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The Sugar Road/el Camino de Azúcar

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The Sugar Road/ el Camino de Azúcar is a creative research project initiated by Assistant Professor Leonardo Blanco of Berklee College of Music inteded to provoke thought around the following question:


To what extent did the role of sugar (cane) production influence the development of (African) diasporan music (in South

America, Europe, the Caribbean, etc) in the colonial era?


"[T]here was ... the transculturation of a steady human stream of African Negroes coming from all the coastal regions of African along th Atlantic from Senegal, Guinea, the Congo, and Angola and as far away as Mozambique on the opposite shore of that continent. All of them snatched from their original social groups, their own cultures destroyed and crushed under the weight of the cultured in existence here, like sugar cane ground in the rollers of the mill" (Ortiz, 1947).



These slaves did not simply work, fight, flee, or die.They left behind a musical and choreographic footprint that informed the making and unmaking of cultural formations. Music was woven into ceremonies for work, war, birth, death, marriage and other rites of passages. Every land where the Africans worked, where the cane grew, has its own form of beat, its own rhythms, its own songs and dances that can be traced back to sugar – and even to sources in Africa. And that was only the first step in the sugar-music-story. As workers traveled throughout the sugar lands – from Haiti to the Dominican Republic to Cuba; from the British Islands to the Dominican Republic and Haiti – they brought music with them, creating ever new songs and dances blending traditions from each land.


Here we present an introductory guided tour to the music, dance and architecture of sugar, organized by location– streaming audio where possible, links which allow you to hear or see more if you choose. NOTE: Some links will require your Berklee Onepass credential for access.