Review Comment

Popular Musics of the Caribbean: Salsa, Soca, and Reggae

June 19, 2019

Washburne, Christopher Silver_nugget
Popular Musics of the Caribbean: Salsa, Soca, and Reggae

Take the class! The professor is cool and funny, the material is excellent, the songs are from different backgrounds... plus, it counts for the global core! What a fun class!

Workload:

OK. for the final project you can do whatever you want: take salsa classes and write about the experience, interview some students with a Caribbean background, perform a specific dance or even film a short documentary.

January 13, 2014

Washburne, Christopher Silver_nugget
Popular Musics of the Caribbean: Salsa, Soca, and Reggae

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Washburne is probably the coolest person on the planet. He previously played trombone with a lot of the salsa greats in NYC and on South American tours. He's now head of the jazz studies department, and he still plays with different salsa groups, other Columbia profs, and his own band, S.Y.O.T.O.S. (See You on the Other Side). Be thankful if you are lucky enough to take this class from him. The course is fun and the material is engaging. Whatever you do, don't come to class and sit on Facebook or watch Youtube videos. Listen to what the man is saying. His stories are intense and personal, and what's more is his passion for relaying his interests and experiences to his students. It helps to have an appreciation for Caribbean musics, I admit I probably wouldn't listen to every genre explored in this class recreationally. But the point is that to understand modern hip-hop, reggaeton, and reggae, you need to have the background of the earlier colonial music styles. Each lecture consists of the hypnotic voice of Washburne, paired with musical examples from each genre explored. The course covers musics of Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Workload:

The workload is pretty light. There are typically readings for each class, drawing from Washburne's book and Caribbean Currents by Peter Manuel. Along with other studies by leading ethnomusicologists, there can often be around 50 pages of reading for each class. You should do all of the readings to get the most out of the course, but relatively few quiz questions are on the readings, and you can get by with skimming most of them. You also have 3 different concert reports, which are supposed to be on concerts from different Caribbean musical genres. However, because 90% of the live Caribbean music in the city is salsa, he will generally allow you to see more than one salsa group perform. The concert reports are graded by TAs. In the reports, you are supposed to include the names of the songs, explain what characteristics of the band's playing define the music as whatever kind of music it is (for example, a salsa band having timbales and a trumpet section, or playing songs that have extended montunos), and comment on your personal experience (atmosphere, food, interactions with band members). Aside from the concert reports, there are 2 quizzes. When I took this course, the first quiz ended up not counting because there was a grading discrepancy that gave a disproportionate amount of people low grades. Anyway, the 2nd quiz was entirely multiple choice and featured around 12 listening questions and 38 non-listening questions. It was straightforward if you paid attention in class and reviewed your notes for an hour or two the night before the quiz. The final project is a 10 page paper you collaborate on in groups of 4 on a subject of your choice related to Caribbean music. It's due on the last day of class. The TAs are helpful if you have any questions related to the final project. If you do all the readings, take good notes, and listen to the musical examples online before quizzes, an A is easily achievable.
Workload breakdown:
-weekly readings (can be very long)
-3 concert reports (40% of grade)
-2 quizzes (20% of grade) (10% for each quiz)
-final project (40% of grade)

November 16, 2013

Washburne, Christopher Silver_nugget
Popular Musics of the Caribbean: Salsa, Soca, and Reggae

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

More than 350 people were already registered for this class when I was picking my fall classes; of course it seemed like a bad choice! "What can I learn when there are this many people in a classroom?", I thought to myself. But I went with it at my adviser's recommendation and because it was the only one that fit my schedule.

Holy shit, what a class.

Christopher Washburne is a hell of an entertaining instructor. When he starts telling his stories all 350 students are dead-silent; and this is probably the most important part of being an lecturer. If you can't be entertaining, you simply won't get your message across. Prof. Washburne knows how to get his message across. He's extremely passionate about Caribbean music and Salsa in particular, and this makes for delightful lectures.

The class follows a format that approximately covers one caribbean country a week. Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica are the big ones and might take longer to go through, but there are many others too. You not only learn about the music per se but all aspects that revolve around it: social, political, economical, etc. Essentially, this allows you to appreciate not only *how* the music sounds but *why* it sounds the way it does.

With 3/4 of the semester in, I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite classes ever. Even if you, like me, aren't interested in Caribbean music at all, I highly recommend you take it.

Workload:

2 easy quizes.
3 concert reports (3 pages each).
1 short reading a week.
1 final group project.

May 14, 2004

Washburne, Christopher Silver_nugget
Popular Musics of the Caribbean: Salsa, Soca, and Reggae

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I would encourage anyone to take this class. I loved it. I would list it as one of my top five best classes at the university; as a major, it was definitely the best one in the music department. Yes, it is an elective, and non-majors can take it, so it doesn't cater to hardcore music theorists or historical musicologists. However, the music is fun and fabulous, and Washburne delivers interesting and funny lectures. Furthermore, the most important thing I took away from this class was a newfound appreciation for Caribbean cultures. I even learned to salsa dance!

Workload:

Three one-page concert reports, one 5-6 page field study, midterm, and final. The tests are actually kind of fun to prepare for, because all you really have to do is sit there and listen to the music, which is great. Washburne's a very fair grader.

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