMS Satnarine Maharaj (son in law and successor of SDMS founder Bhadase Maraj) railed against M we talk of an equal place for every creed and r ace and of unity in cultural diversity when 56 Maharaj went on to suggest that dholak and tassa, both ubiquitous Indo Trinidadian instruments, were good candidates for elevation to national instrument status along with pan. In practically the 53 54 Guilbault, Governing Sound 40. 55 56 Quoted in Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 146.
236 same breath, however, Maharaj revealed a certain naivety about tassa as he claimed it 57 Whereas tassa bands have routinely performed in Carnival both as individual grou ps and as attachments to steelband engine rooms for decades, Carnival is certainly a pan dominated, or at least historically pan Nonetheless, his words should not be wholl y dismissed as simplistic race based pretentiousness for such a characterization speaks to a desire on the part of stakeholders to re insert markers of Indo Trinidadian ness into the historico nationalist narrative of Trinidad and Tobago, one in which the y have been consistently left behind. This strategy has been a common trope for Indo Trinidadians as they have struggled to maintain traditional values and customs while being expected to assimilate into contemporary creole society. As early as 1945, for example, Timothy Roodal, then an elected member of the colonial Legislative Council, suggested that indentured for a number of reasons, not least of which was emancipation. 58 Though the indenture system may indeed have had the effect of improving the economic situation, it is unlikely that Indians emigrated with intentions of saving the colonial economy. Despite th eir motivations, Indians were essentially pawns in a plantocratic scheme of wage control, a scheme that certainly helped make the plantation economy profitable after emancipation, at least for a short f congratulatory. 57 Ibid. 58 Quoted in
237 Yet, the narrative of Indians as saviors of Trinidad and Tobago stubbornly persists. Echoes of this trope are evident in a 2009 Newsday article rehashing the history of Indian Arrival Day, the national holiday commemorating the landing o f the first shipload of Indians on May 30, 1845: The Sunday Newsday spoke with several religious leaders and scholars who looked at why East Indians were brought to these shores, their contributions to Trinidad and Tobago, their struggles, culture and beli efs. It was agreed that the East Indians were brought to rescue [Trinidad and indentured labourers, there were the Chinese, Portuguese and Syrians. However, they were unable to withs tand the long hours spent under the scorching sun or life within the barracks where they were delegated to live. 59 In this passage, not only is the trope of Indians as saviors faithfully deployed, it is ority over other ethnic groups who were implicitly too fragile for work in the canefields. The comparison is at best misleading. In reality, the trade in Chinese laborers ended around the same time sugar production was expanding in Trinidad, therefore sign ificant numbers of Chinese could not be procured. 60 From 1852 until 1870, the year when legal exports of Chinese workers to the region were suspended, only about 24,000 Chinese entered the entire Caribbean, excluding Cuba. 61 The Portuguese, mostly emigrating from Madeira, were already decimated by famine and disease before their indenture which likely accounts for their greater mortality. 62 Moreover, they made up a relatively small number of the 59 -Struggle and Su Trinidad and Tobago Newsday (Trinidad and Tobago, May 24, 2009). 60 Northrup, Indentured Labor 58. 61 Ibid., 61. 62 Ibid., 121.
238 overall indentured workforce in Trinidad. Of all Caribbean desti nations, Guyana received the greatest number of Portuguese immigrants where by virtue of their light skin they formed an entrepreneurial buffer class between the elites and laboring masses. 63 Lebanon and for the most part did not come to Trinidad and Tobago as indentured workers. Most were Christians who fled oppression in their homelands beginning in the late 19 th century, and like the light skinned Portuguese, they more easily assimilated int o the upper echelons of society and subsequently established profitable international trading networks. 64 As such, relatively few chose to work in the canefields. As discussed below, steel pan was the target of a similarly revisionist history as early as t he 1980s. Stories of pan often frame its emergence as a coalescence of European and African elements, valorizing the efforts of young, black, lower class Trinidadians are rarely mentioned as associated with these early experiments or later refinements until the 1970s when Jit Samaroo emerged as both a talented pannist and even more talented arranger; his success as arranger for Renegades steelband has made him a living legend and a celebrity in pan circles the world over. 65 Moreover, pan today is a site of inclusion for all sectors of Trinidadian society, and players from around the world, especially North America and Japan, augment steel bands during Carnival 63 Look Lai, Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar 17. 64 Muslim Minorities in the West: Visible and Invisible (Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002), 267. 65 Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 167 171.
239 season. Nonetheless, a nd contrary to what official state estimations indicate, 66 Indo Trinidadian participation in pan performance has never been equal to that of Afro Trinidadians. By comparison, Afro Trinidadian participation in tassa performance has never been equal to that o f Indo Trinidadians. While Afro Trinidadians take part in drumming for Hosay, relatively few regularly participate in tassa performanc e at weddings and other events. Figure 6 6 The c Tassarama. During my fieldwork in 2007 t assa drummers too young to have first hand ideas from tassa drummers. A statement to this effect is also prominently featured on Ta ssarama CD (figure 6 6 ). Produced by Ajeet Praimsingh, an Indo Caribbean entertainment promoter and owner of two popular 66 Latin American Music Review 8, no. 1 (1987): 49.
240 Indian oriented retail stores in Trinidad, the cover features a photo of Mohammed with a bass around his neck standing in a canefield. To his left is a block of text describing 67 prevalence, these kinds of claims were cert ainly incongruous to what I thought I knew about pan. Then, I happened upon research by anthropologist Kumar Mahabir (mentioned in the opening of chapter one) who has been at the forefront of a particularly positive, revisionist history of Indian presence in the Caribbean. Most relevant at present is his manuscript titled The Influence of the Tassa on the Making of the Steelband in which he draws upon personally collected oral histories, newspaper accounts, and other sources that point to a greater particip ation by Indo Trinidadians in the early years of pan than has conventionally been reported. His argument proceeds from the following observation: [A] 1984 announcement that there would be a launching of a J'ouvert Band in Port of Spain with music supplied by Fireflight, Pan Vibes and St James have seen syncretism of two cultural streams in one procession; the common man would have been imaginatively awakened to see the similarities of the t wo sticks, and the postures of the drummers with their pan and tassa thongs around their neck, and wonder if one could not have possibly influenced the other in its creation. 68 Mahabir essentially argues for a common ancestry between tassa and pan, the fir st inkling of which is evidenced by players using two sticks to beat a percussion instrument 67 The oldest style of steelband so called because pans are suspended around the players facilitate mobility. 68
241 strung around the neck. He goes on to suggest the tempering of pans over a flame was apparently inspired by fires used to raise the pitch of tassa drums. Even the idea to use large metal containers for pans was stimulated by tassa builders who used a metal biscuit container as the shell of the bass. For Mahabir, all this adds up to evidence for However, suspendi ng a drum around the neck and beating it with sticks is certainly not an idea original to tassa. Neither is employing heat to affect pitch or using discarded metal containers as percussion instruments. As such, I therefore agree with claims are difficult to accept. 69 Nonetheless, this notion has found its way into a number of unlikely academic sources. In his astute history of the Hosay cultural com petition resulted in that remarkable cross cultural invention, the steel pan, 70 So too does Steumpfle site Mahabir, going so far as to claim tassa as a model for steelbands on par with tamboo bamboo and Europ ean style marching bands. 71 account for similar claims made on the cover of Tassarama and by the drummers I widespread ac ceptance of them indicates a desire on the part of Indo Trinidadians to of Afro Trinidadian pan builders alone, but also within the traditions of the Indian 69 Dudley, Music from Behind the Bridge 145n. 70 Kelvin Singh, Bloodstained Tombs: The Muharram Massacre 1884 (London: Macmil lian Caribbean, 1988), 32. 71 Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement 40.
