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August 2012

Paul Austerlitz visits our DSI Library and donates his 2008 CD Journey

Prof. Sarah Aponte would like to thank Professor Paul Austerlitz for donating his 2008 compact disk to the Dominican Library at CUNY/DSI during his recent visit. Prof. Austerlitz, author of Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Identity (Temple University Press 1997) has conducted extensive research on Dominican music while incorporating it into his own jazz compositions.

Journey. Produced by Paul Austerlitz. St Paul, Minnesota, 2008. Spanish and English, 72 min.


This 14-track compact disk explores Afro-Dominican musical traditions through the versatile lens of jazz and improvisation. Professor Austerlitz, a jazz musician, author and ethnomusicologist, enlists a group of accomplished Dominican, African and American musicians and poets to create and re-arrange new, old and forgotten Dominican Palo and merengue music as well as traditional Yoruba compositions from Cuba and jazz standards from the United States (“Ornithology”).

The CD is divided into five thematic “chapters” that tell the story of a journey: The first chapter or introduction explores religious invocation rooted in the African tradition (“Bara Súwà Yo”). The second chapter entitled “Palo and Beyond” features four tracks that range from traditional Dominican Palo (“Underground Palo”) to beautiful and tender jazz melodies (“One Peace”); experimental drone musical jams (“Journey”) and a blend of Afro-Dominican music with jazz (“Thunder Flow”). Chapter three “Merengue and Bebop” presents three arrangements by Austerlitz (“Ornithology” , “Sisterhood is powerful”  and “Santiago”) that demonstrate his ability to communicate in the universal idiom of sound by blending together unexpected colors and variations from different parts of the world. One of the highlights of this chapter is the light classical piano piece “Santiago”, a 1927 merengue written by Julio Alberto Hernandez . Austerlitz also incorporates text and the oral tradition into his forward-looking musical world. Further, central to his work is collaboration among musicians which allows him to develop what he calls “conversation”. Musical conversation is present in chapter four under the theme of “Poetry and Song” which is comprised of five distinctive tracks. One of the highlights is “East Broadway Merengue” featuring renowned poet Michael S. Harper reading “The Latin American Poem”. The journey ends with chapter five entitled “Out-Vocation” a shorter—and much calmer— version of the CD’s opening track.

Journey is an innovative musical work that serves as a companion to Austerlitz’s research on the intersection of Afro-Caribbean music and jazz.  Featuring Barry Olsen, Angelina Tallaj, Bernie Minoso, Dave Zinno, Juan Valdez, Phoenix Rivera, Royal Hartigan, Wellington Valenzuela, Kwaku Kwaakye, José Duluc, Julio Figueroa, Michael S. Harper, Regie Gibson and Renee Cologne.

This recording is of interest to those conducting research on music theory, jazz composition, free jazz and improvisation, non-Western musical notation, African oral tradition, avant-garde music, Jazz music in Dominican Republic, Afro-Dominican and Cuban music, Yoruba music, African traditional music, drone music, trance music and musical collaboration projects between Caribbean, African and North American artists.

Amaury Rodríguez, Library Research Assistant


Libro de cuentos de Giovanny Cruz Durán

La Prof. Sarah Aponte agradece al  escritor R.A. Ramírez-Báez por servir de puente entre Ruth Herrera, Directora del Grupo Santillana en la República Dominicana, quien nos donó el libro Los cuentos del otro de la autoría de Giovanny Cruz Durán. Con esta gentil donación, se enriquece nuestra colección de obras literarias.


Durán, Giovanny Cruz. Los cuentos del otro. Santo Domingo, República Dominicana: Grupo Santillana, 2011.

En este libro de cuentos el actor y dramaturgo dominicano Giovanny Cruz Durán (Moca, 1953)  se adentra en su alter ego u otro yo para contar relatos ficticios que parten desde lugares recónditos de la memoria, y por medio de una luz golpeando un espejo, se reflejan las muchas partes disímiles del complejo edificio humano. Sensualidad, magia y pasión son algunos de los elementos presentes en este primer libro que publica en Alfaguara, sello editorial del Grupo Antillana. ISBN: 978-9945-429-38-1.

Amaury Rodríguez, Asistente de Investigación de la Biblioteca




Gagá Batey San Luis donated to the DSI audiovisual collection

Chief Librarian Sarah Aponte would like to thank Eduardo Díaz, Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, for donating Gagá Batey San Luis, a 2010 digital film produced by Boynayel Mota, with an accompanying CD which documents Gagá music and afro-Caribbean religious festivities from the Dominican Republic. This multimedia project (film, music, photography, installation and mural) was presented at the Centro Cultural de España in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic from October 5 to November 12, 2010.  Researcher/ anthropologist Soraya Aracena wrote the introduction to the photography exhibit catalogue (ISBN: 978-9945-8682-2-7).


Gagá Batey San Luis. Directed andProduced by Boynayel Mota. Santo Domingo, República Dominicana. 2010. Spanish/ Haitian Creole with English subtitles. Color, 60 minutes. DVD. [The video includes a 20-track compact disk of field recording music and a photographic exhibit catalogue].

Filmed in a batey (sugar workers’ town) during a 10-year period, this groundbreaking documentary by photographer and filmmaker Boynayel Mota looks at Gagá music in the Haitian-Dominican community of San Luis, a municipality of the Santo Domingo province in the Dominican Republic. Although it is primarily rooted in Africa, Gagá music is based on a syncretized belief system that, from time to time, experiences a myriad series of transformations by absorbing elements from both the local and international cultural scene ranging from Catholic saints to jazz and Mediterranean instruments. Over the years, Gagá music has merged with other forms of popular art and music. This joyful sound owes much of its vitality to the presence of second and third generation Dominicans of Haitian descent whose forbearers were sugar cane laborers who began to arrive to the Dominican Republic in the 1920s. A number of economic push factors established an ongoing migration pattern from Haiti to the Dominican Republic notwithstanding the decline of the sugar industry in recent years.


The filmmaker’s keen eye for detail captures some of the most vivid aspects of Gagá musical performances, bands and traditions. Through well-edited interviews with veteran and young musicians, community members and practitioners of Vodun or Vudun, the documentary disserts the ritualistic practices within Gagá festivities held annually during Holy Week and which include, among other things, food offerings, trance ceremonies; consumption of food, rum and medicinal herbs; songs sung in Haitian Creole; religious symbols and drawings rooted in African imagery; African instruments, music and dance; street parades, costumes, Loa or Lwa spirit invocations as well as rites of passage, African death rituals and fertility rituals.


At 60 minutes long, Gagá Batey San Luisprovides much insight into Gagá music and religious celebrations in a Haitian-Dominican town. Further, this audiovisual and musical project takes the viewer into a world of otherworldly aural perceptions that brings solace to a community that has been traditionally marginalized. Both the video and field music recording are of interest to those conducting research on the following : the African legacy in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Caribbean; migration, ethnicity, popular music, African instruments, popular arts and crafts, carnival music, transculturation, Caribbean bilingual communities, cultural hybridity, folk medicine, ceremonial trance music and dance, Catholic festivities and Haitian-Dominican community relations.

Amaury Rodriguez, Library Research Assistant