Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dancing in the Streets

The other day I was talking on the phone with Symon Warwick, a.k.a. A Man Called Warwick. I was supposed to be interviewing him, which happened, but then we just went off in all directions talking about music. He's got an infectious excitement about music that makes me want to run out and listen to all sorts of new stuff. We got on to the topic of Rara, a type of Haitian processional music that's made with drums, horns called vaksin, cymbals, and tons of energy.

As Elizabeth McAlister, author of Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora, writes, Rara "is at once a season, a festival, a genre of music, a religious ritual, a form of dance, and sometimes a technique of political protest." Raras move people--both literally and figuratively. Dancing through the streets and countryside of Haiti, leading up to Easter, raras have made it to New York city, moving thousands of people through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Rara is able to encapsulate the movement of a diaspora in a fitting cultural celebration. Hearing the kids saying "when we grow up, we're going to take over and continue this" is a demonstation of how Rara not only moves through the park, but it moves through generations. As someone who is interested in what music can actually do, Rara clearly is fascinating to me.

I'm hoping that the documentary The Other Side of the Water will makes its way to Canada soon, because I simply can't wait. The clip on the site isn't enough. Thankfully, McAlister has a treasure trove of rara photos and video on her website companion to her book.

Dancing in the street simply doesn't happen enough here in Montreal. In January, in Ethiopia, I was lucky enough to time my visit so I could be part of the Timkat (epiphany) celebrations. Each Ethiopian Orthodox church has a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. On Timkat, these Arks travel to large fields--in Addis the field is called Jah Meda (no relationship to the Jah of which Rastafari speak)--where they stay until the ceremonial sprikling of Holy water over the gathered crowds. After, the Arks are carried back to their respective churches, accompanied by dancing and drumming youth groups. Check around the 3:45 mark of the film below to see one of the dancing processionals. Frankly, the whole short is pretty great--it's a demo reel for a longer film about Ethiopian traditional music. I've searched around for more info about the film, but can't seem to find any...looks like it'll be pretty interesting.
In related street dancing news, Dave sent me the following video of what happens on Saturday afternoons in his neighbourhood. Clearly, Heringey is the place to be. I wanna know more about this, and I want to master the dance moves featured in the last few seconds of the video.

1 comment:

Robert said...

You might want to also look at the impact of RARA in Dominican Republic, where I am from. In DR its called GAGA.
And there are a couple of Dominican groups here (NYC) specially in the Washington Heights neighborhood.