242 community, thu s undermining the accepted Afro European narrative of the instrument. By inserting themselves into this narrative, Mahabir and others who promote his claims argue not only for a reconsideration of the history of pan, but also the history of Trinidad an visible national symbol. The implications of this notion were heightened when Mahabir along with Vijay Ramalal Rai (the found er and president of the Tassa Association of Trinidad and Tobago as discussed in chapter five ) reinvigorated the national instrument debate when national instrument alongside pan. Though as mentioned above, Maharaj had passingly propose d tassa as co Ramlal weeklong exhibit detailing the history of tassa at the National Museum in May 2005. An E xpress manuscript at length. 72 The article also reported that meetings with representatives of the Culture Ministry and Prime Minister Manni ng Trinidad Guardian reported in December of the following year that Mahabir and Ramlal Rai were still waiting for a reply. 73 At the time of this writing, the state has still yet t o take action. As gleaned from my discussion with Ramlal Rai in 2007 and from various media reports, the main points of their argument at the time highlighted the widespread use of 72 Trinidad Express (Trinidad and Tobago, June 8, 2005). 73 Trinid ad and Tobago Guardian (Trinidad and Tobago, December 16, 2006).
243 the instrument at Hindu weddings, Hosay observances, Carnival, and myriad other contexts. It was also significant that tassa, though originating in India, arrived on the island long before the advent of pan, and like pan, underwent a series of technological influence upon pan and the performance of tassa by Afro Trinidadians, especially at Hosay, was mentioned, but not expressly emphasized. Expectedly, numerous observers disagreed with these criteria. In a post titled A. A. Hotep, a commenter on the Trinidad and Tobago News Blog suggested that the push to make tassa a co national instrument was yet another instance of an apparent tradition of Indo Trinidadian separatism: This call is being made in anothe r political attempt to solidify Indians behind the notion that they are a persecuted group. The dishonest motive dragged to these islands as slaves, and as hard as some try, they cannot show proof that Africans, and even the PNM government, systematically persecuted Indians in this country. The fact that Indians are not symbolically represented in several aspects of this country is largely due to their own unwillingness to be a part of a spects of Trinidad and Tobago. 74 Others countered with a more productive argument that centered on the indigenousness of pan and the foreignness of tassa. Even if tassa had been modified in Trinidad and Tobago, they argued, the fact remained that its origi ns lay in India while pan, despite its Afro Caribbean musical aesthetics, had clearly been invented on Trinidadian soil. During subsequent trips to Trinidad in 2011 and 2012, I found that the argument 74 Tobago News Blog, online [accessed 24 April 2008]: < http://www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/ blog/?p=146>.
244 nsiderable revision. When I visited with Ramlal Rai again in 2011, we discussed the criteria that made tassa worthy of rigin, its widespread performance in Trinidad and Tobago and its dias pora in North America or indigenousness in direct opposition to the ostensible foreignness of steel pan: If you really do a greater analysis of [pan and tassa], you will s ee that tassa is truly more a national instrument in its totality than pan. Because why? Pan came to this country with oil in it. Our nationals used the empty drums and tuned it to make sounds, so we get different notes coming out of the drums. Tassa on th e the shells is Trinidad clay. The skin to make the drums is our animals, our goats, our sheep, or what have you. The sticks are local material. The players are born every aspect of it is 100% plus a national instrument compared to the made in some other country. 75 ftieth independence anniversary, TATT held a public demonstration on Brian Lara Promenade in downtown Port of Spain. Partly to draw positions for the upcoming tassa competition, the occasion featured drummers from around the country holding placards with h and an Express article covering the event, Wendell Eversley, vice president of TATT, recounted the same argument that Ramlal Rai had related to me more than a year before: The drum did not come here as the pan came. (The material used to make the pan) was not made in Trinidad. But when you look at the tassa, it is something that is a product of Trinidad. The goat (skins) from here, the stick, which is made from cane, is from Tri nidad. That is why we are calling on the authorities of the day to make this instrument the second national instrument of Trinidad and 75 Vijay Ramlal Rai, I nterview with author, April 30, 2011.
245 elpan here. We created the and make the pan out of it. 76 As I talked with drummers in 2011 and 2012, I occasionally encountered some who likewise quoted nearly verbatim the same instrument status. Though the criteria first used to promote had some ground to stand on, the revisions subsequently adopted by TATT to justify indigenousness are circuitous and unnecessarily complex. Essentially, the argument centers upon the apparent fact that tassa is made from Trinidad itself the clay, the cane, the animals raised there while the materials for pan are imported. As discussed in chapter two, h owever, the clay tassa is virtually obsolete today, largely replaced by nut and bolt tassas fashioned from all foreign made materials. Though the original materials for pans were imported and remained that way for some time, recent innovations have changed that, most importantly the invention of the so called Genesis Pan (or G Pan for short), a new generation of pan designed and built from the ground up by Trinidadians in Trinidad and Tobago. 77 When examined in context, therefore, all apart. Despite this lack of coherence, however, the widespread similarity of opinion among tassa drummers and their similarly abrupt narrative modification between 2005 and 2011 is surely the influence of a certain 76 Trinidad Express (Trinidad and Tobago, August 24, 2012). 77 the G Pan: An U nfair Panonthenet.com December 2, 2009, http://www.panonthenet.com/news/2009/dec/gpan 12 2 09.htm.
246 cohesion among the tassa community th anks especially to the organizational skills of Ramlal Rai as facilitated via a national forum like TATT. Though it is unfortunate that such a forum is used to disseminate dubious historical and musicological claims, it nonetheless demonstrates new ways th at information about tassa is circulated and how this information engages in dialog with society at large and the broader socio historical narrative of Indo Trinidadian belonging. y drawn degrees of criticism from many directions. While some commentators have labeled advocates of an Indo Trin idadian national instrument 78 others are more sympathetic. Among drummers themselves, there are varying degrees of opinion. Lenny Kumar, for example, refutes the popular TATT line by suggesting that tassa should not be a national instrument. As one of few tassa drummers who have had the opportunity to travel to India, Lenny has seen tasha drumming first hand. This in addition to his family history he traces his drumming lineage to his India born great grandfather is clear evidence that despite its indigenous to Trinidad : so you only play rhythm. An instrument that can play your nat ional anthem created here. It was not invented here; it was reinvented here. Those are the two main aspects of it. And when you go deep into it, anybody who does research will know th respected as a second national instrument, but it be 79 78 Trinidad Express (Trinidad and Tobago, March 29, 2000). 79 Lenny Kumar, I nterview with author, April 24, 2011.
247 Perhaps the mos instrument comes from steel pan stakeholders who see any challenge to pan as unpatriotic. Following the public display by TATT in 2012, Pan Tinbago the successor of the Steel Band Association and currently the state subsidized organization that promotes pan and serves as the governing body for a number of pan competitions issued an official position in response to the issue. The statement is partially transcribed below with formatting and capit alization preserved from the original: In order for an instrument to be considered to be a National Musical Instrument, it should be (a) indigenous to the country and (b) musical, i.e. able to play the songs of the country. We know of no other musical ins trument in Trinidad and Tobago that satisfies these two (2) criteria other than THE STEELPAN. We, therefore, state categorically that THE STEELPAN is the ONLY NATIONAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT. That persons should consider and present another instrument to be accepted as a national musical instrument, even as it does not satisfy the criteria betrays a non acceptance of THE STEELPAN. That the instrument(s) being presented is of perceived and questionable Indian origin, betrays a belief that STEELPAN is African. It also betrays a notion of affirmative action, meaning that if STEELPAN is African, then there must be something Indian. The puerility of this idea does not deserve even our censure. 80 s based assertions of nationalism, a frustrat ion 80 National Instrument of Trinidad & Tobago Official Statement from Pan When Steel Ta lks September 12, 2012, http://www.panonthenet.com/news/2012/sep/pantrinbago steelpan national instrument 9 12 2012.htm.
