Saturday Link Dump: We Want the Funk!
Posted by Michael Eldridge on November 14, 2009
Well, okay, maybe not a “dump,” exactly. It all starts with just one link.
In the process of collecting links for this site’s blogroll, I happened upon a fine article about Beryl McBurnie, one of several prominent dancers (cf. Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Josephine Premice, Geoffrey Holder, Calypso Joe & Coco Te) who came to represent “calypso” and Caribbean culture to American audiences in the 1940s and 50s. (McBurnie died in 2000 at age 84.)
The article was written by the amazing Ray Funk, who back in the day used to send out—by e-mail, to a long list of friends, associates and admirers—the Kaiso Newsletter, an occasional missive containing the latest results of Funk’s dogged detective-work into the history of calypso and carnival traditions. These posts were gems of research and reportage, yet while Funk’s river of research still flows unabated, the newsletters trickled to a halt around five years ago, and they’re sorely missed. Thankfully, the British magazine Musical Traditions has, with Funk’s blessing, gathered the complete run into an online archive. (MT‘s web server misbehaves from time to time, but if you get an “Error 404,” don’t despair; just check back in a day or so.)
Trial judge by day; author, correspondent, researcher, consultant, curator, radio programmer, television host (“Dingolay with Ratiray“), Midnight Robber, culture bearer, and self-described “Carnival Fanatic” by…um, night (well, figuratively speaking—though let’s not forget that in his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, it’s night about half of the year), Funk manages to pack more into one lifetime than most of us could in two or three. Good on him. But apart from an obligatory Facebook page, he still doesn’t have a central web presence, no repository for his important work and work-in-progress—or for selections from the peerless collection of clippings, recordings, photos, interviews, and ephemera that he’s amassed through his own fanatical efforts and through the generosity of his many connections worldwide. (C’mon, Ray: your public is clamoring! Put Emma to work!)
Richard Bolai has a quick rundown of Funk’s impressive curriculum vitae at his blog Wonder of the World. He also has a few snapshots, including one of the august judge in his Midnight Robber getup. (A veteran masquerader, Funk had a surprise role to play—literally—in the performance that won The Mighty Chalkdust his eighth Calypso Monarch title in 2009.) Apart from the Newsletters, however, Funk’s many essays, articles, liner notes, talks, and presentations are for the most part either trapped in amber (i.e., print) or circulating among a select few.
Let’s hope that changes. In the meantime, here are a few other places where you can find Funk’s work on the web:
- “The Kings of Harmony” from Rejoice Magazine, Winter 1990 (on the early gospel quartet of the same name), and a related talk given at the invitation of the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
- “The Flowering of La Belle Rosette,” the piece mentioned above—from Caribbean Beat 94, November/December 2008. (You need to sign up for a free account to read the full article, but it’s worth the trouble, as this gets you free access to all back issues of Caribbean Beat and the Caribbean Review of Books.)
- “Band of Gold,” on pan ensemble Golden Hands and “The Rainmakers,” also from Caribbean Beat (no. 93, September/October 2008).
- “In the Battle for Emergent Independence: Calypsos of Decolonization,” in Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, vol. 3, no. 2 (Fall 2005)
- “Pan and Calypso for President Obama,” an op-ed piece from early 2009.
This entry was posted on November 14, 2009 at 11:57 am and is filed under Beryl McBurnie, Calypso, Kaiso Newsletters, Ray Funk. Tagged: Beryl McBurnie, Calypso, Kaiso Newsletters, Ray Funk. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.