Dr Danielle Brown, subject of the Emmy-nominated musical documentary short Parang in New York City, says she is delighted with the positive reactions to the film from both Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.
Brown is an artist, scholar and entrepreneur. She received a doctorate in music from New York University with a concentration in ethnomusicology and a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean music.
Soundtrack of life
In an email interview with Newsday, she explained that the Caribbean is in her blood.
“I grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in a community of people mostly from the English-speaking Caribbean, Haiti and Panama and their descendants. My parents are from Trinidad, so I grew up eating Trini food. (roti, chicken stew, callaloo, etc.) I grew up listening to popular Trinbagonian proverbs and tales (my dad was the best at scaring us with stories of jumbies and the supernatural). heard a lot of calypso, soca, reggae and dance hall playing in the neighborhood. “
Brown said on Reflection that she was growing up at a time when a lot of the music that remains popular today was in its infancy – hip hop, soca and dancehall.
“These musics constitute the soundtrack of my life. I don’t know if I thought too much about music at the time, but I was learning a lot by listening, and it was all music that I could relate to, music that reflected me and my experiences. “
Parang opens with Brown performing Golpe from parang group TT La Divina Pastora, which was shot at the Brooklyn Folk Festival 2018, and in a discussion of Trinidad’s diversity.
“Outside of TT, people are not always aware of our diversity both in people and in music. Parang is an art form that is not as well known as say calypso and pan Parang was also the subject of my research thesis, so I like to pay tribute to this art form which is as much a part of my cultural heritage as calypso and steelpan.
“Like many, I admire Daisy (Voisin) and her work. I love Golpe especially because of the bravado expressed in the lyrics. Here is a song where Daisy, a woman, sings in a tradition once dominated by men and where men would verbally brag and show off. And in the text, Daisy shows that she can do the same; she can get by. She can brag and show herself like the best of them. Don’t worry. , it’s a woman She sings that she’s “braver than a bull, more agile than a deer.” I love it. I’m from New York where we like to “talk trash” a bit. laughs). When I sing this song, I add my own verse to make myself kind of a big-up in that same tradition. To capture a bit of that fiery spirit. “
She started her set at the Brooklyn Folk Festival with the witty Wade in the Water and then Portrait of Trinidad (by Mighty Bomber), “a song my mother sang often and which has special meaning for me”.
During Parang, there’s also a scene where Brown performs Sparrow’s classic Jean and Dinah.
“I like to say my mom has a Sparrow song for every occasion. Jean and Dinah is one that my mom introduced to me and my brother at a young age.
“Why does my mom sing a song about child prostitution, right? (Laughs).
“But my mom was very intentional. She used the song to tell us about WWII, the loan-lease laws, the American presence in Chaguaramas, and Eric Williams’ determination to bring the United States out. bases before the end of the lease.
“Later, when I was a student at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, I remember the late Tony Hall bringing his theater production Jean and Dinah to campus. It got us thinking about the point of view of the prostitutes who make the object of the calypso, but who were speechless in the song. When I became a teacher, I taught John and Dinah to my students as a way to teach them about history, politics and the socio-economic ramifications of the presence American to TT. Jean and Dinah is just one of the many calypso and Caribbean music that I use as an educational tool. “
Brown said that Parang is a genre that she loves and that she loves TT music in general.
“Maybe because of some of the work I’m doing right now, my thoughts are that I would love to see us as a collective – Trinbagonians from all over the Diaspora – not only enjoying our music, but also protecting it. cultural vulturism that we see happening every day, and that those of us living abroad may see from a slightly different perspective than those at TT. We can share our music and our culture , but we have to be careful not to reveal it. And we have to understand the prevailing global economic systems that would force us to plow the soil and cultivate the land, but without giving us any of the fruits. “
In November 2014, Brown founded My People Tell Stories, an initiative to “promote and validate the knowledge produced by people of color and subsequently create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive education system”.
My People Tell Stories provides arts education services including professional development for teachers, artists and researchers who seek to center diverse, inclusive and equitable practices in their work.
My People Tell Stories includes the Caribbean Music Pedagogy Workshop (CMPW), which teaches teachers, educators, artists and others interested in teaching music in a more authentic way.
Brooklyn-based Haitian filmmaker Emmanuel “Mano” Alexandre Jr met Brown while researching a folk music documentary for Brooklyn BRIC Television on the Brooklyn Folk Festival hosted by Eli Smith.
Alexander told Newsday in a phone interview that despite arriving in the United States at 14 and having Brown born there, he found many parallels with his own experience: the Diaspora. And understanding the cultural heritage of its past. “
He added that they were both young black artists / educators trying to create change and share stories in this American paradigm and society.
“The immigrant story has always been important to me. That’s what attracted me so much to her.”
He remembered when he met her he immediately thought it was something different due to his passion and work teaching music to non-Trinidadians and non-Caribbean people in his country. and the black African diaspora.
“It resonated with me, and it’s the kind of work I do in terms of movies.”
He decided she was the perfect candidate for a documentary.
Alexander visited Brown’s house twice for the documentary and recalled how great it was to be inside another Caribbean person’s house and that she really opened her up to him. House.
“Seeing the same experience in a different person from a different island is really cool. The same parallels, the same kind of stories, but different islanders.”
Alexandre said he was happy to tell his story and recalled that it took him some time to go through the interviews and bring out the most important aspect of his job.
“He’s a very interesting, passionate person with a lot of ideas. It was very important that I do him justice.”
He described Parang and TT music as a “wonderful and magical” learning experience, and it reminded him of the stories about how Christmas is celebrated in Haiti.
Calling the short film “Parang”, Alexander said he chose the name because he felt people needed to know more about this style of music and expressed hope that it would encourage research.
Brown described the experience of being filmed for the documentary as “very interesting”.
“I’m not used to being followed by a man with a camera … in my house … in the street … in the metro. Everywhere! (Laughs). But Mano explained to me. the process Honestly he was very low key I must have forgotten he was there at various times.
She said she received a lot of positive comments from people about the documentary.
“It’s nice to get messages from people here in the US and at TT. As someone who connects the two cultures, I’m glad the film resonated with people in both places.”
When she learned that Parang had been nominated for a New York Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the Education / Schools Short Form Content category (less than ten minutes), she was very happy for Alexandre.
“I think he did a great job capturing the spirit of who I am and what I have tried to accomplish through my work at My People Tell Stories. And so, I am grateful that he has saw something in me and my work that he felt was worth documenting. Seeing him nominated for an Emmy Award is especially enjoyable. “
Alexander said the NY Emmy nomination took him by surprise.
One of my colleagues (who was looking at the nominations) texted. They said, ‘I just heard your name and your article. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ I went on the Internet to find out if this was true. “
He said a victory would mean an affirmation of the decisions he made in terms of history.
“(It is also) the affirmation of the one paragon too.” And Brown is also looking to the future. She said that due to the pandemic, she had not hosted the CMPW for the past two years.
“However, I hope it will be up and running again in 2022. And how can you not incorporate TT music into the work that I do? You want meh mudda to give me licks? (Laughs).”
You can watch Parang on Alexandre’s manosalon.live site. The 64th Annual New York Emmy Awards are scheduled to take place in September.