248 certainly shared by a significant number on both sides of the coin. Tellingly, Pan o India, this barb is likely a re articulation of academic research conducted by Peter Manuel and others that in abbreviated form is readily available on the Internet. For research. 81 Despite early overtures to the contrary, there has yet to be any pos itive response 82 This silence is telling of the national instrument would at once show weakness by giving in to special interests wh ile Persad Bissessar presented United States Vice President Joe Biden with the gift of a steel pan upon his recent visit to Trinidad and Tobago for discussions of a proposed C aribbean Community (CARICOM) treaty. Perhaps also emblematic of the penetration of the national instrument debate, comments in an online forum reporting on the Vice 83 One post pointedly 81 Wikipedia accessed May 25, 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tassa. 82 Trinidad Express (Trinidad and Tobago, September 18, 2003). 83 Trinidad Express (Trinidad and Tobag o, May 28, 2013), http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/BRUTAL ----------TALKS 209279891.html.
249 ask that steel pan should not be taught in Hindu schools if funds were not also provided to teac h Indian instruments: of the most profound aspects of his visit[.] [T]he stone that the builder reje cted!!! FIRST[,] not Indians and Africans. Summary: Multiculturalism, Fusion, and National Belonging M ore than simply provide justification for political autonomy, the reifi cation of neo African art forms in post independence Trinidad and Tobago emphasized Afro is particularly problematic for Indo Trinidadians who are perceived to express more distinct continuity with Indian culture than integration with the Afro European creole mainstream. 84 Given this expression of difference, Indo Trinidadians have been largely excluded from participating in the inscription of West Indian identity in any more than a 85 Therefore, one received negatively has much to do with its historical absence from celebrations of national import. Where steel pan came of age through repeated associatio n with nationally significant performance contexts including Carnival and government subsidized festivals and competitions, tassa has until very recently been confined to the Indo Trinidadian commun ity where it has remained an 84 Stuempfle, The Steelband Movement 122 123. 85 Eye to Eye: Ways of Seeing (CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution, 2010).
250 Deep politic al antagonism divided largely along racial lines has had lasting effect s. For Afro Trinidadian stakeholders, this division is still today frequently expressed in terms similar to those of Williams and the PNM in the 1950s, namely frustration with Indian no n assimilation. Meanwhile, Indo Trinidadian stakeholders, especially the outspoken Satnarine Maharaj and his SDMS compatriots, have consiste ntly Afro Trinidadian s 86 However warranted bids for greate r Indo Trinidadian inclusion may be, the public at large inclusive of Indo and Afro Trinidadians among others frequently perceive these kinds of arguments, often expressed in convoluted ways, as little more than petty antagonism. In recent decades, the socio political divisions that give rise to these kinds of contestations of nationality have prompted greater attention by the state and indeed sparked a corrective course that defines a concept of nation in reference to the ideal, if not the mythology, of racial accord Such a rhetoric of inclusion, couched in the post colonial frame of multiculturalism 87 88 of distinct, yet mixed ethnic components rather than a thoro ugh a nd homogenous cultural fusion that the concept of creolization has traditionally implied. T he state often draws upon music and musical instruments as emble ms of this multiculturalism. For example, i n the summer of 2012, the year of Trinidad and Tobago 86 D. Parsuram Maharaj, Clash of Cultures: The Indian African Competition in Trinidad (Arima, Trinidad: The Indian Free Press, 2002) 21. 87 88 Maharaj, Clash of Cultures: Th e Indian African Competition in Trinidad 21.
251 distributed banners and posters featuring numerous national slogans to be displayed in public areas throughout the country. One rather ubiquitous banner featured images of pan, tassa, an African drum (like that used for kalenda drumming), a cuatro (representing parang a Spanish language song genre cognate with Hispanic parranda and popular during Christmas and Easter ), and European brass instruments. These images were set against the often quoted line (figure 6 7 ). These banners clearly intended to importantly the constituent ethnic groups with which each genre is popularly associated. The juxtaposition of imag es and text therefore suggest a certain unity in diversity, here deployed within the frame of an evocation of musical practice.
252 Figure 6 7 th year of independence. This was photographed hanging in a Port of Spain department store, though many similar banners were distributed throughout the country. August 2012. In her 2010 Indian Arrival Day address Prime Minister Persad Bissessar more conc retely links notions of musical mixing with cultural mixing while alluding to her : space. Instead, we should be in viting each other into the cultural space we each occu py. The physical barriers and the psychological boundaries between the cultures must be removed through the promotion of both uniqueness as well as similarities of each culture never develop a nation, we will never unite a society, we will never br ing to an end perceptions of discrimination, until we courageously put in place a policy frame that makes every group feel secure, appreciated, celebrated, and that their our people in the way they hav e merged aspects of our cultural traditions. T he fusion of the rhythm of the tassa and African drums symbolizes the energy of our people when they come together. 89 Perhaps indicating the depth with which musical metaphors inform Trinidadian identities, Persad Bissessar here evokes the notion of musical fus ion as a metaphor for It is unclear, however, which particular fusions of tassa and African drums Persad Bissessar is referring to. While t hese kinds of collaborations are not unheard of, they are certainly few and far between and quite often orchestrated by state sponsored organizations in an explicit effort to showcase musical and therefore cultural mixing (figure 6 8 ) In this way, musical fusion bec omes a mechanism of the state that emphasize s multicultural policy. T hese state sponsored 90 may be rightly read as artificial concoctions that propagandize ideals P lacing the impetus for fusion sq uarely on the state 89 PM Persad posted by CNC3Television June 1, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watc h?v=mW2jtkJ7Ygc 90 Ramnarine, Beautiful Cosmos 107.
253 however, denies the kind of individual agency implied both by a classic understanding of creolization and more recent multicultu ral d i scourse A B Figure 6 8 Music and dance performances at the launch of Patriotism Week 2013 organ ized by the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration. A) T&T
254 Sweet Tassa perform s alongside a group of African drummers, B) a scene choreography. Photos page: https://www.facebook.com/ministryofdiversitytt There are indeed many instances of grassroots Afro/Indo mu sical fusions. As a prime example, chutney soca is often hailed as the epitome of Indo and Afro Trinidadian musicultural mixing with its ground ing in Indo Trinidadian chutney deployed within the aesthetics of Afro Trinidadian soca. However, performers and audiences assoc iated with chutney soca are overwhelmingly Indo Trinidadian and the content of chutney soca songs is undoubtedly most relevant to Indo Trinidadian music consumers. Therefore, chutney soca comes into view as a musicultural fusion, but one that operates largely o n Indo Trinidadian terms. Similarly, numerous steelbands have collaborated with tassa bands over the years, especially whe n performing arrangements of calypsos with Indian or dougla (a local term for the biogenetic mixture of African and Indian) themes. More often than not however, tassa largely functions as an addition to the steelband rather than an integral part of the mu sical texture Moreover, individual musicians often organize performance projects of their own aimed to showcase Trinidadian multiculturalism. A n exemplary instance is performance for the National Tassa Competi tion described in chapter fi ve In this case, despite the absence of musical fusion, emblems of multiculturalism are nonetheless apparent, embodied in dance and the presence (though silence) a of steel pan player and an African drummer in the midst of a competitive tassa performance. In discussing musical fusions, Ramnarine notes that challenges the concept
255 space in whi 91 92 where respective socio cultural experiences are made audible. In the specific case of musical fusions, the t imbres, textures, and instruments associated with disparate streams of ethnicity and identity combine in ways that reflect current and potential social structures. While the notion s of fusion and multiculturalism d rightly warns 93 Herein lies the conundrum of Trinidadian orientations toward nationality On one hand is the celebration of being Creole, of being fused and multicultural, while on the other is the paradoxical necessity of difference upon which fusion s are purportedly f ounded According to the state Bissessar above and contrary to state rhetoric of the mid twentieth century these two modes of identity are not contradictory; one can remain rooted in a p ile als o maintaining allegiance to an inclusive national portrait. Within this system, however, tensions frequently arise a s ind ividualities come into conflict where one group is perceived to have advantages over another These tensions are resolved or at least p rocessed by two principal strategies as exemplified in the national instrument debate. One is to insist upon preserving the status quo, namely the dominance of Afro Creole 91 Ibid. 92 Brenda F. Berrian, Awakening Spaces: French Caribbean Popular Songs, Music, and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 93 Ramnarine, Beautiful Cosmos 107.
