The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

“Sanctifying the Haitian Soul: Thoughts on Faith, Cultural Nationalism, and Popular Music” presented by Melvin L. Butler, Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Chicago


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Many Christians in Haiti and its diaspora embrace the popular music
genre known as “konpa” as a vehicle for musical praise with a local
color. However, others insist that konpa’s associations with secular
entertainment render it inappropriate for ritual use and unfit for
Christian consumption. In this talk, I examine the ways in which this
impassioned debate overlaps with ongoing discussions concerning
Haitian cultural identity. Konpa is an expressive tool through which
believers position themselves in relation to spiritual others while
performing national identities that stand in contrast to sounds and
images of Haiti perpetuated by local and global media.

Melvin L. Butler’s research and teaching interests center on
performance, identity, and religious experience in the Caribbean and
the United States. He has received a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral
Fellowship (1999) and a Fulbright IIE research grant (2002). In
2004-05, he was the Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellow-in-residence
at Dartmouth College. After earning the Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from
New York University, he taught at the University of Virginia from 2005
to 2008.

Ethnoise! The Ethnomusicology Workshop
Thursday, October 1, 2009
4:30 pm, Goodspeed, room 205

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