University of Pittsburgh
September 26, 2000


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, September 27 -- Brenda F. Berrian, a professor in Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, recently published a book that explores the burgeoning popular music scene in the French Caribbean.

In Awakening Spaces: French Caribbean Popular Songs, Music and Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2000), Berrian focuses on the contemporary singers and musicians from the French-speaking islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. She introduces internationally known bands and singers, such as Henri Guédon, Kali, Kassav', and Malavoi, and some whose popularity is centered more on their respective islands, including Fal Frett, Palaviré, and Taxikréol.

Awakening Spaces covers the time period 1970 to 1996 and, according to Berrian, "It discusses seven metaphorical spaces wherein the lyrics and music evoke narratives of exile, hope, evolving gender roles, politics, Creole identity, recontextualization, and drum ambivalency."

Based on personal interviews and discussions of song texts, Berrian shows how musicians express their feelings about current and past events, themselves, their islands, and the French. Berrian explores the metaphorical spaces to reveal how the artists not only engage their listeners and effect social change, but also empower and identify themselves. She also explores the music as it relates to the art of drumming, and to genres such as African American and Latin jazz and reggae.

With Awakening Spaces , which retails for $40 in hardback and $16 in paperback, the University of Chicago Press adds to its Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology series, which also features works by Gage Averill, a professor in the music department of New York University, and Joycelyne Guilbault, a professor in the music department at the University of California at Berkeley.

Berrian served as chair of Pitt's Department of Africana Studies from 1991 to 1996. She received a B.S. and M.A. in French from Hampton Institute in Hampton, VA, and the doctorat de 3e cycle in North American Studies from the Université de Paris III-Nouvelle Sorbonne in Paris, France.

Berrian's research interest is in contemporary African American, African, and Caribbean women writers, and she has been a visiting professor in both Europe and Africa. She is the author of Africa, Harlem, Haiti: the Great Black Cultural Revolution, and has compiled and edited two major bibliographies: Bibliography of Women Writers from the Caribbean, 1831-1986, and Bibliography of African Women Writers and Journalists, as well as a special issue on Caribbean writers for the Shooting Star Review.

Berrian also has published articles about and compiled bibliographies on African American, African, and Caribbean writers for various national and international journals, and is a book review editor for MaComère, journal for the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars. Her current book project, That's the Way It Is: African American Women in the New South Africa, is a collection of 36 oral narratives about African American women's cross cultural experiences.

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