Collections: Donald Hill - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Interviews, Music, Mas' (Masquerade) and Dance Performances in Grenada and Trinidad (1971-2001)

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Big Drum Dance with Caddy John on cut drum and May Fortune on rum and chac-chac, early 1970s. Image © Donald Hill.

Most of the film and video in this collection was shot in Carriacou, Grenada in 1971, 1999, and 2001, although small portions were filmed in Grenada and in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Because this material was shot in many formats and because of the necessity of including all scenes on each film or tape, the images are wide ranging and include many scenes that are not part of the central theme. Nevertheless, most of the images show aspects of Carriacou's Carnival (Shakespeare mas' and various small masquerades), the Big Drum Dance and drum making, and Canute Caliste playing violin and being interviewed.

The Carnival scenes, both in Carriacou and in Trinidad, focus on masquerades and skits that were once more prominent in carnivals in the Eastern Caribbean in the early 1900s. The Big Drum Dance is a multipurpose performance of drumming, singing and dancing that honors the dead and is obligatory for the living. Many of the dances that were common in 1971 were shot in black and white silent 8mm film, in May Fortune and Sugar Adam's yard. May Fortune was one of Carriacou's most important singers and dancers of the twentieth century, and Sugar Adam was an equally important drummer of the same period. The old films also show Mr. Adam making drums from small rum barrels. While the Big Drum Dance represents Creolized African custom on the island, the quadrille dance represents Creolized European custom. Carriacou's most important violin player in the quadrille was Canute Caliste. He is seen playing the violin, and he and family members and friends are interviewed about his life. Mr. Caliste was also a noted folk artist, and the videos show him in his Art Gallery talking about his paintings.

The rest of the images present a Boasian potpourri of Carriacouan culture plus a few surprises: sloops, schooners, boats being caulked, and fish pots; street scenes in colonial Carriacou and a man making cement bricks; Spiritual Baptists praying to the Mermaid of the Sea for rain and men drinking too much beer in a bar; harvesting corn in the fields and drying and grinding corn in the yard; children playing and tourist-like camera pans from Carriacou's central ridge; preparing food for feasts and a wedding; and traditional masquerades from the nearly-rained-out Carnival 1972 from Port of Spain, Trinidad (so-called "Rainorama").

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Image © Donald Hill

Donald Hill is Professor of Anthropology & Africana/Latino Studies (from 1978) at the State University on New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta. He received a PhD in Anthropology, with a minor in Folklore, from Indiana University in 1973. He has been a Curator of Education at the American Museum of Natural History (1973-1975) and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College (1975-1978). He authored two books and co-authored two others. His most noted publications are Caribbean Folklore: A Handbook (Greenwood Press, 2007), West Indian Rhythm: Trinidad Calypsos on World and Local Events 1938-1940 (co-author and co-editor of book and ten CD set, Bear Family, Germany, 2006, ARSC Award winner for "discography" in 2007); Calypso Calaloo (UP of Florida, 1993, co- winner of the 1994 U Chicago Folklore Prize and one of the first academic books to include a CD); and The Impact of Migration on the Metropolitan and Folk Society of Carriacou, Grenada (AMNH, 1977). He has annotated, produced, and/or made field recordings for approximately 42 long-playing records and CDs. Recordings by "Lovey's Band" (sampled on the CD that accompanies Calypso Calaloo) were selected by the Librarian of Congress to be on the first list of 50 recordings for the National Recording Registry in 2002. He has recorded approximately 1200 hours of audio field recordings in the Americas, the Caribbean, and West Africa since 1955. He is co-recipient of a $40,000 grant (2008) from the Grammy Foundation (with David Mangurian) to digitize recordings made in the US (1958-1961).

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