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Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics

Duke Performances | Black Atlantic

March 22, 2018

The music of the Black Atlantic is our global soundtrack.

Doctoral students from a range of disciplines in Laurent Dubois' class on the Black Atlantic have produced a guide to the history and cultural context surrounding each of the musicians performing in the Black Atlantic music festival sponsored by Duke Performances in March 2018. Take a peek below.


Over many centuries, enslaved people in the Americas gathered together when they could — on the edges of plantations, in town squares on market days, in the streets during religious festivals. The songs and sounds they created accompanied the dead as their spirits traveled home to Africa. At times this music accompanied revolt. Songs spoke of freedom and a different future. In slavery and in the struggles for equality that followed, music provided solace and created solidarity. From these roots flourished some of today’s most popular music, from salsa to hip-hop, blues to reggae.

Over six nights in Durham, we’ll hear some of the legacies of this history. We’ll hear the sounds of a new generation of griot musicians from Mali, carriers of a tradition that seeded forms of song and story throughout the Americas. We’ll hear music from both sides of the island Columbus called Hispaniola, now encompassing Haiti and the Dominican Republic, music that reminds us of the deep connections between the two. We’ll understand how African musical traditions have been kept alive, but also transformed, from generation to generation, as we journey to El Clavo, in Venezuela, and to the coasts of Belize. There the Garifuna – descendants of the Black Caribs of St. Vincent – keep alive their intertwined indigenous and African heritage through ritual and music. And we’ll experience the new connections being made between Caribbean and Spanish musical traditions.

These six concerts offer a multiplicity of beats, sounds, calls, and rhythms. But they also remind us of common routes, of the ways Black Atlantic music has helped turn exile and exclusion into grounding and connection.

— Laurent Dubois, Duke University

Joan Soriano“Duke of Bachata” JOAN SORIANO built his first guitar as a child from a tossed aside metal box and some fishing line, and along with it, a path to international acclaim as one of a few contemporary artists dedicated to preserving the music’s cultural roots. CONTINUE READING


Emeline MichelEMELINE MICHEL is a Haitian singer-songwriter whose voice has earned her the title “the Joni Mitchell of Haiti” as well as comparisons to Tracy Chapman and Sarah McLaughlin, among other culturally significant artists. CONTINUE READING


Betsayda Machado y la Parranda el ClavoDuke Performances welcomes the Afro-Venezuelan group BETSAYDA MACHADO Y LA PARRANDA EL CLAVO, masterful performers of parranda music and living archives of Afro-Venezuelan and indigenous history. CONTINUE READING


Trio da KaliFeaturing Hawa Kassé Diabaté, Mamadou Kouyaté and Fodé Lassana Diabaté, TRIO DA KALI represents a new generation’s inheritance of the Malian griot music tradition. CONTINUE READING


Aurelio MartinezBorn in 1969, AURELIO MARTÍNEZ is a Garifuna percussionist, guitarist, singer, and songwriter who hails from Plaplaya, Honduras. Martínez, who goes by Aurelio, was born into a family of musicians. CONTINUE READING


Diego el CigalaBorn Ramón Jiménez Salazar outside of Madrid in Spain, the artist now known internationally as DIEGO EL CIGALA has won wide acclaim as one of the world’s foremost flamenco singer. CONTINUE READING

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