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Dub Poetry In And From Jamaica

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Autor:   •  January 11, 2011  •  9,861 Words (40 Pages)  •  692 Views

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 2

2 History and Development of Dub Poetry 3

2.1 The Development of Jamaican Creole вЂ" Short Overview 3

2.2 The Oral Tradition 4

2.3 From the B-side of a Record via “Toasting” to Dub Poetry 6

3 The Correlation of the Rastafarians, Reggae and Dub 9

3.1 The Rastafarians 9

3.2 The Peculiarity of Dub 10

3.3 Artists and Scenes 12

3.3.1 The Jamaican Scene 12

3.3.2 The British Scene 13

3.3.3 The Canadian Scene 14

4. Structural Characteristics of Dub Poetry 15

4.1 Patois вЂ" the Language 15

4.2 Rhythm 15

4.3 Performance 17

5 Linguistic Analysis of Dub Poetry Lyrics and Performance 18

5.1 Linton Kwesi Johnson 18

5.2 Wat about di Workin Claas? 19

5.3 Tings an Times вЂ" Performance Aspects in Comparison 21

6 Reflection 23

7 Bibliography and Discography 24

8 Appendix 25

1 Introduction

Dub poetry is often said to be a musical genre due to its close connection to reggae music, but a second glance reveals quite obviously dub poetry’s affiliation to a literary form rooted in the oral tradition of Jamaica. The generally accepted creed of dub poetry is “Word, Sound and Power”, it is self-proclaimed and clearly underlines it’s peculiarity in terms of the spoken word being the central medium. It is therefore not comparable to western poetry because the content of a dub poem achieves its value through the Creole language and the integrated rhythm (cf. Habekost 1986, 9f.).

But the term “dub poetry” as such is not easy to define and aroused controversial discussions in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, because some of the artists simply did not see themselves as dub poets. The term itself was coined by Oku Onuora, referring to it “as a technical term describing the process of sound engineering at a mixing desk in a recording studio”(Habekost 1993a: 206), but many poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mutabaruka front this term rather critically because they fear to be restricted to reggae (cf. Habekost 1993a: 206).

Even today, reggae music seems to be the super ordinate concept for everything from the Caribbean which is underlined by music because of the international high profile of Bob Marley and other reggae artists of the 1970’s. Despite the fact that some dub poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson achieved international fame, this genre stands back and is often lumped together with reggae to the same level as Jamaican Creole is quite often not defined as independent language. One reason for the free-spirited and non-commercial character of dub poetry is its invariable use of Jamaican Creole to express “Word, Sound and Power” rather than performing in Standard English for commercial purposes.

Therefore this paper argues that through dub poetry, especially the native Creole lyrics, the artist is able to constitute an African identity. The message is supported by the special style and structure of the poem, quite often but not necessarily underlined by music. This thesis will firstly be underlined thoughout the paper by a portrayal of the oral tradition in the context of Jamaican history and the development of dub poetry. Then the peculiarity of dub is emphasised and an overview over the artists and different scenes is given. The structural characteristics and parameters serve as foundation for the following linguistic analysis of dub poetry lyrics and performances. Finally the linguistic analysis will be reflected.

2 History and Development of Dub Poetry

The development of dub poetry is strongly based upon Jamaica’s history in close connection to African slave labour and their total emancipation in 1834 (cf. Holm 1994: 340). In the past, education was predominantly reserved to the white population in Jamaica and to the ones with a higher status. With the gained independence in 1962 literacy has increased to 76 % (cf. Holm 1989: 471), so that the oral culture of Jamaica increasingly achieved support from the literary side. The genre of dub poetry is based on the phenomenon of the Caribbean oral culture and has its roots in storytelling and the promulgation of news.

2.1 The Development of Jamaican Creole вЂ" Short Overview

To portray the development of dub poetry a short overview over the Jamaican Creole synthesis is rather helpful, and gives a first insight into the peculiarity of dub poetry language and the importance of native Creole for its message. It is closely connected to the period of massive slave importation and the miserable circumstances of the slaves during the period of British colonisation in the West Indies.

The developmental history of language in British colonies like Canada or Australia is extremely different from that of the West Indies. The settlers predominantly from the British Isles spoke English and automatically passed the language on to their descendants and to others through close contact, whereas in the West Indies slaves from divergent African regions were imported to work on sugar plantations, with most of them stemming from different linguistic backgrounds. People were hardly able to communicate among each other and therefore it came to “a restructuring of English that resulted in Creole, a distinct language system with words derived from English but with phonology, semantics and morphosyntax influenced by African languages and other forces” (Holm 1994: 328). The slaves were hardly in contact with the white English speaking population but had to communicate with the other slaves and the white overseers. The Creole phoneme system is modified to accommodate the West African languages and the lexicon contains many English stemming words

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