256 identifiers, as a model for nationality. This is demonstrated in the defense of pan as emblematic of indigenousness and the dismissal of tassa as foreign Another strategy, highlighted by the proposal of tassa as co national instrument, is to demand equal representation rts to foster These strategies reflect Viranjini Munasinghe he continu 94 The former, according to Munasinghe, is the dominant one and characterized by a claim to indigenousness via callaloo 95 within which all parts receive equal treatment and are given equal however, is largely formulated in Afro European terms as it emerged in tandem with the inheritance of power by the Afro Saxon middle class in the independence era. Though theoretically inclusive, in prac tice Trinidadian creoleness routinely excludes expressions of alterity that do no conform to the dominant narrative. A second nationalist narrative is their ethnic id entities, but continue to mix. As Munasingh e Trinidadian salad suggests that the identification of the particular unit within which purities or 94 Munasinghe, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? 6. 95 Callaloo is common Caribbean dish and culinary metaphor for creole culture. Though various dishes by the same name are found all over the Anglophone Caribbean, Trinidadian callaloo is a side dish with a soupy texture made from stewed dasheen (a leafy, spinach like green) combined with any number of other ingredients. With its stewed, sometimes lumpy, fre quently spicy, and always tasty texture, the affinities with creolized culture are conspicuous.
257 mixture 96 these opposing narratives. While Afro European emblems most importantly Carnival, calypso and steel pan continue to receive state sanction and support, Indo Trinidadian cultural markers have made inroads into the nationalist pantheon since the 1980s. When the PNM lost political control in 1986, the new Nation al Alliance for Reconstruction government increased subsidies for Indo Trinidadian cultural programs, an increase that was somewhat reduced upon the breakup of NAR and ousting of prominent Indo Trinidadians from the party. 97 Under periods of PNM control (19 91 1995; 2001 2010), the government largely maintained levels of subsidy for Indo Trinidadian activities. Overall, however, Carnival, calypso, and steel pan have always 98 n 1995 also came a number of reforms including the official establishment of Indian Arrival Day as a national holiday (this coincided with a similar institutionalization of Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day, a national holiday commemorating the 1951 repeal of legislative restrictions on the neo African Spiritual Baptist religious practice). More recently, Persad into the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism and established a new Minist ry of National Diversity and Social Integration, each of which is tasked with developing 96 Munasinghe, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? 87. 97 98 Ibid., 288.
258 programs that pr omote and actualize inclusivity, though one predicated upon the potentially though unintentionally divisive dogma of multiculturalism. The multicultu ral policy of the state in part fuels extreme callaloo and tossed salad socio p olitical stances by granting tacit validity to both. By retaining Afro Creole symbols like steel pan while rhetoricizing that every stream of ethni equal p l a Figure 6 9 contains a photo taken inside Piarco International Airport of a small display that was one component of a larger installation inc photo collages, like the one pictured here, lined the corridor leading to the airline gates Figure 6 9. Photo collage in Piarco International Airport. on the south side of the airport. Collectively these collages featured portraits of prominent Trinidadians, mostly calypsonians and other entertainers with few Indo Trinidadians among them, and depictions of iconic religious rites and festivals (including
259 images of Ho say and a Hindu wedding) imprinted upon semi spherical boards in a pattern that emulated the dispersion of notes on a steel pan. The intention is clear: pan is evoked as an encapsulation of Trinidadian society a foundational symbol that metaphorically con tains all points of Trinidadian identity. Such a metaphor quite profoundly illustrates the precarious and certainly unavoidable juxtapositions posed by stat e promotion of multiculturalism. Tensions arising from such juxtaposition are apparent in the debat e over national instru ments. As a symbol of the creolized nation, steel pan represents an undeniable indigenousness. As Pan Trinbago implies, steel pan is not African, but a product of Trinidadian creativity and ingenuity. For some Indo Trinidadians, howev er, the singular status of pan, as a product of African and European not Indian musical traditions, is symptomatic of a broader problem of Indo Tri nidadian cultural invisibility. As pan is an ostensible icon of national inclusion the revision of its histo ry to include Indo as a co national instrument are revisionist strategies that challenge the dominant rhetoric of a creolized nation while tacitly critiquing the failin gs of multiculturalism as state policy. In chapter seven I bring together the analyses of previous chapter s to continue a more in depth discussion of creolization and Indo Caribbean nationalism
260 CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSION: TASSA, COOLITUDE, AND INDO TRINIDADIA N NATIONALISM Khal Torabully 1 cult ivation, nesting birds, and boa constrictors. 2 The author Rev. J.G. Pearson begins 3 rite this, is but the link between the race, as we know it in the East, and that we hope for in this corner of the West. He of whom I speak is commonly known as the Creole Coolie. 4 Pearson continues, describing the hypothetical life story of a Guianese bo rn Indian named Rampersaud: gang first [receiving average pay] and then into the shovel gang [receiving above average pay], he has become a very fair cricketer, and plays mostly on Sunda ys when the patch of rice or herd of cattle do not claim his attentions. He is still thrifty and counts every bitt many times before he spends it. But he must spend something and it is seldom with all his y Rampersaud is a stronger and better developed man than his father. He will eat meat, flesh meat, he will take a schnap if any one offers it, and, his forbears would be 1 Marina Carter and Khal Torabully, Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora (London: Anthem Press, 2002), 218. 2 3 Ibid., 136. 4 Ibid.
261 as he mee and effete and the new, the vigorous, manly, free, and self reliant. 5 Here, Pearson comments upon a transition from immigrant to native, from outsider to insider, from transient to resident. The author is keen to call upon the hybrid nature of 6 Much like Pearson describes the transformation of the hypothetical Rampe rsaud from a foreign entity into one rooted in experience, a nalysis throughout this dissertation has illuminated tassa as an ensemble and genre of music that references a. T he including instrument construction, playing technique, repertoire, and performance contexts suggests an embodied multilocal identity, one at odds with and simultaneously part of Caribbean creole society In this cha pter, I draw upon exa mple s presented throughout the dissertation to discuss overarching themes of Indo Trinidadian orientation toward and participation in creo lization and national belongin g as articulated in musical discourse about tassa drumming. I frame of double consciousness and its contribution to the coalescence of the ngritude movement. In these socio cultural critiques, one finds a recognition and valorization of a dialectic identity whose conflicting poles foster at once an uneasiness of self and a 5 Ibid., 143 144. 6 Ibid., 146.
262 sense of familiarity in unsettlement. For ngritude thinkers in particular, post colonial metropolitan models for affirmation of identity. The analytical strategies of ngritude coolitude which I draw upon to frame my discussion of what I call Indo Creole identity. I ultimatel y conclude that tassa is exemplary of this notion of Indo Creole in that the ensemble and the music is structured within a worldview that references India as a place of origin and the Caribbean as home. Double Consciousness In The Souls of Black Folk Du socially constructed color line demarcating the bounds of inclusion and exclusion: I held all beyond [the Veil] in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. Tha t sky was bluest when I could beat my [white] mates at examination time, or beat them at a foot race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the words I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunit ies, were theirs, not mine. 7 welcomed which by its very nature nourishes the formation of a complex identity based upon the tension of a pair of opposing and mutually reaffirming poles : After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight i n this American world, a world which yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double through t looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two ness, an 7 Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk 6 7.
263 American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. 8 Du Bois ascribes a sense of self as arising from living in both worlds at once. His selfhood is not drawn solely from his African past nor exclusively from his American present, but from the history of Africans in America and the intimately personal experiences of living as a second class citizen in his own country. This was the inevitable legacy of slavery in the United States. Years after found peace from its sins; 9 Du Bois importantly unlike later Pan African intellectuals whose rhetoric largely centered on an imagined African homeland as a font of self identification (if not also se lf worth). Even after his Marxist turn in the decades after The Souls of Black Folk prompted primarily by his growing frustration at the slow pace of granting equal r ights to all Americas, Du Bois clearly frames double consciousness in relation to New World inclusion and exclusion, to the greater ideals of the American Republic; and yet loyal to the nation. 10 Traces of Du Bois are felt in a number of post colonial socio political critiques rippling throughout the 20 th and 21 st century black Atlantic, that large area of the world 8 Ibid., 7. 9 Ibid., 10. 10 Ibid., 15.
