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Carnivalizing Jazz: Duke Ellington’s Calypso Theater and the Diasporic Instant

Carnivalizing Jazz: Duke Ellington’s Calypso Theater and the Diasporic Instant

Chapter:
(p.102) Three Carnivalizing Jazz: Duke Ellington’s Calypso Theater and the Diasporic Instant
Source:
Stolen Time
Author(s):
Shane Vogel
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226568584.003.0003

The mid-century rise of television provided new ways to conceptualize and incorporate a mass public sphere. Corporations sought to instrumentalize new televisual technologies through performance in order to create a new liberal order in the 1950s. At the same time, the calypso craze provided a way to both provoke and alleviate white anxieties over the mass protests of the civil rights movement. Television broadcasts—such as Belafonte’s appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and his folk special Tonight with Belafonte—played an important role in promoting the calypso craze. This chapter develops a theoretical framework of biopolitical performance with which to approach one particular television broadcast of the calypso craze: the 1957 televised broadcast of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s A Drum Is a Woman. Presented on the drama anthology program The US Steel Hour, this theatre-music-dance suite fused elements of Afro-Caribbean rhythm with swing and bebop to tell a history of jazz and promoted two competing and incompatible narratives: one that traced a direct line from the innovations of mid-century corporate prosperity to middle-class domestic security, and another that followed a black expressive line of flight as it moved across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and beyond.

Keywords:   television, white anxiety, Harry Belafonte, The Ed Sullivan Show, Tonight with Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, A Drum is a Woman, jazz, bebop

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