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Arts & Culture

Haitian Jazz and US Jazz: Historical Connections and Specificities

Academic Remarks by Jean Eddy Saint Paul, Ph. D. Professor of Sociology Founding Director of the City University of New York’s Haitian Studies Institute

New Orleans. Photo credit: Wikimedia

By Jean Eddy Saint Paul, Ph.D.

Where does U.S. or “American” jazz get its inspiration? This question may sound simple but, it is a complex one, since it has allowed scholars and researchers to produce a broad range of interdisciplinary scholarly works. Some argue that we cannot understand at all the genesis of U.S. or “American” jazz without devoting a keen attention to the contacts, connections and exchanges between the native Americans and the first immigrants who arrived as “refugees” in the United States of America, since the XV century, which coincides with what Immanuel Wallerstein typifies as a “global world economic system.”

Other scholars have shown that more recent political and sociological phenomena, like the migration and exchange (va-et-vient) between Saint Domingue (Ayiti) and La Lousiane (USA) during the latter part of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteen centuries has a major positive impact on the making and the re-orientation of U.S. jazz.

There is no pure culture; all cultures are somehow the result of brassage, mélange and consequently are hybrids in their expression.

Néstor García Canclini

Indeed, globalization that we can understand as an epiphenomenon of our western “modernity,” has served as a catalyst for cultural movement among a diversity of peoples and ethnicities, and has helped in fostering what Jean-François Bayart named after Gilles Deleuze “the reinvention of differences.” According to Néstor García Canclini, in the context of globalization, there is no pure culture; all cultures are somehow the result of brassage, mélange and consequently are hybrids in their expression.


“Haitian Jazz and American Jazz: Historical Connections and Specificities.” Academic discussion panel and a jazz concert. RSVP here for this FREE event.

Thus, based on these theoretical approaches, I do believe that a deep and complex understanding of the making of U.S. jazz requires us to situate it within the context of globalization that is intrinsically shaped by notions such as de-territoriality, re-territoriality, hybridity and fluidity. But, to what extent has, in the XIX century -in a broader context of valorization of popular culture through the lens of romanticism, the Saint Dominguoise migration to la Louisiane influenced the orientation of U.S. jazz? What is the validity of Mats Lundhal’s thesis who suggests Issah El Saieh as the founder of Haitian jazz?

To thoroughly debate these questions, the CUNY Haitian Studies Institute has selected the finest experts and artists to competently discuss the historical connections as well as the specificities between Haitian and American jazz. I wanted to seize this opportunity to give you a warm welcome to Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and I reiterate my gratitude to all the institutional partners who joined the Haitian Studies Institute to realize this great event.

Haitian Times

Haitian Times

The Haitian Times was founded in 1999 as a weekly English language newspaper based in Brooklyn, NY.The newspaper is widely regarded as the most authoritative voice for Haitian Diaspora.
Haitian Times
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Sep. 15, 2019

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