Friday, June 06, 2008
Into The Mind Of Ned Sublette

Credits:: Ned Sublette, Jennifer Kotter and Bomb Magazine

Bomb Magazine's website features an interview with Ned Sublette by the great Jamaican-American journalist Garnette Cadogan. It's an amazing read, offering Ned's bracing worldview via the history of New Orleans.

It's a taster of the complete argument he lays out in The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, a red pill of a book that reframes the entirety of American history and music. Fuck what you know about John Adams or Bob Dylan. (Understand: no disrespect intended at all, but I believe with a convert's zeal that Ned's works ought to be as widely known and debated as Greil Marcus's.) In fact, forget even the notion that America is defined by what Chuck D has called the "48 state box". Ned's outside-the-box thinking begins with an expansive definition of "America" that points directly to a post-George W. Bush world.

Ned has been one of the most influential intellectuals on me over the past few years, transforming the way I understand hip-hop's music, its history, and its future. If I had written CSWS after digesting Ned's works, it likely would have been a much different book.

So devour this interview with Garnette, and then run to get his two masterpieces, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo, and The World That Made New Orleans:


Garnette ...New Orleans is both a place and idea. Moreover, as place and idea, people like to think of it as difference. You, however, insist that it’s both a peculiar and representative American spot.

Ned Not merely a peculiar spot, but the logical outcome of competing international forces.

GC Your argument, then, is that New Orleans is at the crux of America’s…

NS At the absolute crossroads of American history! Over and over again. Including now.

GC New Orleans—distinctly American and singularly un-American!

NS I use the word “American” in its larger sense, always, so I think it’s extremely American. It’s the most American city in a lot of ways.

GC Other cities can justifiably make that claim. Your fellow New Yorkers, among others, will surely take you to task. How is New Orleans the most American?

NS The most fully realized, in that it participated in all of the waves of culture that rolled across the hemisphere, practically. The French, the Spanish, the Anglo-American, each of which was associated with a different black wave: the Bambara, the Bakongo, the Baptists. From 1769 to 1803—that was a transcendental moment in history, the last third of the 18th century—Spain held Louisiana during the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions, three events of maximum impact on world history, and each of which affected Louisiana vitally. During the Spanish period, New Orleans became a city. It became a port of importance. I think that there are a variety of reasons, which I discuss in the book, why the Spanish years in New Orleans have been so consistently underplayed in importance, but I see them as absolutely crucial to understanding the town.

GC And New Orleans itself is crucial to understanding America. After all, its history is replete with the perennial American themes and struggles: self-making, liberty, equality, immigration, pluralism, religion, the tension between Europe and America, the influence of the South, and so on. And, of course: frontier.

NS New Orleans was the Wild West! In many ways, it never stopped being the Wild West. A place where you might see a gunfight on a main street. You still might see that. It had that image from very early on. When Thomas Jefferson annexed it, it went from being El Norte, the northernmost edge of the Saints and Festivals Belt, to being the West. We often think of it as the South, but you have to think of the Civil War in terms of both the South and the West, because a primary determinant in forcing the issue of civil was whether or not slave traders could expand their markets into the new western territories, the ones beyond New Orleans. DeBow’s Review, the Fortune magazine of the slaveowning South, published in New Orleans, was DeBow’s Review of the South and the West. New Orleans was the South and West.

Garnette: Picking up on your idea of perception…there are few ideas as central to the American character as renewal and transformation—as Ted Widmer brilliantly shows in Ark of the Liberties: America and the World, “[W]hat idea has been more powerful in [America’s] history than the hope that something wonderful…waits over the next horizon?”—and what is New Orleans if not a place of renewal and transformation? (Though I can already hear a host of people objecting that this Babylon of a place is anything but!) In your book you emphasize how music is crucial to the city’s formation and renewal; for you, music is a skeleton key that unlocks New Orleans’s history and reveals its character.

Ned: Absolutely. I look at music as a key to understanding history. In my books I use music as a tool for reading history, and vice versa...

Read the whole interview here.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:03 AM   0 comments links to this post

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

 

Previous posts
R16 2008 Hi-Res Video Of Finals & Semis
Obama, The New Majority, And The Race (Card) Ahead...
R16 2008 Wrap
Jena 6 :: Judge Recusal Delayed
In Korea :: B-Boys & Beef
Still Awaiting Justice In Jena
R16 Week!
Adam Mansbach At Intersection For The Arts Tuesday...
McCain's Moral Compass :: America Is A Bastion Aga...
The Candidates Have An Asian American Problem


select * from pages where handle = "BlogLinks" #content#

Archives
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
 

Email list

Add me to the Can't Stop Won't Stop email list, an irregular update of what's new in our world:

Submit