REVIEWS: Awakening Spaces: French Caribbean Popular Songs, Music and Culture

“Berrian’s book is a treasure trove of personal interviews and original translations of song lyrics in French Creole and English. Awakening Spaces effectively bridges the past and present in Francophone Caribbean music for all lovers of music—be they exuberant fans of zouk or musicologists.”


Jacqueline Brice-Finch, James Madison University (2000)

“…Awakening Spaces is full of warmth and spirit, and in both style and content it is a valuable compliment to other English language scholarship on French Antillean popular music (Averill 1997, Guilbault 1993).”

Shannon Dudley, Yearbook for Traditional Music (2002)


“This is a welcome and thoroughly interesting book, brimming with little-known information and offering pertinent reading of popular texts in their social context. Indeed it highlights the variety of Martinican and Guadeloupean popular songs and music from the 1970s to 1996…A discography and a rich bibliography follows the ground-breaking and lively account of musical offerings which are often ignored by the English-speaking public.”


Michel Fabre, MaComère (2000)


“…Awakening Spaces features careful translations of lyrics along with probing and quite specific discussions of those lyrics with their composers and performers, which yield insights into their thoughts on politics, history, and gender issues. For readers used to the ethnographic approach to most ethnomusicology, these translations/interpretations, grounded in insiders’ perspectives, may be the most rewarding aspect of the book…”

Julian Gerstin, NWIG: New West Indian Guide (2001)


Awakening Spaces makes an enormous contribution to our understanding of the complex cultural and political experience of the French Caribbean. With acute sensitivity and deep love and understanding of the music, Berrian provides one of the first in-depth analyses of lyrics in Caribbean popular music. A must read for those of us concerned with the production of knowledge through music and for those of us interested in grasping what makes French Caribbean music at once a source of pleasure and protest.”

Jocelyne Guilbault, University of California, Berkeley


“Brenda Berrian’s Awakening Spaces adds the often missing element of French Caribbean music to the current debate on West Indian popular culture. Her dynamic analysis of lyrics from the 1970s to the 1990s finds mirrors of Caribbean social and political concerns. Berrian also establishes insightful linkages between literature and popular music in the common struggle for definition and identity. This new book carries us on a pioneering journey that will appeal to Caribbeanists, ethnomusicologists, writers, critics, and quite simply, whoever loves music.”


Françoise Pfaff, Howard University


“…Awakening Spaces deserves to be read along with other classics such as Bernabé, Chamoiseau, and Confiant’s Éloge de la créolité, Gratiant’s Fables créoles et autres récits, Aimé Césaire’s Retour au pays natal, Glissant’s Discours antillais and Fanon’s Peau noire, masques blancs. Berrian’s text forces us to think beyond the land of origin and into the future where she signals a new-found cultural legacy based on multiple spaces that awaken possibilities…”

Lucia M. Suarez, Callaloo (2002)


“…What Berrian does is focus our attention of the fascinating world of the French Caribbean as seen in its music. Her work is multi-faceted and interesting. Biguine and zouk will sound quite different once we understand, thanks to this study, what the lyrics are trying to say, and why. The abundant transcriptions/translations ensure that this study of popular music and culture is also a rich study of contemporary French Caribbean society as a whole…”

Keith Q. Warner, Research in African Literatures (2002)