Department of Music Online Lecture: Jocelyne Guilbault

‘Trinis (Trinidadians) know how to Party’: Black Joy and its relation to the Political

Jocelyne Guilbault, Professor of ethnomusicology, University of California, Berkeley
Examining Trinidad’s carnival culture of partying, I address the values, desires and feelings that animate such an embodied practice, the music that attracts and mobilizes its participants, and the conditions in which it is performed. In doing so, my aim is to explore the interrelations between aesthetics, ethics, and politics in this highly valued sensibility and ability. What is the relation of “party people” to the local communities at large? Are Trinidadians’ know-how and love to party moving away from or expanding normative ways of thinking about “the political”? Or is this know-how and love to party central to “the process of ambiguation” that Adom Philogene Heron refers to as “integral to Caribbean expression” and vitality? I conclude by reflecting on what partying as “event” sets into motion. 


Jocelyne Guilbault is Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Music Department of the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1980, she has done extensive fieldwork in the French Creole- and English-speaking islands of the Caribbean on both traditional and popular music. Informed by a postcolonial perspective, she published several articles on issues of representation, aesthetics, West Indian music industries, multiculturalism, world music, and the politics of musical bonding. She is the author of Zouk: World Music in the West Indies (U of Chicago Press, 1993), a study that maps the complex musical network among the French-Creole speaking islands, and the vexed relations that are articulated through music between the West Indian French Departments and the Metropole, France. Her book, Governing Sound: the Cultural Politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Musics (U of Chicago Press, 2007), explores the ways the calypso music scene became audibly entangled with projects of governing, audience demands, and market incentives. In Roy Cape: A Lifetime on the Calypso and Soca Bandstand (Duke U Press, 2014), an experiment in dialogic co-authorship with a reputed Trinidadian calypso and soca band leader, she engages the audible entanglements of circulation, reputation and sound.  Co-editor of Border Crossings: New Directions in Music Studies (Repercussion, 1999-2000), she recently co-edited a volume entitled Sounds of Vacation: Political Economies of Caribbean Tourism (Duke U Press, 2019). Dr. Guilbault has been on several editorial boards and served as a board member of the Canadian Music Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Caribbean Studies Association, and the Board of Governors of the University of California Humanities.