264 most affe cted by African slavery and its racist legacy. 11 The advent of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s coincided with was fueled by, and reflected the activism of Du Bois. The artistic expression of this movement the novels of Zora Neale Hurston, the poetry of Langston Hughes, the paintings of Aaron Douglas, the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Holiday not only navigate the machinery of American high culture, but also excel at it. Furthermore, the visual art, literature, music, and philosophy of this self described Nigerrati eloquently drew upon African American experience to inform its style, context, and character. Thus, the creative output of the Harlem Renaissance embodied double consciousness b oth in terms of execution and content. Ngritude and Afro Creolization as Indigenization Owing quite a debt to Du Boisian ideology, ngritude emerged in Paris among a group of French colonial expatriates in the 1920s. The nineteenth century assimilationis t philosophy of French colonialism sought to Frenchify indigenous peoples in overseas territories both in terms of national ideology and imperial bureaucracy. This effort was meant to foster an expanded sense of national unity as diverse peoples became Fre nch. In practice, of course, the colonies were always held at some distance. By the 12 For many c olonial subject citizens, however, the aims of assimilation seemed only to confirm the 11 Gilroy, The Black Atlantic 12 Gary Wilder, The French Imperial Nation State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism Between the Two World Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 4.
265 disruption of traditional points of cultural reference by an absurdly demanding conformity. 13 The ngritude movement coalesced around young African and Antillean studen ts colonial rule. 14 Inspired by Du Bois and the Harlem Renaissance, the leading figures of ngritude were both poets and political thinkers born in French overseas territories: Martiniquean Aim Csaire, French Guianese Lon Damas, and the future first president of Senegal, Lopold Senghor. Each brought with them a keen eye for cultural observation that had been conditioned through metropolitan political hegemony in their respec tive homelands. In poetry and prose, this group cultivated an on going critique of the imperial nation state that highlighted contradictions inherent in French assimilationist rhetoric that foregrounded metropolitan perspectives on history, culture, and po litics and ignored experiences of colonial citizens, many of whom were African or of African heritage. In their creative output, the trio strategically appropriated the pejorative term ngre one encumbered by centuries of racist baggage, to negate the not ion that ngritude or A s a discursive practice n gritude signaled a reclaimed African history, one that celebrated blackness and the black experience as an equally valid component of an increasingly globalized and therefore non Eurocentric society. Importantly, though the movement often took up African symbols as emblems of its ideology, the rhetoric ngritude did not depend upon African purity, but indeed was 13 Ibid., 5. 14 Ibid.
266 built upon upon celebratin g the modern and necessarily hybrid black experience, identity and self worth. 15 The emergence of nation states are frequently predicated upon the consolidation 16 Despite an official po sition that was inclusive of all races and classes, the Afro Trinidadian political hegemony of the mid twentieth century either consciously or unconsciously drew upon the empowering ideology of ngritude to construct an Afro Creole centric notion of nation ality that functioned to affirm Afro Trinidadians as the de facto indigenous people of the land and therefore the legitimate arbiters of national culture. As discussed in chapter six, in Trinidad and Tobago indigenousness was a concept principally framed i n terms of creolization. Nationalist elites like Gomes and Williams, for instance, saw the steel pan as an encapsulation and embodiment of the Trinidadian creole experience as defined in terms of Afro Creole ness With nationalist support the rather meteo ric rise of pan from a folk instrument to an emblem of national folklore put into motion an emergent creole vitality and hybrid creativity that exemplified the post colonial nation. 15 Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism ed. Gaurav Desai and Supriya Nair (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 183. 16 Linda Basch, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton Blanc, Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation States (Basel: Gordon and Breach, 1994), 36.
267 With the ascension of the PNM, money and power subsequently concretized Af ro In do and Afro Trinidadians In one of the few mentions of national politics in his ethnography of rural Indo Trinidadians during the independence era, Klass notes: 17 Indo Trinidadians were not included in the eme rging image of creole nationality thanks to their estrangement from mainstream society and therefore their estrangement from a convenient model of creolization. difficulti es all largely engineered by the state Trinidadian invisibility in the eyes of colonial elites throughout much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 18 This precedent resulted in continued marginalization from the nationalist port rait even with the advent of party politics in the 1950s, the effects of which, as described in chapter six multiculturalism As Khan points out, socio political rhetoric deployed via an a bstraction of creolization often conceals hegemonic mechanisms of control that (erroneously) claim to equally represent and empower diverse ethnic groups within contemporary nation states. 19 In this study, I have used musical analysis in concert with ethnog raphic work 17 Klass, East Indians in Trinidad 244. 18 Munasinghe, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? 182. 19
268 as one means to better understand the processes of creolization in Trinidad and Tobago as articulated in practice 20 As music is one of the most important means by which creolized identities are expressed in Trinidad and Tobago, this work begins to shed light on Indo participation i n and responses to creolization and, by extension, orientation toward national belonging. In the following pages, I explore these notions as explicated in musical discourse about Trinidadian tassa drummin g. Why Tassa? At this point, I return to a question posed early in chapter one: Why tassa? What about tassa is able to foreground Indo Trinidadian multiloca lity in a productive and powerful way? What is it about the music of the tassa ensemble that activ ates Indo Trinidadian identity? And perhaps more to the point of this study, what does an analysis of tassa say about Indo Trinidadian creolization and nationality ? Indo Trinidadian Musical Aesthetics One component of the answer to these question s reveale d by musical analysis, is the coherent Indo Trinidadian musical system within which tassa resides. In chapter two, I described the organology of the tassa ensemble, noting particular ways that experiments in morphology and construction techniques developed in tandem with an increasingly virtuosic repertoire. And while the repertoire itself expresses strong affinities with North Indian vernacular styles, analysis in chapter three affirms that Caribbean tassa is nurtured by a distinct Indo Caribbean musical s ystem reflective of Indo Trinidadians historic alienation from centers of power. Moreover, this musical system is a flexible one, encouraging ad aptations, innovations, and invention via 20 Ibid.
269 numerous idiogenerative routes as evidenced in changes in instrument construction, repertoire, and performance practice Most importantly, analysis suggests that this system is not dependent upon mimicking or drawing significant syncretic elements from Afro Creole musical models. Where conventional wisdom would suggest that tassa is a creolized music, one reliant on fusion of Afro and Indo Trinidadian musical ideas, analysis indicates that to the contrary that tassa repertoire is organized along the lines of idiosyncratic Indo Trinidadian notions of musical aesthetics and t hat tassa performance is largely the domain of Indo Trinidadian musicians and audiences. Therefore, a close look at the music itself provides a point of comparison that supports ethnographic work by Klass, Clarke, and Vertovec, all of whom claim Indo Trini dadians have remained culturally distinct from and resistant to the hegemonic in fluences of Afro Creole society even through a period of increased urbanization and industrialization through the latter half of the twentieth century. This is not to say that tassa has developed in a hermetically sealed cultural bubble. The very nomenclature of the ensemble and the advent and continued vitality of formally adjudicated tassa competitions whose most important structural model lay in Carnival time calypso and pa n contests suggest, as just two potent examples, that notions about tassa have proceeded in dialog with mainstream Afro Trinidadian society in pronounced ways. Nonetheless, it is quite apparent that tassa retains a core set of identifiable Indo Trinidadia n musical and aesthetic characteristics with no fundamental input from Afro Trinidadian sources. While tassa features instruments, timbres, musical structure, and performance practice that reference India as a place of origin, these very same elements, by virtue of their reinvention and codification in the Caribbean diaspora
270 equally reference Trinidadi an identity. T assa therefore embodies, as Ramnarine also claims for chutney, a 21 is built on local and 22 This sentiment is echoed by Manuel as he succinctly suggests : Tassa, in a word, is thoroughly Indian without being a mere retention (like chowtal); at the same time, it is thoroughly Trinidadian, while owing very little to Afro creol e influence. It is thus quintessentially Indo Trinidadian, and perhaps more than any other aspect of culture, it illustrates how vital and dynamic an entity in that category can be. It also reflects how a spirit of eclectic openness, adaptation, and innov ation can characterize Indo Caribbean culture and need not be associated with Afro creole society. 23 Intra ethnic Appeal Another part of the answer is that tassa transcends Indo Trinidad ian intra ethnic Caribbean community is not a Manuel its collective notions of identity have been the subject of ongoing 24 While collective Indo Trinidadian identity is in many ways structured in opposition to what it is not e.g. Afro Creole rather than what it is, numerous beacons of identity transcend difference to unite Indo Trinidadians. In general, these include some aspects of foodways, language, kinship, and creative expression in addition to a deeply intoned cul tural memory embedded in notions of exile from India and the continued forging of new cultural spaces in diaspora (see figure 5 2, 21 Ramnarine, Creating Their Own Space 144. 22 Ibid., 1 2. 23 24 Manuel, singing 183.
