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Jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles explores the ritual, traditions of Carnival in his native Trinidad

Etienne Charles in a red hat playing the trumpet
Courtesy of Etienne Charles
Etienne Charles's new album explores the culture Carnival in his native Trinidad.

Carnival is a vibrant, musically-rich celebration that happens before the start of Lent. It’s celebrated across the globe, bringing out the most unique aspects of many cultures and traditions.

Jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles, who teaches at Michigan State University, celebrates the festival in a new album titled Carnival: The Sound of a People. Charles says this album gave him the opportunity to explore the history of Carnival in his native Trinidad.

Charles says Carnival is more than a festival, it's “a dialogue that a society has between itself, and its past, and its present, and also its future.” Some songs, like the first track "Jab Molassie" prioritize that dialogue. He says he wanted the song to juxtapose old traditions with modern day society.

His goal with the album, Charles says, was to express something genuine with his music, capturing the feelings of different cultures and traditions.

“This album is about people. This album is about the energy that music gets,” Charles explained.

As a teacher, Charles hopes people will be able to learn from his album. He wants listeners to be involved in their own culture and heritage, but be open to new experiences.

“Don’t box yourself into one thing. Be really open to what you can learn from other cultures, and be really open to learning the ins and outs of your own culture,” Charles said.

Etienne Charles is set to perform Friday at 8:00pm on the Founder's Stage at the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival in East Lansing.

Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Anna Schlutt.

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