When European countries colonized the New World, they brought many of their customs, including a raucous pre-Lenten celebration which became known as Carnaval. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
Gage Averill is an associate professor in the department of Music at New York University.
“Lent is a 40 day season leading up to Easter in which Christians were prescribed from eating meat, from celebrating. It was a period of sort of solemn commemorance. And so the idea that one should go into this period of solemn commemorance with great festivities took root. Urban dwellers and peasants would come into the city to celebrate in excess. Carnaval was marked with excessive eating, drinking, masquerading, sexual license, lots of commentary about the church and the rulers.”
In the Americas, Carnaval was originally celebrated by European colonists, but around the time that slavery was abolished, Africans began to participate in the outdoor parades.
“So in the early 19th century, Western hemisphere Carnavals began to become African celebrations. The masquerade styles shifted dramatically, incorporating lots of West African secret society masquerades, and other forms of West African masquerading. And the music of course likewise began to shift, incorporating African drum ensembles or horn ensembles.”
“I think that in the Western Hemisphere, Carnaval becomes linked to the idea of emancipation and the abolition of slavery and a celebration of an African collectivity in the New World, for the first time allowed out into the streets, and allowed to play in a rowdy celebration.”
Right now, it is Carnaval season in many countries in Central and South American. We’ll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.
THE MUSIC HEARD IN THE BACKGROUND OF THIS PROGRAM IS THE GROUP “SUPERBLUE” PLAYING “BACCHANAL TIME.” FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE GROUP, CONTACT ICE RECORDS, PO BOX 2917, LONDON W11 4UD, ENGLAND.