I think of this as a book about music, but it is as much a book about
the journeys I took to find the music. I realized more than half a
century ago that I couldn’t write about music in northeast Brazil or
on an island in the Bahamas, or in Trinidad, Jamaica, New Orleans,
Harlem, or the Georgia Sea Islands unless I’d made the journey
there. I couldn’t write about a place if I didn’t know what the sun
felt like on the streets, how the food tasted, what the earth smelled
like, how couples moved when they danced. I took along the usual
traveler’s guides, dictionaries, and phrase books, and since each
journey was in search of music, I also had any notes I’d found to
recordings, along with any books or articles or pamphlets that had
something to do with the music I hoped to find. I’ve cited in the
bibliography the materials I took with me or consulted, including
books that I found in later years that helped me understand what
I had heard.
A helpful companion for many of the things I was looking for
was John Storm Roberts’s Black Music of Two Worlds, and I would
have missed many things in the Carnival season in Trinidad without
Dr. Hollis Liverpool’s rich history of calypso, Rituals of Power and
Rebellion. I often encountered newer writing that appeared after I
had returned from my journeys, and there was useful information I
wish I’d had at the time. An example of this is Michael Tisserand’s
fine The Kingdom of Zydeco. My journeys in western Louisiana went
on for more than ten years beginning in the 1970s, but Tisserand’s
book wasn’t published until 1998.
I also later drew on the notes I’d made on many of the trips when
I was either recording the artists I was meeting or talking with
record company owners and studio engineers who were involved
with the music I was interested in. Anyone who has read my earlier
books or notes to the recordings will recognize the source of some
of the incidents I included here. Of all the writing I found, two very
different sources were most helpful. One was the letters written in
1838 from a Georgia Sea Islands plantation by the English actress

A Note
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