Brooklyn, New York, USA - If you’re involved in the New York Caribbean music scene and don’t know who Garvin Blake and Frankie McIntosh are - you should act like you know - run home and Google them right now.
Anytime you can get to hear panist Garvin Blake or pianist Frankie McIntosh ‘live’ you’re in for a treat. If you can get to hear both of them together - well, you are in a special place, as were the attendees to the presentation on the book “Jump Up!” by Professor Ray Allen. The recently-released book focuses on the life of Caribbean carnival music in New York City.
About five or six years ago Allen, who fell in love with the music of carnival in Brooklyn, realized that there was not a book that adequately addressed Brooklyn Carnival and its music - and there lies the impetus for writing the book.
Ray Allen (pictured) is Professor of Music and American Studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY. His writings on American folk and popular music include Singing in the Spirit: African American Sacred Quartets in New York City (University of Pennsylvania Press) and Gone to the Country: The Urban Folk Music Revival (University of Illinois Press).
In the presentation, Allen gave a quick overview of carnivals in Trinidad and in New York. Allen states that his goal was to take a serious look at the concept of Diasporic Transnationalism. Which is much more than a one-way migration of people or a culture from one place to another, in part due to the 20th century (global age) movement of people, customs, and commercial goods back and forth across international waters - and in this case specifically, culture. Allen says that in the book, he is interested in the way musicians, singers, record producers, carnival masquerade bands et al, moved back and forth between Trinidad, the other islands and New York, and their subsequent impact and influence on each other through this loop - including other established carnivals in Toronto, London and Miami.
Garvin Blake, Winston Wellington and Frankie McIntosh
Garvin and Frankie, in addition to their performances, were guest speakers. Both have contributed greatly to the New York Caribbean music scene as musicians, performers and recording artists. They provided an in-depth and unique perspective, as they articulated as key individuals who have been deeply involved from the inside. That is: they have lived, created and directed the music that has defined generations of Caribbean music experience, and globally impacted world music across the diasporas.
Garvin Blake performs with Frankie McIntosh - the Woody Tanger Auditorium at Brooklyn College
The “talk” part of the presentation was moderated by Ray Allen. Like his book it provided an opportunity to connect with some of the people whose stories he documents in “Jump Up!” Winston Wellington, a former member of the famed Pan Am North Stars Steel Orchestra, and more importantly in this arena - a founding member and arranger of New York’s now-defunct Brooklynaires Steel Orchestra - was also a part of the panel. Booklynaires Steel Orchestra was one of the first respected big steel orchestras of New York. Wellington is featured in the book.
For example, when Garvin defines the life of the Brooklyn panyard for players and community, he describes specifically the panyard as “...a place where you can see the creation of art in a public space - part social, part musical.” On defining New York Panorama, Garvin calls it “...one of the most intense competitions around, I consider it a combination of the World Cup, religion and politics.”
Or the great Frankie McIntosh explaining his musical approach to the arranging of Beckett’s “Wine Down Kingstown” - a priceless moment. You need to just watch and listen.
The presentation was very informative and clearly demonstrated why “Jump Up!” is required reading. It is packed with information about those who breathed musical life into the Carnival experience. Moreover, by extension it is of global significance.
More on Ray Allen
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