Race, Cafés-Concerts, and the Improbable Career of Edmond Dédé

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 3:30 PM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 1 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Sally McKee, University of California, Davis
In 1855, Edmond Dédé, a little-known free African-American composer, emigrated from his native city of New Orleans to France, where he studied music and established a career as a composer and conductor. Darker-skinned than any other celebrated man or woman of African descent in Europe at the time, Dédé competed in the music world against European musicians and in an environment replete with vicious caricatures of Africans promulgated in the French media. The art music and popular songs he composed and the dance halls he managed shed light not just on this one man’s efforts to succeed outside the structural constraints of the racist society in which he was born. The scarce evidence of his working life also suggests that he somehow kept in touch with the music of his native city, which he visited only once, thirty-eight years after leaving it. Musicologists today may have to reconsider when African-inflected music arrived in France and began to be appreciated by the French.
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