Timothy Brennan


On his book Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz

Cover Interview of December 04, 2008


I’d like the book to be seen as a love song of sorts to the immense achievements of Afro-Latin music.  Its pervasive, and still invisible, presence in so much of everyday life in America is still not fully appreciated, I think, even though this state of affairs has finally begun to change.  We are talking here about an extremely supple music, classical, serious, ecstatic, playful, operating in myriad genres performed everywhere from the street corners to the concert halls.  Its enormous influence at all levels is still, even now, written out of most musical history books.  But I see the book also as trying to establish that even enjoyment and leisure can be forms of protest when they bring us face-to-face with the clashing outlooks of former colonial encounters that are continually replayed in code, and at the level of musical form.  People never entirely forget the traumas of the past.  They are looking for salvation from the dreary pursuit of spoils.  The African presence in the new world has found a way to live, and is profoundly ethical in its resistance to the big commercial now.  In a world of religious extremes, it gives us a different kind of ritual – the rituals of secular pleasure.

© 2008 Timothy Brennan