A Caribbean music documentary titled Parang received an Emmy nomination, the most prestigious award for television in the United States.
Brooklyn-based Haitian filmmaker Emmanuel “Mano” Alexandre Jr, who was the film’s producer, cinematographer and editor, announced the nomination on his Facebook page manosalon.live.
“I am proud to announce that Manosalon…has been nominated for an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The film in question is Parang starring artist and ethnomusicologist (Dr) Danielle Brown. It is our very first nomination in our launch year!”
In an interview with africologymedia.com, Alexandre said his first name is Emmanuel Alexandre Jr but his name is “Mãno”, which is short for Emmanuel in Haitian/Creole. He was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and came to the United States when he was 14 in 1990. He has a bachelor’s degree in media studies/journalism from (CUNY) Hunter College and a master’s degree in cinematography and documentary. lead from (CUNY) City College. Alexandre teaches cinema at CUNY and he writes, edits, directs, produces and shoots fiction films and documentaries.
“I guess that makes me a filmmaker.”
Brown in a post on mypeopletellstories.com said in 2018 that Alexander became interested in My People Tell Stories, an initiative she founded in November 2014 to “promote and validate knowledge produced by people of color and create ultimately a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive education system.” My People Tell Stories provides services in arts education, including professional development for teachers, artists, and researchers seeking to center diverse, inclusive, and equitable practices in their work.
She said Alexander requested permission to film some of her work in progress as an artist-scholar and educator.
“Three years later, the resulting film project, Parang, was nominated for an Emmy Award! Congratulations to Mano for a well-deserved nomination.
According to mypeopletellstories.com, Brown is an artist, scholar, and entrepreneur. She earned a doctorate in music from New York University with a concentration in ethnomusicology and a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean music. She is a former assistant professor of music and cultural history at Syracuse University and has lectured at various colleges and universities. She has worked with elementary, middle and high school students and is certified in the Kodály method (a way of developing musical skills and teaching musical concepts from very young children).
Brown is the author of the music-focused ethnographic memoirs, East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home, and the East of Flatbush, North of Love: Teacher Guidebook. Brown is a 2018 NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Folk/Traditional Arts and was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Musicology at the University of Miami for the 2019-2020 academic year. She is also an active singer, songwriter and cuatro.
Parang, which lasts just over nine minutes, opens with Brown playing the cuatro and singing Golpe by the famous parang group La Divina Pastora. The film also features the song Historia De Trinidad by the San Jose Serenaders.
“Music is the only thing I can do that really takes me away from all the problems I have,” she said.
Brown explained that parang is a Christmas tradition in Trinidad where a group of musicians called paranderos get together and surprise a family with the gift of song. She said it usually happened in rural or “Spanish” areas of Trinidad, and as early as 1 or 2 a.m. the paranderos would wake the inhabitants of a house with music.
She then spoke about her memoir East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home, and said it reflected her experiences growing up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, which is a West Indian enclave. She explained that she wanted to use her experiences to teach Caribbean history, especially the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
The film then moved to Brown performing the classic Jean and Dinah from the Mighty Sparrow.
“When I entered academia, I realized that the work that was being done didn’t reflect me and it didn’t reflect the stories I had learned growing up.”
She explained that one of the problems with music education is the lack of diversity and that there were people trying to teach Caribbean music who didn’t know it and trying to teach from a European perspective, which is problematic. She said there is a belief that the basics of music cannot be taught using Caribbean music and the norm is Western music.
“And I think that’s completely wrong. It’s music, and someone had to learn it, right?
She said Western art music like Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, is treated as the norm and the core, and she pointed out that they were all “white men”.
She said that at Caribbean Music Pedagogy Workshop (CMPW), they teach teachers, educators, artists and others interested in teaching music in a more authentic way.
The CMPW is a ten-day, three-summer professional development program that combines studies in ethnomusicology, music education, critical race theory, and social justice to offer new ways to explore Caribbean music, whether either in a classroom setting or in a performance setting. Each summer offers ten days of intense study of the music of at least three Caribbean nations representing different linguistic areas of the region. Summer 2020 focused on Cuba, Haiti and TT.
In the documentary, Brown emphasized that they wanted to create an environment where attendees not only see the value of teaching music, but the value of people who are already making this type of music. She added that it makes people want to know more about the history of a place and think more deeply about the songs and their meaning.
“I think by incorporating music into the book like I did, it kind of enables that.”
Brown then reflected on the state of Caribbean culture in her Brooklyn neighborhood.
“We still have a Caribbean culture that hasn’t gone away yet. ‘Yet’ being the key word. It’s that fear that what you know is slowly eroding away and it’s not there anymore.”
You can look at the site of Parang or Alexandre, manosalon.live under the heading “arts”.
Nominations for the 73rd Emmy Awards will be announced July 13, and the awards will air September 19 on CBS and Paramount+.