- Paperback: 312 pages
- Publisher: Smithsonian Books (August 17, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1560989475
- ISBN-13: 978-1560989479
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,818,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeria Paperback – August 17, 2001
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“A highly original work . . . that will stand out as the most thorough exploration of Santería music performance, both religious and theatrical.”—Raul Fernández, University of California, Irvine
About the Author
Katherine J. Hagedorn is associate professor of music at Pomona College.
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I bought this book expecting to learn something about the music and Cuban people. However, I am afraid the title of this book may mislead people into buying it for its information.
This book by Katherine J Hagedorn is not a book about the religion. It is a way for her to drop names of musicians she knows and friends of hers--and present her own views of the way these people perceive their religion. I was upset by the book because I am afraid that people may be misled into thinking the book is valuable when in fact it is just about Hagedorn.
If you want to know more about this author and her strange ways of incorporating someone else's religion into her academic career, buy this book. If you want to learn about the religion and the Cubans who practice the religion of their ancestors, buy a book by Raul Canizares or Joseph M. Murphy. If you want to know about the music, it is more instructive to buy Robin Moore's book "Nationalizing Blackness"--you will learn more about the history and people without wasting your time with someone trying to impress you with her name-dropping.
The publisher should release the CD without the book, because the CD is the only valuable part. The musicians are playing the music with a lot of "bomba" (heart) and it's too bad this author doesn't discuss the music in any context except to talk about herself.
"Divine Utterances: The Transformation of
Memory in Afro-Cuban Performance
This is an exceptionally well-researched and well-argued monograph. The author examines the complex relationship between the ritual ceremonies, rhythms, and possession performances of the Afro-Cuban Santería religion and the theatrical performance of Santería ceremonies, music, and possession by way of the state sponsored Conjunto Folklorico Nacional and other theatrical troupes.
The book is a highly original work in which the authors visit a "busy intersection" where the webs that both unite and separate "authentic" sacred performance and theatrical representations of Santería are dissected against the background of two other dualities: the centuries long dialectic between race relations and Afro-Cuban religious practice in the island, and the seemingly antithetical policy of an officially religion-unfriendly socialist government that relies on the Santería religion as a means to attract capitalist tourist dollars to the island. Hagedorn's book constitutes an in-depth study of the Santeria religion. At the same times it presents an analysis of how two types of performances, one grounded on everyday religious practice, the other a theatrical representation of those religious practices, are connected, disconnected, and mutually inform each other.
As the author describes, this situation gives rise to a wide variety of paradoxical occurrences. For example, while one would assume the theatrical, non-sacred, representations of Santería themes would be the locus and focus of tourist interest, it turns out that tourists appear to be just, or even more interested, in watching and participating in genuine, non-theatrical, Santeria rituals. On the other hand, while the theatrical representations are not supposed to be "real," sometimes local Santeria believers in attendance at stylized performances geared to tourists become possessed by the deities of Santeria, much as they might have in a genuine ritual.
Distinguishing everyday popular Santeria drumming and dancing from stylized theatrical presentations of it, is not a simple matter. More often than not the musicians, dancers and other participants in the Folklorico shows are themselves leading active believers and musicians of the Santeria religion. Religious practicioners take an active role in the construction of the theatrical presentations which are supposed to be as "real" as possible. In this sense the Cuban Folklorico differs from other similar ensembles (e.g. Mexico's famed Conjunto Folklorico) in which there is little, if any connection between troupe members and traditional practitioners of various cultures represented dances and rituals.
One of the most impressive aspects of this book is the way in which the author presents her findings. The manuscript is written in a way that allows the reader to accompany the author in the voyage of discovery. Rather than presenting us with the "data" obtained in painstaking field work, we follow her as the data is obtained, observe her initial situation as an outsider looking in, and are witnesses to her slow becoming of an insider.
The book is accompanied by a CD which is very much part of the story. The music in the accompanying CD is compelling and carefully selected to illustrate points made in the text. There are also numerous photographs that cover the main themes, persons, venues and instruments discussed in the manuscript. Each chapter is framed by short personal narratives which the author uses to communicate relevant information about Santeria religious practices and the author's own relation to them. On the whole the manuscript is an impressive production of the highest research as well as literary value, with excellent aural and visual aids.
I believe this work will stand out as the most thorough exploration of Santeria music performance, both religious and theatrical, in academic literature. Studies in English do not have either the scope, i.e. brief essays by Duany, Mason and a few others; or the the depth, e.g. the otherwise excellent work by Cornelius, of Hagedorn's book. Her work essentially continues in terms of scope, detail and analytical value the foundational work done in Cuba before l950 by Fernando Ortiz and Rómulo Lachatañeré.
I'm enjoying the CD for what it is, but the book? BAH!