Alan Lomax in Haiti

Alan Lomax in Haiti (Harte Recordings)

Box Sets

Alan Lomax in Haiti

(Harte Recordings)

In December 1936, a 21-year-old Alan Lomax lugged a 55-pound piece of recording equipment to Haiti, a tiny nation two years removed from U.S. military occupation. He returned to Washington, D.C., six months later with more than 1,500 songs scratched onto 294 clunky aluminum discs – two discs for every year that had passed since the only successful slave rebellion birthed the Black Republic. Poor sound quality kept that heap of Haitian history shelved at the Archive of American Folk Song for six decades before the songcatcher's daughter, Anna Lomax, launched the restoration and remastering of the recordings. The result is a behemoth of a box set: 10 discs (compact), 287 songs, and more than 250 pages of notes, including a transcription of Lomax's field diary. Organized by CD, the set captures the diversity of 1930s Haitian music, from the jazzy merengue, Mardi Gras, and Carnaval songs of the island to the Vodou, work, and children's tunes of the countryside. In fact, sitting with Alan Lomax in Haiti offers the distinct feeling of graduate research. It's hard to fathom casual music fans – even world music die-hards – replaying "Demonstration of the Tuning of the Malinoumbas," but that doesn't diminish this endeavor's importance. The project preserves Haitian cultural heritage from an era when quality sound recordings simply did not exist, and Lomax's Association for Cultural Equity is repatriating a full set of the digitally restored and cataloged collection to the oft-maligned nation.

***

READ MORE
More Alan Lomax
Beethoven to Beyoncé
Beethoven to Beyoncé
SXSW Music panels gorge on food for thought

The Music Staff, Feb. 27, 2015

Faulk Hero
Faulk Hero
Remembering John Henry Faulk's battle against the blacklist

Willard Manus, June 27, 2014

More Music Reviews
Too Late to Stop Now
Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones in Mono (Record Review)

Tim Stegall, Dec. 16, 2016

Texas Platters
Walter Daniels
"Almost Got Hit by a Truck" b/w "My Mind Got Bad", "Voodoo Working" and "Stimulant" b/w "I Get Off on It", "Graveyard Shift" b/w "They Can Only Fill One Grave" (Record Review)

Tim Stegall, Dec. 2, 2016

More by Thomas Fawcett
Top 10 Austin Albums of 2016
Top 10 Austin Albums of 2016
The Chronicle music staff picks their favorite local records

Dec. 30, 2016

Critics Poll
Critics Poll

Dec. 30, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Alan Lomax

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)