Slave Orchestras, Choirs, Bands, and Ensembles, A Bibliography

The institution of the slave orchestra and slave ensembles dates back to the first recorded example we know of, the nine Black musicians brought to Manila in 1594/5, and lasted at least until slavery ended worldwide in the late nineteenth century. In some cases, even after abolition of slavery, colonial powers continued to practice it if not in name until the early twentieth century, and even after that some of these orchestras and ensembles continued as institutions run populated by former slaves. It should be noted that the slaves that composed these institutions were from all parts of the world as local indigenous peoples were also enslaved in colonial countries, e.g. an estimated one to two million Indonesians were a part of the Indian Ocean and Trans-Pacific slave trade and were constituted many of the ensembles in East and Southeast Asia as well as South Africa.

This Bibliography is a work in progress and will likely be organized differently once it becomes fleshed out. More general pieces are listed first and then sources by country. From an academic and scholarly standpoint what’s important to understand is that many of the sources are in the native and indigenous languages or the language of the colonizing powers in the colonies. Most of the accounts that Western scholarship has access to are descriptions in reports or diaries by officials or tourists. This shows the sharp divide between Western Musicology with it’s Eurocentric language focus and the local indigenous literature and oral histories. This makes if far too easy to ignore the global history of Classical Music and its relationship to colonialism, slavery, and white supremacy.

FEATURED MAGE: 1870 photograph of the Slave Band of Antônio Luís de Almeida, São Paulo, Brazil.

POSTED 3/8/2021; LAST UPDATED 3/13/2021


Berg, Maxine. (2020, August 4). Music, Culture, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Warwick: Global History and Culture Centre, August 4, 2020.

Gilbert, Andrew. (2018, October 29). Jordi Savall maps out the ‘Routes of Slavery’ with music, San Francisco Chronicle, Datebook, October 29, 2018.

Lu, Tiffany, and Kensho Watanabe, and William White. (2020, November 4). 10: Slave Orchestras http://podcast, Classical Gabfest, Episode 10, November 4, 2020.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2020, July 17). <— Learning more about Slave Orchestras around the world than I ever thought, or really wanted, to know, [thread], Twitter, July 17, 2020.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2020, July 30). Classical Music and its Slave Orchestras. Mae Mae, July 30, 2020.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2020, September 15). Colonialism, White Supremacy, and the Logic of Exclusion of Colored Bodies in Classical Music. Mae Mai, July 30, 2020.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2020, October 14). An 1870 photo of the Slave Band of Antônio Luís de Almeida, [thread], Twitter, October 14, 2020.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2021, January 18). Slave Orchestras: Classical Gabfest Interview Transcript. Mae Mai, January 18, 2021.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2021). Bibliography of Slave Orchestras, Choirs, Bands, and Ensembles, [thread], Twitter, March 8, 2021.

Templeton, Hannah. (2016, April 30). Mozart and the Slave Trade. Hannah Templeton: Eighteenth-Century Music Historian, April 30, 2016.

Wallen, Errolyn and BBC Radio 3. (2021). Classical Commonwealth. BBC Radio 3, February 21, 2021.

Ambionese musician slaves in Dutch trading compound of Dejima in Nagasaki. Japanese silk scroll from late 18th century (depicts earlier Edo period). The slaves are from Ambon, Malaku (Indonesia). An estimated million or more Indonesians and other Southeast Asians were sold and traded by the Dutch. Original at The British Museum:


Batista, Henrique Medeiros. (2020). “Africa! Africa! Africa!” Black Identity in Marlos Nobre’s Rhythmetron. Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), Bowling Green State University, Contemporary Music, 2020.

Brandão, Silmária Souza. (2009). Múltiplas mulheres: mulher, mãe, amante e trabalhadora em Salvador na segunda metade do século XIX. XXV Simpósio Nacional de História – Anais Simpósios ANPUH.

Correa, João Batista. (2017). Escravidão e Liberdade na Imperial Fazenda de Santa Cruz. 1856-1891. Luminaria Academia, Editora Multifoco.

Fiaria, Shiela de Castro. (2013). Ciclo do café. In: História do Brasil para ocupados. Luciano Figueiredo (org.), Rio de Janeiro: Casa da Palavra.

Freire, Luiz Cleber Moraes. (2007). Nem tanto ao mar, nem tanto à terra: agropecuária, escravidão e riqueza em Feira de Santana, 1850-1888. Programa de Pós- Graduação em História da UFBA.

Fryer, Peter. (2000). Rhythms of Resistance: African Musical Heritage in Brazil. Pluto Press: London.