271 for example) I suggest tassa is among these emblems of collective identity that penetrate across divisions of religion, gend er, and social class. largely irrelevant with Hindu, Muslim, and Christian musicians regularly drumming for Hindu, Muslim, Christ ian, and secular events. This is indicative of a broader Trinidadian socio religious tolerance, which is especially pronounced in the Indo Trinidadian community. For example, Lenny Kumar was born into a Hindu family but converted to Presbyterianism in his twenties, even rising to a position o congregation As a Christian and one of the most respected drummers in Trinidad and Tobago, Lenny easily reconciles his participation in Hindu and Muslim rites by privileging hi s identity as a musician; as a drummer, any opportunity to perform is an opportunity to build a positive reputation for himself, his band, and tassa in general. Even across divisions of denominational religious orientations, tassa emerges as a space of c ommon ground. For example, some Indo Trinidadians who trace their origins to south In dia practice a style of Hinduism divergent from those of predomina n tly Bhojpuri descent. These s, as they are called in Trinidad and Tobago, are generally looked upon with a mixture of suspicion and contempt by self appointed an antagonism that likely extends from indenture period conflicts between north and south Indians on the plantations 25 As Manoo Rhaming 25 Most indentured Indians embarked from Calcutta. According to 1873, between 1842 and 1870 a total of 4992 laborers embarked from Madras for Trinidad, and Look Lai further no tes another 322 arrived in 1871. Between 1906 and 1916, eight ships carrying passengers from Calcutta and Madras brought a total of 3,375 Madrasis. Many intra ethnic Indo Caribbean conflicts on the plantations and in emergent Indian communities off the est ates were caused by cultural largely in terms of language differences between Madrasis and other Indians. Look Lai, Indentured Labor, Caribbean
272 recalls, rather tongue in As a child growing up in Trinidad, I heard stories of Madrasi people: how they cried when a child was born and celebrated when someone died; how they were blood drinking, Kali Mai worshippers; how they were different from 26 While Madrasi drumming is most often linked with the tapu frame drum, tassa has also been common since at least the early 1960s (and probably long before) when Lomax recorded drummers, presumably Madrasi themselves, playing tapu and tassa in the same recording session. from tapu rhythms is today quite co mmon among many veteran tassa drummers across the country This example therefore suggests that even where ideological schisms divide sectors of the Indo Trinidadian communit y, in this case Hindus, tassa remains to bridge the gap, however symbolic this link may be. Tassa is undoubtedly a male oriented tradition, one often framed by notions of aggression and masculinity, especially when it comes to jassling. While patterns of transmission and gender expectations have historically dictated male oriented tassa lineages, Indo Trinidadian women nonetheless have steadily been accepted within the tassa community in recent dec are good drum mers and have formed the T&T Sweet Tassa All Girls Band along with two Sugar 35 36; 122 124; J Geoghegan, Note on Emigration from India (Calcutta: Government of India Department of Agriculture, Revenue, and Commerce, 1873), 70; 80. 26 Lelawattee Manoo The Caribbean Writer 16 (2002), http://www.peepaltreepress.com/review_display.asp?rev_id=252.
273 Figure 7 1. T&T Sweet Tassa All Girls Band. Left to right: Teri Beri, Tameeka Parasramsingh, Lenora Kumar, and Lennita Kumar. Princes Town, Trinidad. August 2012. Photo by Heather H all. Figure 7 Ravinath Sookoo, and Mukesh Ragoo.
274 neighborhood friends. While, all female groups are not unheard of, they are certainly not the norm. Rather, women are more often inc luded as players in mixed sex ensembles where they frequently serve as temporary stand ins for male players and are virtually always relegated to playing jhal. A notable exception is Donna Ramsumair, wife of Mukesh Ragoo and self ho is a supremely talented jhal 2). Ramsumair, however, is not the f irst female member of the band; she inherited her position as primary jhal in her own right, when she Where contemporary frames of feminist reference might better critique the gendered power relations evident in such a male dominated musical practice, the inroa ds women have heretofore made into tassa culture as musicians, not simply supportive wives or sexy dancers, i boundaries. T assa also penetrates socio economic class Bollywood fi lm songs, local clas sical singing, and songs of religious devotion incl uding various genres of bhajans among other musics produced and consumed primarily by Indo Trinidadians are widely popular yet h ave arguably failed to cut ac ross class divisions as perh aps tassa does The chutney controversy of the early 1990s for example, points to ways in which many and upper class Indo Trinidadians distance themselves from popular expression s divergent from their typically conservative and relig iously orthodox perch of cultural superiority. 27 Even today, when chutney a nd chutney soca have more 27 Manue l, singing 187 188.
275 or less entered the mainstream of Indo Trinidadian pop culture, these genres are looked down upon by those who would rather promote cultural expressions dee med more traditional, that is more purely Indian. In my experience, tassa has not received this kind of treatment. D espite a popular conception of tassa drummers as drunkards and ruffians (coincidentally paralleling the reputations of early steel pan music ians), the upper echelon of Indo Trinidadian society often laud tassa as a quintessential Indo Trinidadian This is demonstrated by the push to make tassa co national instrument and enduring sponsorship of Tassa Taal. Creolization and Indo Trinidadian National Belonging In the end, t assa exhibits a n archetypal Indo Trinidadian musical aesthetic imbued with a m ultivalent politics of location that through association with v irtually every sector of the Indo Trinidadian community has become emblematic of a collective multilocal identity. In a very real sense, tassa represent s a space of remembering an Indian past and celebrating a Caribbean present. Under such scrutiny, tassa is exemplary of what might be considered a counterhegemonic creolization, a Creole dominance, in terms of its own idiogenerative creativity in reaction to the particular stresse s of Indo Trinidadian diasporic expe rience. From this perspective an alternate indigenousness emerges from which Indo In tassa, Indo Trinidadian assertions of self, community, and nation coalesce within a complex mus ical discourse conditioned by a broader equation of Trinidadian music and identity. This is made all the more apparent by virtue of tassa emerging as a beacon of
276 Indo Trinidadian ness, dialectically opposed to steel pan, in the national instrument debate. especially problematic given their diffuse historical and conceptual meanings. Importantly in the blacknes s and Afro Trinidadian ness. At the same time, however, the equally diffuse idea of Trinidad a nd Tobago as a creole society, this as explicated in contemporary state sponsore d promotion of multiculturalism, is deployed in reference to a theoretically inclu sive sense of cultural fusion I therefore deliberately juxtapose the idea s a n an effort to recover creolization from its acquired Afro centricity. This conceptual fusion furthermore encourages a productive reconsi deration of creolization as a prerequisite to indigenousness and therefore national belonging while maintaining the conceptually separate spaces that Afro and Indo Trinidadians cultivate via diasporic practice. Situating Indo Trinidadian experience with in the indigenizing mechanism of creolization necessitates conceptual clarification. Throughout this study I have argued that tassa exists within a coherent musical system largely removed from Afro Trinidadian influence. I have further argued that tassa i s emblematic of Indo Trinidadian experience in that this musical system is dependent upon retention of, even rootedness in, India as a place of origin. As evidenced by a history of antagonism directed against Indo Trinidadian counterhegemony t he persevera nce and concrete articulations of a deep seated In do Trinidadian cultural memory one that stubborn ly refuses to recede despite generations of Caribbean ness has been historically per ceived as anti creole;
