Oral Traditions or Spoken Word in the Caribbean

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  • Topic: Folklore, Caribbean, Dub poetry
  • Pages : 5 (1563 words )
  • Download(s) : 430
  • Published : March 17, 2007
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The oral tradition constitutes the main element of transmission and coverage of the oral literature and history, music and dancing. This tradition begins with the internal context of the group and the communication through interaction which brings fourth a folkloric process. The Afro-Caribbean folklore of the Archipelago is a mixture of the African, the British, and the Creole aspects distributed through a cultural continuum of variations. The members of the elite develop certain forms of local standardise practices of archaic British culture and the Creole people trigger-off a series Caribbean syncretism with a mixture of Amerindian and African feeling. In ancient times, the tradition of the Spoken Word was essential in promoting effective communication, family life, togetherness of the community and conflict resolution. The telling of stories, playing of games, poetry, oratory and debating were critical for disseminating information, passing on traditions and educating a people about themselves. The telling of stories, playing of games, poetry, performance and oratory are still a large aspect of who we are. Even regionally too, we see these traditions manifested in the richness of the nation languages and the development p\of spoken word artistes. Caribbean people naturally communicate using music, song, dance and theatre. The way our men walk is in itself a symphony of dance; the lilt of our voices is indeed music to the ear, and we virtually conduct our conversations through the constant movement of our hands when we talk. Our ancestral traditions were in some measure preserved in their transition across the waters from Africa, India and other parts of the globe, through the stories told to our forbearers; whispered remembrances, passed from generation to generation, defying the laws and rules which were set up to keep us oppressed and to ensure that we always succumbed and failed. These tactics did not work, as Caribbean peoples from the indigenous to the indentured labourers fiercely and actively found ways to preserve their traditions. The resilience of our ancestors has paid off and borne fruit, oral tradition across the Caribbean is very much alive, grounded as it is, in a history of defiance, spanning tradition and development modernity.

The oral tradition is the most important source of inspiration for the dub poets. To be placed within this tradition is an important aspect of their identity as popular artists in the full sense of the word. Being part of the oral tradition is one of the programmatic principles of the art form. With all its historical and (sub) cultural implications it has an almost mystical significance for dub poets. If the dub poet's radical and programmatic use of Creole language reveals its oppositional character, then the oral tradition, too, is regarded as of equally paramount importance. Apart from music and dance, it is the oral tradition which links the Caribbean present most clearly to the African past. In it is encapsulated the basic concept of the original African cultural framework, which needed neither literacy, letters, books to constitute art, knowledge, civilisation nor a social system. This oral nature and order of original Black culture secured its survival during the travails of slavery and the brainwashing of colonialism. There were no books, no documents, and no dogmatic scriptures to be burned. The archive of African culture was not of material substance. Arriving in the "New World," the slaves had nothing but their memory. Endowed with an extraordinary ability adapt and improve was sufficient to preserve the nature of African culture in captivity and exile. Today, the very existence of a flexible oral tradition demonstrates that resistance to the European destruction of this orally based culture has so far been successful. Louise Bennett not only undermined the notion of Creole as "dutty language" but, in doing so, gave the oral nature of...
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