Author Highlights Caribbean History Through Music

Renowned Caribbean music historian and radio legend Von Martin has released a new book, “Voices of Pan Pioneers of Trinidad & Tobago: A Global Legacy,” which documents the journey of the Caribbean “Steel Pan” sound.

Along with a special reading held at the Sankofa book store on Nov. 19, Martin hosted a public forum to continue the conversation and research on the accelerated global expansion of the steel pan migration from the Caribbean to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, from World War II to the present day.

Martin, a native Trinidadian, defines Caribbean music of past and present generations as a cultural expression of life. For his book, he drew upon his decades worth of knowledge and research, with firsthand accounts from neighborhood voices and legendary artists.

“I found this lecture to be very enlightening,” said Stephanie Mills, a Northeast resident who attended the event. “I have always been heavily involved in African and African-American history and research, and even though I knew about items such as the slave trade and the capturer Christopher Columbus, that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge on Black Caribbeans.

“Living in America, you never really hear that much about the subject, but this book is a great wealth of history and provides so much insight on different aspects of Caribbean time,” she said. “However, I think what makes this book the most interesting is its use of music to tell these great Caribbean stories.”

Martin’s moderately sized book largely focuses on Port of Spain in the 1940s and ’50s and highlights the cultural enrichment, creative geniuses and varied accomplishments of the Caribbean people.

“What a wondrous book,” said Windy Freedman, a Sankofa regular. “I wasn’t even going to come today, but decided to stop by and pick up a book on my day off. However, after I started to hear the kind of content that was being addresses, I became very intrigued and this turned out to be a very good forum. I’m going to buy this book and add it to my collection. If I hadn’t stopped in today, I would not have ever known that this sort of content existed.”

In addition to his book, Martin also hosts “Caribbeana,” a weekly radio show on WPFW that highlights his broad knowledge of African Diasporic musical genres.

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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