277 that tassa despite a great degree of transformatio n in diaspora, is vehemently denied indigenous ness in the national instrument debate is indicative of such a perception. Creolization is by definition a concept reliant upon notions of cultural mixing F rom a musicological perspective, steel pan for exam ple, is quite clearly the product of a confluence of African and European aesthetics. By contrast, I have argued that tassa has resisted musical influences exogenous to Indo Trinidadian culture Does this therefore imply tassa has not been subject t o proce sses of creolization? I think not. T assa is indeed steadfastly planted withi n a stream of Indian influence where its musical structures and rhythmic material are drawn primarily from other Indo Trinidadian musics, especially genres of local classical singi ng. As Manuel argues, cultural mixing has indeed it has occurred largely along intra ethnic lines, drawing strength from diverse Indian traditions as reconstructed and rearticulated in diaspora, therefore involving little fu ndamental input from Afro Trinidadian sources ( or any other stream of influence for that matter ) 28 With a reliance on this sort of idiogenerative impulse, a cr eativity that is negotiated from the inside out, tassa is exemplary of the variegated processes o f diffusion, appropriation, and adoption that characterize creolization. 29 Indo Trinidadians sometimes situate themselves as living in two worlds at once, 30 by virtue of their simultaneous Indian ness and 28 29 F Ocenaic Creolizations: Processes and Practices of Creolization on Runion Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory ed. Charles Stewart (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2007), 148. 30
278 Caribbean ness. Through the lens of Du Boisian double consciousness, Indo Creole identity comes into view as a multiply subjective orientation to diasporic experience. While on the one hand Indo impose d racial subjectivities, they have cultivated amongst themselves a vibrant, creative, and enduring sense of self and community in reference to a shared history and experience of dislocation. In this way, everyday Indo Creole practice becomes an implicitly counterhegemonic means of re location Moreover, a s with the push for championed by the Indo Trinidadian middle class frequently implicate everyday practice with acutely political and therefore national import. Coolitude: Toward a Theory of I ndo Creol e While Indo Creole identity encounters Trinidadian nationality as a particularly productive set of indigenizing characteristics, the notion of Indo Creole further engages the global indentured I ndian diaspora by foreground foundation of communal identity In this way, Indo C reole interfaces with Khal reaching concept of coolitude which suggests a fundamental and embodied duality by which the India n i ndenture diaspora orients itself inwardly and outwardly Torabully attempts to frame
279 by acknowledging 31 the journey across the kala pani that took indentured laborers to their varied ural 32 In his poetry, Torabully routinely returns to the metaphor of being in motion of crossing the kala pani of being aboard ship, of an imaginary return home while he and others have also pointe d out similar tropes in diasporic literatu re of the Caribbean, Runion, Mauritius, and Fiji. 33 The notion of familiarity in unsettlement of a mosaic, complex vision, acknowledging the traumatic and constructive potential of the 34 In its favoring of Indo centric metaphors, however, some have criticized the essentialism of coolitude. 35 Like ngritude and Black Power, whose Afro centric 31 Carter and Torabully, Cooli tude 214 215. 32 newal in David Our Lady of Demerara Readings in Caribbean History and Cutlure: Breaking Ground ed. D. A. Dunkley (Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2011), 206. 33 English language sources include Srilata Ravi, Rainbow Colors: Literary Ethno topographies of Mauritius (Pl ymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2007); Vronique Bragard, Transoceanic Dialogues: Coolitude in Caribbean and Indian Ocean Literatures 34 Carter and Torabully, Coolitude 194. 35 For example, Shalini Puri, The Caribbean Postcolonial: Social Equality, Post Nationalism, and Cultural Hybridity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 266, n39.
280 emblems served to alienate non Africans, coolitude has a similar potential despite it a 36 Though coolitude has yet to gain currency as a mode of analysis beyond the study of literature emerging from the Indian labor diaspora, it nonetheless provides a compelling and far reaching coherency to the exper iences of indentured laborers and their descendants across the globe. As the case of Trinidad and Tobago indicates, contemporary Indo Trinidadian identity is very much dependent upon a still palpable memory of exile, struggle, and emergence that is no doub t common to parallel diasporic sites within and outside the Caribbean. The kala pani along with its associative maritime symbolism, is indeed a profoundly common trope in Indo Trinidadian popular and academic discourse, simultaneously representing the per ilous middle passage from India, signaling a celebration of arrival, and serving as a powerful metaphor of exile and the forging of new lives and new identities ( see for example, f ig ure 6 2 ). C oolitude also intersects with Afro European processes of creol ization in important ways: The coolie became involved in the building of a new identity in the land where he/she had settled. In this mise en relation new patterns were evolved, though f the coolie complexified a creolization process already under way, upsetting the social strategies of the former slaves, bringing new demographic realities. 37 36 Carter and Torabully, Coolitude 150. 37 Ibid., 191 192.
281 The trauma of dislocati from the mainstreaming of Afro European creolization, repli identitaire 38 This inward turn, facilitated by industrial, geographical and political segregation, therefore catalyzes the shaping of new diasporic identities branded by a ruptured orien tation toward an increasingly distant and idealized India and progressively rooted orientations toward a hostland at best ambivalent to Indian presence. This repli identitaire therefore, provides the impetus for an insular procreativity the idiogenerative impulse discussed at length in this study that gives rise to rearticulated, reconstructed, and newly composed expressions of Indian ness Coolitude provides an interesting perspective for framing Trinidadian Indo Creole identity while allowing for concept ual linkages with other Indo Caribbean communities in th e Caribbean region as well as the co mingling Indo Caribbea n diaspora in North America and Europe. In my experience in Florida, for example, Trinidadian and Guyanese Americans tend to gravitate towar d one anot her as cultural cohorts in ways that reconstitute the racial divisions of their respective homelands. Most fascinating, however, is that Indo Trinidadians and Indo Guyanese form a particularly cohesive community distinctly separate from the subst ant ial south Asian Indian diaspora in Florida Despite the common thread of a generalized Indian culture and most often Hindu religious practice, one finds that south Asian Indians and Indo Caribbeans rarely associate with one another in everyday practic e. This is quite conspicuous, for example, in the presence of Hindu temples that largely cater to one or the other group, but rarely both. For example, Shiva Mandir in Plantation, Florida is a Caribbean oriented temple 38 Ibid., 192.
282 Figure 7 3. Tassa class at Shiva Ma ndir. Plantation, Florida. June 2007. temple was built by the Florida Hindu Organization, which was founded by Caribbean pundits in 1981. Today, the temple serves not only as a place of worship, but also a center of south Florida Indo Caribbean activity, i ncluding tassa classes taught by Romeo Ragbir (figure 7 3). The affinity that Indo Caribbean Americans have for one another, regard less of their country of origin, in concert with their relative indifference to south Asian Indian Americans and in line wit h the transformative processes suggested Creole identity that persists even in transnational contexts.
283 In a final analysis, I suggest that tassa is quintessentially Indo Creole. What we find upon c lose inspection is an ensemble and genre of music that has taken a particularly striking Caribbean trajectory despite only marginal input from Afro Creole sources. Rather, the creativity and ingenuity of Indo Trinidadians, as an Indo Creole community, prov ides the most important transformative mechanism by which tassa so greatly diverged from its dhol tasha forebears. In this way, the indigenization of tassa reflects a similar metamorphosis of Indo Trinidadian identity from outsider to insider, from Indian to Indo Creole.
