“Mek Some Noise”

“Mek Some Noise”: Gospel Music and the Ethics of Style in Trinidad

TIMOTHY ROMMEN
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 230
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp8xr
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  • Book Info
    “Mek Some Noise”
    Book Description:

    "Mek Some Noise", Timothy Rommen's ethnographic study of Trinidadian gospel music, engages the multiple musical styles circulating in the nation's Full Gospel community and illustrates the carefully negotiated and contested spaces that they occupy in relationship to questions of identity. By exploring gospelypso, jamoo ("Jehovah's music"), gospel dancehall, and North American gospel music, along with the discourses that surround performances in these styles, he illustrates the extent to which value, meaning, and appropriateness are continually circumscribed and reinterpreted in the process of coming to terms with what it looks and sounds like to be a Full Gospel believer in Trinidad. The local, regional, and transnational implications of these musical styles, moreover, are read in relationship to their impact on belief (and vice versa), revealing the particularly nuanced poetics of conviction that drive both apologists and detractors of these styles. Rommen sets his investigation against a concisely drawn, richly historical narrative and introduces a theoretical approach which he calls the "ethics of style"-a model that privileges the convictions embedded in this context and that emphasizes their role in shaping the terms upon which identity is continually being constructed in Trinidad. The result is an extended meditation on the convictions that lie behind the creation and reception of style in Full Gospel Trinidad.Copub: Center for Black Music Research

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94054-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is about conviction. It is about believing and translating that belief into action. It is about the way that music participates in actualizing belief—but also about the ways that music convinces. This book is about people talking about people making music—that is, reception. But it is also about people making music in order to say something—that is, performance. In short, this book is about the ethics of style. This book is about Full Gospel Christians who want to live as and sound like Christians in Trinidad. As such, it concerns the place of Full Gospel...

  6. 1 Music, Memory, and Identity in Full Gospel Trinidad
    (pp. 9-26)

    Reading history against itself and delving into the ethnographic past, this chapter engages in a preparatory ritual not unlike that of the invocation I just described in a Full Gospel worship service.¹ The stitching that I explore here, however, is not between secular and sacred time, but rather between the past and the present. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who points out that subjects “do not succeed a past; they are its contemporaries,” articulates the necessity of teasing out the various ways that the past is embodied in and through the present.² In an important sense, this chapter parallels the function of an...

  7. 2 The Ethics of Style
    (pp. 27-46)

    Throughout the course of this chapter, I outline the theoretical basis for and the practical applicability of an analytical paradigm that I call the ethics of style. This idea stems from my deep conviction that understanding and foregrounding the ethical dimensions of musical performance and reception will lay the groundwork for a reconsideration of the extent to which style participates in discourses of identity in Full Gospel Trinidad. This is because the ethics of style focuses analytical attention on the process by which style becomes the vehicle for a multifaceted, communal discourse about value and meaning. Tracing the shape of...

  8. 3 Nationalism and the Soul: Gospelypso as Independence
    (pp. 47-71)

    These lyrics are illustrative of the tensions that exist between gospelypsonians and the Full Gospel community. Gospelypso is suspect. It is too closely related (if only etymologically) to the perceived evils of carnival and bacchanal. But Sean Daniel’s song does not address itself to a new turn of events. Rather it restates—crystallizes even—a dilemma that has faced gospelypsonians from their very first explorations with the style some thirty years ago. Put somewhat crudely, the Full Gospel community has, by and large, refused to identify with gospelypso—to accept it as a valid, representative expression of Full Gospel identity....

  9. 4 Transnational Dreams, Global Desires: North America as Sound
    (pp. 72-94)

    Vernon Duncan’s statement succinctly encapsulates the concept that legitimizes an ideological and, by extension, ethically informed approach to the use of North American gospel music in Trinidad—family. This concept was expanded upon in a conversation I had while participating in a rehearsal of Michael Dingwell’s band:

    When we sing songs like “I Love You Lord,” we are bearing witness to a spiritual reality. . . . We are, after all, all brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter where we happen to live. . . . No, no, it isn’t that we don’t feel comfortable singing Trinidadian music. ....

  10. 5 Regionalisms: Performances beyond a Boundary
    (pp. 95-122)

    I have, to this point, focused attention on two styles that have enjoyed a relatively long history in Trinidad, at least by comparison to the music that occupies me in the chapter at hand—gospel dancehall. While gospelypso and North American gospel music have been a part of Full Gospel Trinidad since the 1970s, dancehall has found its way into the community more recently. Part of this trend among younger gospel artists has been driven by the growing popularity in Trinidad of Jamaican musics, especially during the 1980s and ’90s. Trinidadian gospel musicians have, for example, noticed that artists such...

  11. 6 Jehovah’s Music: Jammin’ at the Margins of Trinidadian Gospel Music
    (pp. 123-150)

    In the preceding chapters, I have suggested that the artists and genres under discussion find themselves marginalized within the nation (by belonging to the Full Gospel community) and, to varying degrees, under the umbrella of the Trinidadian Full Gospel community. Those artists who perform primarily North American gospel music are, thus, generally welcomed in their church communities. Gospelypso artists, on the other hand, find themselves in a different space. Their placement might usefully be thought of as doubly marginalized, for they are marginalized within the nation (by their membership in the Full Gospel community) and, subsequently, within the church (by...

  12. 7 Reenvisioning Ethics, Revisiting Style
    (pp. 151-171)

    The previous chapters have explored the several different styles of popular sacred music that are circulating within and around Trinidad’s Full Gospel community—musics that extend from the local to the global and back again. The ethics of style has served as the unifying analytical thread throughout this book—as a means of thinking through the discourses that these musics engender and the subject positions that they imply. It remains for me, however, to reconnect the ethics of style to individual congregations to illustrate the important role that these local instantiations of the Full Gospel community fulfill in the Trinidadian...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 172-174)

    The bumper sticker I photographed that afternoon—a piece printed by the Missouri-based company Testimony Time— foregrounds the shared ground to which all of the artists, fans, and church leaders I have discussed during the course of this book have committed themselves.¹ For starters, it makes explicit the theological imperative that drives the evangelistic zeal so often in evidence throughout Full Gospel Trinidad. This is a battle for souls, and everyone is called to participate. The bumper sticker, furthermore, illustrates the important connections between Trinidadian and North American Christians—connections that are reinforced through a careful attention to North American...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 175-200)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 201-212)
  16. Index
    (pp. 213-217)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 218-218)