University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Summer 2005

Songs of Love and Haiti

15-CD project captures sounds of Caribbean nation

In 1936, renowned folk-music collector Alan Lomax (1915-2002) travelled to Haiti to record some of the country’s diverse musical forms. He captured more than 1,500 performances, ranging from Boy Scout choirs to Vodou (voodoo) ceremonies. Now, this music – some of which is no longer performed in Haiti – will be made available through a 15-CD project headed by Professor Gage Averill, dean of the Faculty of Music and an ethnomusicologist.

Directors at the Alan Lomax Archives in New York have engaged Averill to select the music, oversee the digitizing process and write the academic liner notes. Rounder Records of Cambridge, Mass., will distribute the recordings. The project is expected to be completed in 2008.

“Lomax spent five months in Haiti,” says Averill. “In one case, he asked a woman to sing into his microphone and she sang hundreds of songs. As well, he recorded Catholic liturgies, jazz performances, French troubadour songs, carnival bands and religious festivals.”

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