284 APPENDIX A DISCOGRAPHY Referenced Sound Recordings The musical analyses in chapter three are in part prepared in re ference to the recordings below in addition to the included examples in Appendix D. 1956 East Indian Drums of Tunapuna T rinidad Cook 5018. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. 1. Hussaya Festival 2. Wedding Dance 3. Ceremonial Drums 4. Imitation Steel Band rendition of dingolay complete with taals. seems to be an up tempo rendition of mahatam a Hosay hand commonly associated with war and decidedly not appropriate for by Lenny Kumar as Hosay tikora, Hosay teen chopa, nagara, and nabi sarbat. contemporary calypso hand. 1962 Association for Cultural Equity Sound Recordings Online database: http://research.culturalequity.org/get audio ix.do?ix=session&id=10 &idType=collectionId&sortBy=abc recording archives. Two sub collections of the Caribbean 1962 Collection, rec ordings in addition to other Indo Trinidadian musics, mostly song genres. Parts of these collections are commercially available as East Indian Music in the West Indies (Rounder 1999) as listed below. Other tracks containing Hosay tassa have also been publi shed on Trinidad: Carnival Roots (Rounder 2000). n.d. Emamalee Mohammed. Tassarama Curepe, Trinidad: Praimsingh. 1. Ding O Lay 2. Nagara 3. Wedding Hand 4. Steelpan 5. Tikora 6. Chowbhola 7. Soca Beat n.d. Caribel Fun Lovers Tassa Group. Jus 4 U
285 1. Tikoraa (1) 2. Wedding Hand 3. Chowbola 4. Classical Dingolay 5. Nagaraa 6. Dingolay / Bhangra 7. Chutney Mix 8. Iron Hand 9. Calypso 10. We Own Ting (1) 11. Soca / Dingolay 12. We Own Ting (2) 13. Tikoraa ( 2) n.d. San Juan Youngstars Tassa Group. Tassa Rhythms MAS CD 1250. Richmond Hill, NY: Masala Records Inc. 1. Tikora, Chowbola 2. Nagarra, Dingolay 3. Hossaytikora, Hossay Mahathana 4. Dingolay, Kalendar 5. Bhatee drum, Nagarra 6. Chutney Beat, D ingolay 7. Bhatee drum, Nadidin 8. Hosayteen chopra, Hosay nabisarbut 9. Wedding Drum, Dingolay 10. Tikora, Nagarra Dingolay, Kalendar 11. Chutney beat, Chutney Soca Hand n.d. Country Boys Tassa Group. DS Production Presents Country Boys Tassa Group Richmond Hill, NY: Donald Singh. 1. Tikora 2. Nagara 3. Dingolay 4. Kalinder 5. Chutney 6. Wedding 7. Countryboys Mix 8. Cool Down 9. Tikora / Chowbolay 10. Medley
286 Consulted Sound Recordings Though not specifically referenced in the dissertat ion text, the recordings below were nonetheless consulted in my research. 1999 East Indian Music in the West Indies Rounder 11661 1723 2. Cambridge, MA: Rounder Records Corp. 1. Ramayan Chaupai 2. Tan Singing (Thumri) 3. Tan Singing (Holi) 4 Tassa 6. Sohar 7. Grinding Song 8. Wedding Song 9. Madrasi Funeral Drumming 10. Guadeloupe Kali Ceremony 11. Ghajan 12. Birha 13. Chowtal 14. Interview 1999 Caribbean Percussion Traditions in Miami HASF CD01. Miami, FL: Historical Association of Southern Florida. The music on this track is performed by students of Romeo Ragbir based in Plantation, Florida. This is a good example of how a suite of han ds is played in context. The music was recorded at a Guyanese Hindu wedding in Miami. parlance). However it is clear that two of these are mislabeled. I suggest the hands are in actuality tikora, chaubola, nagara, and dingolay.
287 APPENDIX B MUSICAL TRANSCRIPTIONS Notation Key Tassa Notation Stroke to center of head Stroke t o edge of head Flam stroke Drag like stroke Buzz roll Singled handed buzz roll (e.g. Tikora)
288 Bass Notation Low and high pitched open strokes Touch stroke (for high pitched side only; e.g. ch aubola) Closed stroke (i.e. open stroke muted immediately) Jhal Notation Crash stroke allowed to ring Sizzle stroke with cutoff
289 Transcriptions The following transcriptions are intended to provide a general outline of each hand d iscussed in chapter three and are chiefly drawn from recordings of performances by Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa. I provide references to audio e xamples for the record of e very musical sound within the given audio e xamples, yet should provide a Instances of micro timing present particular obstacles for transcription. In virtually all cases, for example, eighth an d sixteenth notes are sligh tly swung according to the conventions of tassa performance. For clarity, however, I have chosen to notate all eighth and sixteenth notes without reference to their swung characteristics with the exception of special instances (as in wedding hand, for exam ple) where important rhythmic passages deserve particular attention to detail. Tempos markings ar e also omitted given that tempos vary among renditions of the same hand. Occasional indications of relative increases in tempo are provided where appropriate. In practice, however, many breakaway hands tend to speed up upon approaching the end taal. T ime signatures are indicated only for ease of reading since in practice the sense of downbeat is often ambiguous. This is especially apparent in wedding hand, where I have done my best to provide a more literal transcription of the referenced recording than in other examples. I have assigned time signatures for this hand largely to emphasize rhythmic clarity. However, the metric qualities of wedding hand could very w ell be heard and felt differently by another analyst. For wedding hand, I have also omitted the foul and jhal parts to highlight the interaction between the cutter and bass. This is not to say that the omitted parts are not important; indeed the foul for wedding
290 hand, for example, is perhaps the most distinct of any hand in the wedding repertoire. Nonetheless, it is ideally static and unchanging, and the jhal usually follows the bass (though in the referenced performance, the jhal often diverges from the bass at key points), therefore the omission of these parts is only for practical reasons. I rely on the listener to correlate the missing lines of notation with the transcribed material by following along with the audio.
297 Wedding Hand Eighth note remains constant.
303 Calypso Hand
306 George of the Jungle
307 APPENDIX C TASSA COMPETITIO N RULES AND SCORE SHEETS 2003 National Tassa Monarch Competition Rules and Guidelines
308 2005 National Tassa Competition of T&T Preliminary Rules and Guidelines
309 200 7 Dinsley Community Residents Association Tassabration Score Sheet (Text identifying the ju dge and band has been expunged)
310 Tassa Taal 2007 Rules and Regulations
311 Tassa Taal 2013 Rules and Regulations
312 APPENDIX D AUDIO EXAMPLES Objects D 1 through D 7 are excerpts from a longer performance at a wedding in Carapichaima, Trinidad in April 2 011. Though played as a suite of successive hands during this performance, each hand is here separated into its own track for ease of listening. These are monaural recordings. Object D 1. Tikora (wedding suite) (.mp3 1 MB) Object D 2. Chaubola ( wedding suite) (.mp3 3 MB) Object D 3. Someri (wedding suite) (.mp3 1 MB) Object D 4. Calypso (wedding suite) (.mp3 5 MB) Object D 5. Wedding Hand (wedding suite) (.mp3 6 MB) Object D 6 Nagara (wedding suite) (.mp3 3 MB) Object D 7. George of the Jungle (wedding suite) (.mp 3 1 MB) I recorded Objects D 8 through D 12 in a cont rolled environment in August 2012. These are in stereo and therefore should aid the listener to more accurately distinguish instrumental parts. Object D 8. Tikora (.mp3 1 MB ) Object D 9. Nagara (.mp3 5 MB) Object D 10. Dingolay (.mp3 3 MB) Object D 11. Calypso (.mp3 4 MB) Object D 12. Chutney (.mp3 3 MB)
313 APPENDIX E MAPS A B Figure E 1. Re gional maps. A ) the Caribbean, B) Trinidad and Tobago. Figure E 2. Map of Trinidadian locales mentioned in the text.
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322 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Christopher L. Balleng ee holds a b achelor of a rts in m usic from Lenoir Rh yne Universit y (2001), a m aster of m usic in e thnomusicology from Bowling Green State University (200 5), and a Ph.D. in e thnomusicology from the University of Florida (2013) Ballengee formerly served as a djunct l ecturer in the University of Florida School of Music and a dju nct p rofessor of m usic and t echnical t heatre at Santa Fe College. He currently is a ssistant p rofessor of m usic at Anne Arund el Community College