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Shouters & The Control Freak Empire

African documentary "Shouters & The Control Freak Empire" explores the prohibition of African religion, Shouter Baptism, in Trinidad & Tobago in the 20th century.


In  the African documentary "Shouters & The Control Freak Empire" Nigerian-Trinidadian director Oyetayo Raymond Ojoade explores the controversial prohibition of Shouter Baptism in Trinidad & Tobago from 1917-1951. Here is a quick synopsis:

"From Trinidadian-Nigerian filmmaker Oyetayo Raymond Ojoade, this thought-provoking documentary questions power and social control by exposing the central conflict between Euro-centric and Afro-centric religions. It exposes the schisms inherent in the unhappy marriage between the secular and the sacred, first offering a socio-historical context as it re-visits the 1917 - 1951 Prohibition Ordinance on the “Shouter” Baptist religion of Trinidad & Tobago. But it goes further by daring to challenge laws that legislate against a belief system, questioning the real causes and effects of such legislation both on members of the faith and the general public."

Featured on Buni TV, the 30 minute documentary focuses on interviews where current Shouter Baptist church members explain how colonial authority interpreted the religion, through its incorporation of Africa belief systems as somehow threatening to the colonial regime.

The documentary is certainly captivating, particularly in how it unearths components of colonial history. One member of the church states that when the prohibition was written into law "it was like being erased from the map of your homeland." Perhaps this is where the film could have been more affecting- if it had been more effective at highlighting the post-colonial materiality of the prohibition. In other words- how can we understand the prohibition today- what does it mean for current Shouter Baptists beyond the historical facts? Overall, the documentary provides an interesting history lesson, so be sure to check it out to learn more about the fascinating history of Shouter Baptism and the relationship between law and colonialism.

Watch the documentary here.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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