Lomax’s 1962 Recordings Repatriated to The University of The West Indies, Trinidad

A ceremony took place at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on June 18, 2012, to celebrate repatriation of the 60-plus hours of recordings and more than 1000 photographs made by Alan Lomax in the Eastern Caribbean to the Alma Jordan Library at Trinidad’s University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine. The repatriation marked the 50th anniversary of Lomax’s 1962 research trip. Alan’s daughter, Anna L. Wood, asked that the collection be named “The Alan Lomax and Jacob D. Elder Collection.” Dr. Elder, a native of Tobago, was a renowned folklorist and cultural activist, and Trinidad’s first Minister of Culture after Independence; he was also Lomax’s  principal advisor and collaborator in the Caribbean, and a close colleague and friend.

Professor Rosita Sands of the Department of Music, Columbia College, Chicago, represented the Association for Cultural Equity at the ceremony. Dr. Patricia Elder, daughter of J.D. Elder, spoke for her father on the occasion. Four ensembles of traditional musicians performed at the event: the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Singers (Tobago), the Cantique Singers (Maraval), the Rose of Sharon Singers (Blanchisseuse), and the San Jose Serenaders.

Lomax’s trip was launched in 1962 on the eve of British West Indian Independence. His mission was to document the region’s music and folklore, predicting that the strong commonalities he would find could support the growing movement for post-colonial Caribbean unity. He visited twelve islands—Grenada, Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Kitts/Nevis, Carriacou, Dominica, Martinique, St. Barthélemy (St. Barts), Guadeloupe, and Trinidad and Tobago—and amassed hundreds of recordings and took some 1100 photos of dances, game songs, religious observances, ballads, Shango rituals, carnival and Christmas material, story-songs (chante fables), calypso, and East Indian music.

The ACE-UWI partnership makes all of this documentation available to scholars, students, musicians, fans, and the artists and their families in the form of high-quality digital media, to be stored and made accessible by the Jordan Library. The audio and photo collections are also available in their entirety through the ACE Online Archive:

Alan Lomax’s 1962 Eastern Caribbean audio collection
Alan Lomax’s 1962 Eastern Caribbean photo collection

Click here for more about ACE’s repatriation programs.

Click here to read about the ceremony on the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online.

Originally posted: June 21, 2012