Gagliardi, Clarissa Maria Rosa. (2005). As cidades do meu tempo: a experiência do turismo em Bananal – SP. Dissertation, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, June 2005.

McNally, Dennis. (2014). On Highway 61: Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom. Counterpoint: Berkeley.

Newitt, Malyn. (2019). The Braganzas: The Rise and Fall of the Ruling Dynasties of Portugal and Brazil, 1640–1910. Reaktion Books: London.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2020, October 14). An 1870 photo of the Slave Band of Antônio Luís de Almeida, [thread], Twitter, October 14, 2020.

Silva, Alexandra Lima da. (2018). O saber que se anuncia: o poder da palavra em tempos de escravidão (Rio de Janeiro, 1830 a 1888). Revista Brasileira de História da Educação, 18. [English and Spanish versions:

Silva, Claudia Felipe da. (2009). Bandas de musica, imigração italiana e educação musical: o corpo musicale “Umberto I” de Serra Negra, uma localidade interiorana com forte presença italiana. Dissertação (mestrado), Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Faculdade de Educação, Campinas, SP.


Meredith, Sharon. (2015). Tuk Music Traditions in Barbados. Routledge: London and New York.

Salman, Brittany. (2017). How Colonialism Shaped Me as an Individual and My Culture. Medium, February 13, 2017.

Stuart, Andrea. (2013). Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire. Vintage.

Valiente, Jessica Lynne. (2015). Siento una Flauta: Improvisational Idiom, Style, and Performance Practice of Charanga Flutists in New York from 1960 to 2000. Doctoral Dissertation, CUNY Academic Works.


Barrenechea Vergara, Paulina M. (2005). María Antonia, esclava y músico: La traza de un rostro borrado por/para la literatura chilena, Atenea 491 – Primer Sem: 87-98. DOI:

Barrenechea Vergara, Paulina M. (2007). La figuración del negro en la literatura colonial chilena. María Antonia Palacios, esclava y músico: La traza de un rostro borrado por/para la literatura chilena, Tesis para optar al Grado del Doctor en Literatura Latinoamericana.

Silpayamanant, Jon. (2020). Another chapter in the story of Slave Orchestras and Ensembles! [thread], Twitter, October 26, 2020.


Amirio, Dylan. (2018). La Baroque Nomade: The travelers of music. Jakarta Post, March 29, 2018.

Aural Archipelago. (2017). Tanjidor: Colonial Echoes in Makassar’s Chinatown. Aural Archipelago: field recordings from around Indonesia, June 28, 2017.

Djumrianti, Desloehal. (2018). Representations of Jakarta as a Tourist Destination: a Critical Discourse Analysis. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Fosler-Lussier, Danielle. (2020). Colonialism in Indonesia: Music Moving with an Occupying Force. In Music on the Move (pp. 19-42). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/mpub.9853855.8

Hahn, Emily. (1946). The Raffles of Singapore: A Biography. Doubleday & Company: Garden City, New York.

Irving, DRM. (2013). Trading Tunes: Thomas Forrest, Malay Songs, and Musical Exchange in the Malay Archipelago, 1774–84. In: Intercultural Exchange in Southeast Asia. Tara Alberts and DRM. Irving (eds.), I.B. Tauris: London, New York.

Mack, Dieter. (2015). Some Thoughts on „Authenticity” in Music. Proceedings from Classical Music in the Context of ASEAN, New Authentic Classic, The Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music, Bangkok, Thailand.

Notosudirdjo, Franki S. (2001) Music, Politic , and the Problems of National Identity in Indonesia. PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Suryadarma, Raden Franki. (1990). Music and Theater Among the European Immigrants in Java During the British Interregnum, 1811-1816. Historical Studies in Ethnomusicology (SEM), Friday, November 9, 1990. AMS/SEM/SMT joint meeting. Oakland, California.

Sumarsam. (2013). Javanese Gamelan and the West. University Rochester Press.

Sumarsum. (2014). Past and Present Issues of Javanese–European Musical Hybridity: Gendhing Mares and Other Hybrid Genres. In Recollecting Resonances: Indonesian-Dutch Musical Encounters. Bart Barendregt and Els Bogaerts (eds.). Brill: Leiden and Boston, 87-108.

Japan (Dutch trading post at Dejima)

Lehmann Jean-Pierre. (1982). Intellect in the Edo Era. In: The Roots of Modern Japan. Macmillan Asian Histories Series. Palgrave, London.

Watanabe Shuseki | 渡辺秀石. (late 18th c.). Scenes of life in the Dutch factory (residential area, sometimes called bankan) at Deshima (Dejima) in Nagasaki [painting/handscroll]. The British Museum.


