Cuban Influences on New Orleans Music

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Cuban Influences on New Orleans Music
    ARHOOLIE PRODUCTIONS, INC. ã 10341 SAN PABLO AVENUE ã EL CERRITO, CALIFORNIA 94530 Tel: (510) 525-7471 ã FAX: (510) 525-1204 email :  ã website :   Additional notes to Cuban Danzon – Before There Was Jazz 1906 – 1929 Arhoolie CD 7032  Cuban Influences On New Orleans Music Essay by Jack Stewart Many similarities exist between New Orleans vernacular music of the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century and Cuban vernacular music from the same periods. Taken as a group the danza, the danzon, and the son in Cuba cover roughly the same time period as pre-ragtime, ragtime, and jazz cover in New Orleans.(i) Additionally the same type of debate rages on about the true ethnic srcins of Cuban music that constantly surfaces concerning the srcins of New Orleans music.(ii) Even though many may not see the similarities between Cuban and New Orleans music at first hearing, they are there. However, one of the biggest problems in seeing them is getting past the differences, which are also there, and perhaps in at least equal number.  New Orleans and Cuba both have multi-cultural histories that include some of the same racial and ethnic components-African, Italian, Native American, and Spanish- and they are both part of the cultural system that exists on the edges of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. However, the Gulf serves to both unify and separate the respective cultures in the same way that the Mediterranean Sea operates with its own particular peripheral cultural confederation. New Orleans, Cuba, Mexico (especially Veracruz and Tampico), Martinique, and others share many, but not all, of the same cultural elements. Also, New Orleans is part of the Mississippi River cultural system as well as that of the United States. Likewise, Cuba is part of the Central American cultural system as well as that of Latin America as a whole. Cuba and New Orleans are not a great distance apart geographically, with only 694 miles separating New Orleans and Havana.(iii) Until thirty-five years ago, they were also located along the same trade routes. Ships entering or leaving the Gulf of Mexico would    ARHOOLIE PRODUCTIONS, INC. ã 10341 SAN PABLO AVENUE ã EL CERRITO, CALIFORNIA 94530 Tel: (510) 525-7471 ã FAX: (510) 525-1204 email :  ã website :    2 most often stop at both Cuba and New Orleans. With at least some passenger accommodations available on almost every freighter in addition to the passenger ship service that existed.(iv) Furthermore, at the turn of the century both New Orleans and Havana had a reputation for being exotic places where good times could be had, and this shared feature was not lost on the residents of either city, with the resultant travel  between the two. There was early Cuban immigration to New Orleans; the first significant Cuban migration came to New Orleans in 1809. This group was actually refugees from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) that first sought asylum in Cuba in 1803 as a result of the power struggle in Saint-Domingue. That revolution took place from 1791 to 1804, and is historically referred to as the Haitian Slave Uprising. After six years residence in Cuba, these refugees were forced out when Marques de Somerueles, Captain-general of Cuba, ordered expulsion of all Frenchmen whose presence might  prove dangerous. The Saint-Domingue refugees that ended up in New Orleans were roughly nine thousand in number, and at the time of their arrival in New Orleans were statistically listed as  being approximately one-third whites, one-third free persons of color, and one-third slaves. (v) The whites were probably pre-dominantly French in srcin, since this was a French colony. The slaves were most likely all enslaved Africans, probably  predominantly from Dahomey, whose former inhabitants culturally dominated Saint-Domingue.(vi) However, some of them may have been enslaved Africans acquired in Cuba, in which case they may have been from the West African area of Carabalis, or Lucumi (Yorubans) from the area northeast of Benin near the Niger Delta.(vii) They also could have been Mandingas srcinating anywhere from Senegal, Liberia, Ashanty or Dahomey, or perhaps they were Gangas.(viii) One should note that the srcins of the African population in New Orleans during the French and Spanish regimes, respectively, were also from these same sources.