In addition to more than 400 recordings of interviews and music from Africa, Cuba and the United States, the Ivor L. Miller Papers contain over 200 vinyl disk music recordings made and produced predominantly in Cuba and largely unavailable in the United States.
That’s right. Here in the Archives we have a substantial Cuban record collection.
Ivor Miller, a Hampshire College graduate and an Amherst College Copeland Fellow in 2002, is a cultural historian specializing in the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and the Americas. His 1995 doctoral dissertation for Northeastern University was a study of the Santería religion in Cuban society and its influences in the United States. Miller has traveled extensively in West Africa, South America and the Caribbean, particularly in Cuba, where he did research from 1991-2013, conducting interviews, recording video and taking photographs.
In addition to numerous articles in scholarly journals, Dr. Miller’s publications include Ifá Will Mend Our Broken World: Thoughts on Yorùbá Religion and Culture in Africa and the Diaspora with Dr. Wande Abimbola (AIM, 1997), Aerosol Kingdom: Subway Painters of New York City (University Press of Mississippi, 2002), and Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba (University Press of Mississippi, 2009).
Miller’s publications on Cuban culture often focus on the significance music plays in societal identity and in understanding the cultural relationships of West Africa and its Diasporas in the Americas, especially Cuba.
In his article A Secret Society Goes Public: the Relationship between Abakua and Cuban Popular Culture, Miller writes that “the African linguistic heritage on this side of the Atlantic is today strong enough to support a general theory for the regeneration of African religion and artistic culture in the Americas. I have also found that early recordings of Cuban music offer another important avenue into the culture and perspectives of Cubans of African descent…These musical texts–recorded and then distributed internationally (in fact often recorded outside of the home country)–can be vital sources for mapping some of the linguistic and historic dimensions of the diaspora.”
Miller, Ivor. “A Secret Society Goes Public: The Relationship Between Abakua and Cuban Popular Culture.” African Studies Review 43.1 (2000): 163.
This collection, containing recordings of both popular artists and lesser-known folk artists, provides representations of numerous Cuban music genres including Danzón, Bolero, Guaracha, Rumba, Jazz, and Son.
Also in this collection are three recordings of the poetry of Nicolás Guillén, known as Cuba’s national poet and celebrator of the multi-racial and multi-ethnic mix that comprises Cuban culture.
For the full list of records in this collection, see Series 5: Cuban LP Record Albums of the Ivor L. Miller Papers finding aid. While playback of original LPs is restricted for preservation reasons, researchers wishing to listen to the recordings may ask that a CD copy be made.