Gibson-Hill, C., RAFFLES, T., Du Puy, J., HORSBURGH, J., Ross, J., Stephens, J., . . . Raymond, J. (1952). Documents relating to John Clunies Ross, Alexander Hare and the early history of the settlement on the Cocos-Keeline Islands. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 25(4/5 (160)), 5-306.

Summers, William J. (1999). The Jesuits in Manila, 1581-1621: The Role of Music in Rite, Ritual, and Spectacle. in Chapter 31 of “The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773” John W. O’Malley, Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris and T. Frank Kennedy (eds.), University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 659-679. DOI:

South Africa

Bouws, Jan. (1966). Die Musieklewe van Kaapstad 1800-1850. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.

Bouws, Jan. (1982). Solank daar musiek is..:Musiek en musiekmakers in Suid-Afrika (1652-1982). Kaapstad, Tafelberg-Uitgewers Beperk.

Cornell, Carohn. (1998). Whatever Became of Cape Slavery in Western Cape Museums? Kronos, (25), 259-279.

Dunseith, Michael Hamlyn. (2017). Manifestations of ‘Langarm’: from Colonial Roots to Contemporary Practices. (Thesis), Stellenbosch University.

Gould, Dawn. (2016). Ramifications of Politics. Imaginemag! A South African Arts and Culture Magazine, February 27, 2016.

Iziko Museums of South Africa. (n.d.). Cloete era:1778-1885 | Heritage of Slavery, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Martin, Dennis-Constant. (1999). Coon Carnival: New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present. Cape Town, David Philip Publishers.

Martin, Dennis-Constant. (2008). An imaginary ocean: carnival in Cape town and the Black Atlantic, in Boubacar Barry, Elisée Soumonni and Livio Sansone (eds.) Africa, Brazil and the Construction of Trans-Atlantic Black Identities. Africa World Press: Trenton, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea.

Muller, Carol A. (2004). South African Music: A Century of Traditions in Transformation, Volume 1. ABC Clio: Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford.

Navratil, Andrea. (2008). O brother, where art thou going? The construction of collective identities in contemporary South Africa. Honors Thesis for Magistra of Philosophy (Mag. phil.), University of Vienna. November 2008.

Schultz, Wilhelm A.L. (2001). Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling van Boeremusiek. A.V.A. Systems.

Steltzner, Becky L. (2016). The history of the clarinet in South Africa. (Thesis). University of Cape Town, Faculty of Humanities, College of Music.

Stone, Gerald L. (1971). The Coon Carnival. Abe Bailey Institute of Interracial Studies. Unpublished paper, Cape Town, University of Cape Town.

Wal, Anne Marieke van der. (2016). Slave Orchestras and Rainbow Balls: Colonial Culture and Creolisation at the Cape of Good Hope, 1750–1838, In: Identity, Intertextuality, and Performance in Early Modern Song Culture, Dieuwke van der Poel, Louis Peter Grijp, and Wim van Anrooij (eds.), Brill, 352-371.

Sri Lanka

Schrikker, Alicia and Nira Wickramasinghe. (2020). Introduction: Enslaved in the Indian Ocean. In: Histories and Legacies of European Slavery in the Indian Ocean. Alicia Schrikker and Nira Wickramasinghe (eds.), Leiden University Press.

Raat, A.J.P. (2010). The life of Governor Joan Gideon Loten (1710-1789): a personal history of a Dutch virtuoso. (Ph.D. Dissertation), Hilversum: Uitgeverij Verloren.

United States

Baker Jr., David Sherman. (1876). Historical Sketch of North Kingstown. Providence, E. A. Johnson & Company, Printers, July 4, 1876.

Epstein, Dena J. (1963). Slave Music in the United States before 1860: A Survey of Sources (Part I). Notes, 20(2), 195-212. doi:10.2307/894726

Epstein, Dena J. (1963). Slave Music in the United States before 1860: A Survey of Sources (Part 2). Notes, 20(3), 377-390. doi:10.2307/895685

Horn, Stanley Fitzgerald. (1938). The Hermitage: Home of Old Hickory. Greenburg: New York.

Johnson, Jillian. (2018). Voodoo and slave culture in Frederick Delius’ Koanga. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Alabama, 2018.

Raleigh, Steven. (2011). The African Roots of Jazz and its Implications for Jazz Education in America. Virtual Guitar Lessons, February 28, 2011. (cached version here).

Southern, Eileen. (1997). The Music of Black Americans: A History. W.W. Norton and Company, Third Edition, 26 March 1997.