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#836: Ginen questions: Averill comments

From: Gage Averill <gage.averill@nyu.edu>

Hi Shelley:

Having written those early Boukman Eksperyans translations and liner notes
you mentioned, I wanted to take a stab at your question.  I have argued
that the Africentric movements in Haiti go well back in Haitian history and
have had a number of separate incarnations with different ideological and
spiritual bases, the most recent of which can be called the Ginen movement.
In its earliest phase, this recent incarnation of Africentric movements in
Haiti was called the "sanba" movement and was spearheaded by urban
musicians fascinated with Vodou and dedicated to the practice of Vodou as a
spiritual tradition.  This was somewhat different from a parallel movement
embodied in the organization Zantray that attempted to popularize a
positive role and image for Vodwizan-yo in post-dechoukay Haiti (there was
an anti-Vodou pogrom going on during dechoukay).

What is important to recognize, is that the "sanba" activists (which later
formed musical groups like Groupe Sa, Boukman, Sanba-yo, Foula, etc.) were
involved in "privileging" certain aspects and practices of Vodou (as it
existed at the time in Haiti) and rejecting others.  The stress on older
and "purer" African traditions represented by the term "Ginen" was part of
this.  The musical movement eventually came to be called mizik rasin (or
the rasin movement), but more recently, the term Ginen has come to
substitute for this, in part because it has to grow beyond a "musical"
focus.  I think it can credibly be called a movement, and it is primarily a
spiritual and not political movement (but politics, I believe, is never
terribly far away in these issues).  The movement, I believe, stresses some
universal themes in Vodou (for example, I doubt that "love", conceived of
as a universal ideal, would have been  a term that would surface in
traditional Vodou ceremonies and beliefs) and it denigrates the more
sensational practices of Port-au-Prince-area bokÚ-s.  It also stresses the
congregational (collectivist) side of Vodou.  I sometimes wonder whether
there is not also a backing away from the most militant/militaristic
aspects of Petwo, but I am not sure of this.  Perhaps some of the religion
specialists on the list, such as Leslie Desmangles or Liza McAlister might
comment further on this. . .


Gage Averill
Department of Music, New York University
24 Waverly Place, Rm 268,
New York, NY 10003-6789
(212) 998-8302 (bus)
(212) 995-4147 (fax)

Home: 82 Puritan Drive
Port Chester, NY 10573
(914) 939-4193
e-mail: gage.averill@nyu.edu

Home page for _A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey:
Popular Music & Power in Haiti_ is:

NYU Music Department: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/music/