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The Calypso Program: Technology, Performance, Cinema

The Calypso Program: Technology, Performance, Cinema

Chapter:
(p.62) Two The Calypso Program: Technology, Performance, Cinema
Source:
Stolen Time
Author(s):
Shane Vogel
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226568584.003.0101

This chapter shows how the first calypso craze relied on an ethnographic apparatus that produced calypso through signs of authenticity, while the second calypso craze relied on a cinematic apparatus that produced calypso through signs of inauthenticity, continually making visible the technological program, its apparatus, and its malfunction in their narratives. Though these films document some of the most accomplished and remarkable black performers of the midcentury—including Herb Jeffries, Lord Flea, the Duke of Iron, and Maya Angelou—Vogel approaches them not as artifacts that would allow us access to these lost performances but instead show how these filmic performances reproduce and thematize the internal (il)logic of the calypso craze itself. That is, in foregrounding the fad’s technological production in their filmic performances—the recording booths, the projectors, the jukeboxes, and the screens that recorded and transmitted the fad—these films insist upon the fundamental tautology of the calypso craze itself.

Keywords:   calypso craze, ethnography, authenticity, inauthenticity, Herb Jeffries, Lord Flea, Duke of Iron, maya Angelou

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