Gambian balafon player, from a travel narrative by François Froger (1698). Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library.

Atlantic Africans created one of the most revolutionary aesthetic movements of the modern world. From the shores of West African kingdoms to Caribbean plantations and mainland American metropoles, they circulated music of many kinds in the face of enslavement. Audible evidence of this story survives in countless living traditions that bear the mark of African diasporic innovation, traditions like kompa, jazz, reggaeton, country, hip-hop, zydeco, blues, and merengue, to name just a few. Yet we know far too little about the contours of African Atlantic musical life in the early modern era. It was during this time period that Black cultures took root in the Americas and transformed global sound.

I am writing a book on musical life in the African Atlantic world that examines an assemblage of artifacts including published narratives, archival documents, and musical performance. “Sound Legacy: Music and Slavery in an African Atlantic World” broadens the historical narrative of colonization and slavery to more fully account for the experiences of Africans and their descendants while trumpeting the legacy of performers whose names have largely been forgotten but whose sounds echo still.

Select Publications

Digital Sound Studies. Co-editor, with Darren Mueller and Whitney Trettien. (Duke 2018).

How Haiti Got Free. Public Books. April 16, 2019.

Peculiar Animations: Listening to Afro-Atlantic Music in Caribbean Travel Narratives, Early American Literature 52:3 (2017). Reach out to for a copy.

Tena, Too, Sings America: Listening to an Enslaved Woman’s Musical Memories of Africa. C19 Podcast. Season 1 Episode 10. June, 18, 2018.

Fiddling with Freedom: Solomon Northup’s Musical Trade in 12 Years a Slave. Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog, December 16, 2013.