(ix) The free persons of color were possibly a mixture in varying degrees of the two other groups, with perhaps a partial admixture of  Native American lineage.(x) Some may also have been free people of African srcin who went to the Caribbean via Europe. How much Cuban musical culture, especially contemporaneous innovations, any of these refugees brought with them after their nominal six-year stint in Cuba is not readily apparent. However, the shortage of musicians that existed in New Orleans in 1810, seems to have eased somewhat by 1811, so it is possible that some of the refugees were musicians.(xi) During the next two decades New Orleans' musical culture received infusions from several entrepreneurs with connections to Cuba. On April 3, 1816, Don Gayetano Mariotini (c.1780-1817), popularly known as Signore Gayetano, presented his legendary Circus in a structure which was a combination of a wooden stadium and a tent (which after some additional physical improvements the following year was called the Olympic Circus ) in Place Publique.(xii) In folklore his circus was later referred to as the Congo Circus, and was said to have come from Havana.(xiii) According to the writings of Lafcadio Hearn in the 1880's, the circus presented at this site was a popular fixture of    ARHOOLIE PRODUCTIONS, INC. ã 10341 SAN PABLO AVENUE ã EL CERRITO, CALIFORNIA 94530 Tel: (510) 525-7471 ã FAX: (510) 525-1204 email :  ã website :   3  New Orleans life that was still remembered over sixty years later.(xiv) From 1816 to 1885, the site's name evolved from Place Publique to Place du Cirque (or Circus Park or Circus Square) to Congo Plain(s) or Congo Square.(xv) While this circus specialized in equestrian acts, it also presented music, including a Spanish dancer and acts which included hornpipes, both of which may have had a Cuban-influenced sound.(xvi) As the Olympic Circus it also presented opera in 1817, after the Orleans Theater was destroyed  by fire the previous year.(xvii) Concurrent with Gayetano's circus, but at an immediately adjacent site, a Mr. Renault presented, for a short period of time, animal fights in a small arena.(xviii) As a result, it appears that both Renault's and Gayetano's enterprises became mixed together in the subsequent folklore as the legendary Signor Gayetano's Circus from Havana with its wild animals.(xix) However, Gaetano, a native of Italy, with the title of Don on his burial certificate,(xx) had very possibly come to New Orleans by way of Havana, as was the case with many acts and musical personages in New Orleans. John Davis, a ballroom operator, was one of the Saint Domingue refugees. He came to  New Orleans from Saint Domingue in 1809, apparently with the great migration via Cuba. When Louis Tabary's new and spacious Orleans Theatre burned in 1816, during its first summer season, Tabary returned his operation to the smaller St. Philip Street Theatre, a remodeled ballroom. However, before the end of the year the enterprising Davis bought the land and the ruins of the Orleans Theatre. In November, 1819 he re-opened the theatre that was by then part of a complex that included a ballroom and a hotel. Davis reigned supreme in opera presentation in New Orleans until the legendary theater operator John Caldwell arrived in New Orleans. Caldwell initially rented the St. Philip Theatre, then went to four nights a week at the Orleans, before building his own theatre on Camp St. Caldwell was soon building another theatre, the St. Charles, which was to be the largest theatre in the United States. A week after its opening on March 6, 1836, he enlarged his orchestra and engaged the G. B. Montressor Italian opera company fresh from successes in London, New York and Havana. Later in the season Caldwell also contracted the Havana troupe directed by Francis Brichta which was considered the  best opera company in the Western hemisphere.(xxi) The star of the company was Madame Pantanelli who came to the St. Charles Theater with the personal endorsement of Rossini. In Havana, she had enjoyed a great success at the Tacon Theater.(xxii) Another Italian opera singer who came to New Orleans via Havana and the Tacon Theater was the famous tenor Fornasari who arrived in New Orleans on May 28, 1836 to star as Figaro in The Barber of Seville.(xxiii) Along with the soloists and chorus, Bricta  brought three string instrumentalists to play first viola, cello, and bass in the orchestra as well as conductor Luigi Gabici (c.1813-1862).