Stolen Time: Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze
by Shane Vogel and Shane Vogel
University of Chicago Press, 2018
eISBN: 978-0-226-56858-4 | Cloth: 978-0-226-56830-0 | Paper: 978-0-226-56844-7

In 1956, Harry Belafonte’s Calypso established a historic landmark in becoming the first LP to sell more than a million copies. For a few fleeting months, calypso music was the top-selling genre in the US—it even threatened to supplant rock and roll. But where exactly did calypso come from, and just how new was it?

Stolen Time situates this midcentury fad within a cycle of cultural appropriation—including the ragtime craze of the 1890s and the Negro vogue of the 1920s—that encapsulated the culture of the Jim Crow era. Vogel follows the fad as it moved defiantly away from any attempt at authenticity and instead shamelessly embraced calypso kitsch. Although white calypso performers were indeed complicit in a kind of imperialist theft of Trinidadian music and dance, Vogel argues, black calypso craze performers enacted a different, and subtly subversive, kind of theft. They appropriated not Caribbean culture itself, but the US version of it—and in so doing, they slyly mocked American notions of racial authenticity. Stolen Time not only illuminates the history of a dimly remembered fad, it shows how methods of personal and cultural liberation can reside within the products of mass consumption.

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