Danielle Brown

Danielle Brown earned a doctorate in Music from New York University with a concentration in ethnomusicology, and a specialization in the music of Latin America and the Caribbean. She is an active vocalist and cuatro player, and composes and performs jazz and Latin American and Caribbean-based musics in New York.

"'Leroy, Where Yuh Mudda Gone': Language, Gender, and the Urbanization of Trinidad Parang Music "

The twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is well known for its pre-Lenten carnival festivities – particularly its calypso and steelband traditions. Lesser known but equally vibrant are Trinidad’s Christmas traditions, rooted in a Spanish-language custom known as parang (Sp. parranda), a musical genre and performance practice in which groups of musicians travel from house to house singing Spanish-language songs that reflect the country’s historical connection to Spain and Venezuela. Once a male-centered genre, in recent years women have come to dominate traditional parang performance, while their male counterparts have gravitated towards English-language fusions that blend parang with various popular music genres, such as soca and chutney.

This talk examines traditional gender roles in parang performance, as well as the impact of urbanization on those roles. Specifically, I argue that the spread of parang from rural areas to urban centers has contributed to a gendered shift in performance practices of which language is a crucial factor. Since the mid-1900s, the commodification of parang, as well as its spread through the mass-media, has led to women becoming the face of religious-themed Spanish-language parang, while men sing in English a more secularized version of the genre that reflects the displays of masculinity once emphasized in traditional Spanish-language parang. In effect, Spanish-language parang has been feminized, not only by a natural decline in the use of Spanish in Trinidad, but also as a result of marketing parang to urban audiences.

My Speakers Sessions

Saturday, March 24

11:15am EDT