(xxiv) Exactly what any of these Italian, Italian-Cuban, or Cuban opera musicians brought to New Orleans in the way of Cuban vernacular music is unknown. However, Gabici achieved prominence in New Orleans as a composer, publisher and music teacher who had among his many students the famous Creole-of-color composer Edmond Dede (1827-1903)(xxv) and Thomas Tio (1828-1881), the first clarinet player and teacher in the Tio family lineage and the grandfather of Lorenzo Tio, Jr. (1893-1933).(xxvi) Additionally, Gabici and the others helped to further establish the operatic tradition in New Orleans, a tradition which had already been long established in Havana. This shared operatic tradition was one of the important early cultural similarities of the two cities' musical cultures.    ARHOOLIE PRODUCTIONS, INC. ã 10341 SAN PABLO AVENUE ã EL CERRITO, CALIFORNIA 94530 Tel: (510) 525-7471 ã FAX: (510) 525-1204 email :  ã website :   4  Numerous political connections between New Orleans and Cuba further facilitated the cultural and musical connections. In 1823 John Quincy Adams described a law of  political gravity whereby just as an apple must fall eventually to the ground, Cuba would one day fall to the United States. (xxvii) New Orleans endorsed this expression of manifest destiny and its history and location made it more aware of Cuba than were other American cities. Several bronze plaques in the 500 block of Poydras Street in New Orleans' Central Business District mark the site of a building (now demolished) where the Cuban liberation flag was flown in New Orleans in 1850. The plaques mark the spot where Narciso Lopez finally succeeded in raising an expedition to liberate Cuba. While Lopez had failed elsewhere in the United States, he succeeded in New Orleans. With the help of Mississippi governor General John Quitman, and others, Lopez put together a group of 750 men and invaded Cuba. Although the attempt failed they made their way safely back to Key West. Back in New Orleans a year later (1851), Lopez put together another expedition with Colonel W. L. Crittenden as second in command. This group was caught in Cuba; fifty-one were executed, including Crittenden. As a result, rioters in New Orleans attacked the Spanish consulate and other Spanish property. In 1854 New Orleanians rigorously supported the Ostend Manifesto which justified wresting Cuba from Spain if they would not sell it. However, when Cuban insurrection finally broke out fourteen years later (1868), post- Civil War New Orleans, with too many problems of its own, did not have the resources to support the effort, but it did support the effort with music; in 1869, A. E. Blackmar published Viva Cuba: Passo Doble by Auguste Davis, a Hispanic influenced piece in six-eight time. Five years later in 1873, when the former Confederate blockade runner Virginius, now in the hands of pro-Cuban supporters, was captured by the Spanish, all political factions in the tumultuous New Orleans reconstruction politics, amazingly, united in outrage for Captain Fry, General Ryan and others on board who were executed by the Spanish. In New Orleans, money was raised and troops were offered to President Grant for an invasion to seize Cuba. Although the issue was eventually settled through diplomacy, pro-Cuban sentiment in New Orleans was raised to an all time high level.(xxviii) Several other performers who appeared at the St. Charles Theater came to New Orleans directly from Havana. One that may have actually transmitted culture between the two cities was Fanny Elssler, the world-famous Austrian-born ballet dancer, whose appearance in New Orleans began March 6, 1840. In Havana she danced the Zapateado, one of the native Cuban dances,(xxix) and she may have possibly used Cuban dances in some of her New Orleans performances. Another of the world-famous entertainers that  performed in New Orleans and arrived in the city via Cuba was Jenny Lind. In 1850, P. T. Barnum presented the Swedish Nightingale's tour of the Unites States. After appearing in a number of American cities, Lind performed in Havana for a month, then sailed to New Orleans where she also performed for a month, giving thirteen concerts at the St. Charles Theater.(xxx) Between 1854, and 1862, New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) visited Cuba quite often. While there, he took a particular interest in Cuban music, and  befriended many prominent Cuban musicians including composers Manuel Saumell Robreno (1817-1870), Nicolas Ruiz Espadero (1832-1890), and Ignacio Maria Cervantes (1847-1905).(xxxi) Gottschalk's own composition Ojos Criollos (Les yeux creoles)
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