Monday, February 22, 2010

Caribbean Nationalisms: Trinidad and Jamaica

$2m flag in right hand upper quadrant

I've been in Trinidad the last couple of days where i'm contemplating the giant $2 million national flag fluttering in the breeze in Port-of-Spain, while hummingbirds fight each other for a suck at the red plastic feeder on the balcony of a friend's apartment. Found out yesterday that Trinidad and Tobago is suffering from a prolonged drought as is the rest of the Eastern Caribbean. Jamaica has also been severely affected by the lack of rainfall recently but the discussions around this never ever referred to the fact that this was a regionwide phenomenon.

I was interviewed practically on arrival for an online forum called NBS or the No Behaviour Show by @SanMan_ish or Hassan, someone i previously knew only on Twitter. Hassan had just started NBS the week before and was wishing he had access to a Jamaican perspective on various issues including water shortages, when my tweet announcing my arrival in TnT appeared in his timeline. Before you knew it i was being interviewed on a variety of subjects starting with something Jamaican Minister of Culture, Olivia Babsy Grange, had said at the opening ceremony of the International Reggae Conference at UWI, Mona. Was Jamaica losing Reggae to European musicians as Ms. Grange had suggested, Hassan wanted to know. I said i preferred to view singers such as Gentleman and Matisyahu as ambassadors for Reggae, taking a Jamaican product to new brand audiences. To hear more of what i said click here...

The International Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies, Mona, was a big success i thought. The first morning I chaired a panel on Collection, Storage and Dissemination of Jamaican music with three participants, Herbie Miller, the director of the Jamaican Music Museum and two Americans; Elliott Lieb, founder of the Trade Roots archive, dedicated to collecting Jamaican music and Brad Klein, a film-maker working on a documentary on Jamaican ska. In the audience, amongst others, was Stranjah Cole, ska maestro, who features in the film.

Stranjah Cole seated in front row

Herbie Miller made an eloquent case for a budget to stock his museum and do the kind of work the foreigners were doing gratis out of love for Jamaica's music. How extraordinary i thought, that a case even needs to be made for something so obviously deserving of support. After all the Jamaican government had decided decades ago that Jamaican art was worthy of being collected, stored and disseminated, investing in a National Gallery for the purpose. And this despite the fact that Jamaican art is insignificant compared to Jamaican music which has virtually put the country on the map, creating Brand Jamaica and maintaining its profile to this day. Yet as Brad Klein pointed out many of the early recordings and films on Jamaican music have vanished without a trace. What a tragedy!

l to r: Chappie St Juste, Herbie Miller, Stranjah Cole, Brad Klein and Elliott Lieb

During the discussion that followed the presentations, cinematographer Chappie St. Juste who was in the audience, disclosed that the films were actually safely stored in vaults in England where they had been sent for processing and the task now was to repatriate them. But repatriate them to what? and where? and to what conditions? The music museum exists only in name. Perhaps instead of berating Europeans for 'stealing' our music we should be grateful to them for having stored our cultural products safely, something we ourselves have been careless about. Remember the scandal a few years ago when it was discovered that the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation archives had been vandalized, and that early recordings of Louise Bennett and others had vanished?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

INTERNATIONAL REGGAE CONFERENCE 2010: "Current and Future Trends in Popular Music"

So many people are asking for the programme that i thought i'd make this available. Keep in mind that this is an early draft, there may be changes.



Session 1A – Multifunctional Room, Main Library
The Reggae Nation: Global Impact –
Chair: Sonjah Stanley-Niaah
1. Mercy Dioh, Promoting Reggae Music in Cameroon and Africa at Large
2. Jason Robinson, Dubbing the Reggae Nation: Transnationalism, Globalization and Interculturalism
3. Marvin D. Sterling, “Race Reggae and “The Search for Self’: Japan’s Literary Excursions into the Jamaican”
4. Colin Wright, “Rebel Music: Reggae, Rastafari and Resistance in a Globalised World”
5. Michela Montevecchi - In a Jamaican-Italian Style.Mutual Cultural Influences via Reggae and Rastafari

Session 1B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Collection, Preservation and Dissemination of Cultural Artifacts
Chair - Annie Paul
Brad Klein -filmmaker,
Elliott Leib - sound collector and preservationist
Herbie Miller, museum curator

Session 1C – HR Seminar Room
Economic Exploitation: Copyright, Marketing and Sponsorship –
Chair: Hume Johnson
1. Joan Elizabeth Webley, “Emancipating Ourselves From Mental Slavery: A Socio-legal Exploration of Existing Copyright Law Issues in Jamaica”
2. Sandra “Sajoya” Alcott, The Rastafari Reggae Revolution: Global Repositioning Towards Wealth Creation.
3. Daniel Neely, Never Grow Old: On the Contemporary Marketing of Jamaican Mento Music
4. Melville Cooke, ‘Falling Out: When the Sponsors Conducts Dancehall’

Session 2A – Multifunctional Room, Main Library
Music and the Youth: Exploring Consumption and Influence
– Chair: Lloyd Waller
1. Donna Hope Marquis – Dancehall, Violence and Jamaican Youth: An Empirical Synopsis
2. Lisa Tomlinson – Reggae, Resistance and Youth Culture in Toronto
3. Fania Alemanno – Dancehall, Women and Sport: A Preliminary Overview

Session 2B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Media & the Culture of Reggae –
Chair: Franklyn St Juste
1. Klive Walker, Reggae Cinema: Past, Present and Future
2. Mike Alleyne, The Reggae Album Cover Art of Neville Garrick
3. Maureen Webster-Prince, “Putting Up Resistance: Reggae in Radio Serial Drama”

Session 2C – HR Seminar Room
Reggae / Rastafari Icons and Ambassadors
– Chair: Jahlani Niaah
1. Erna May Brodber, Social Consciousness and Marley.
2. Gloria Simms, The Reggae Artiste as Cultural Ambassador
3. Jahlani Niaah, Bob Marley Country


Session 3A – Multifunctional Room, Main Library
Sacred and Secular Iterations in Dancehall –
Chair: Michael Bucknor
1. Kenichi Ninomiya, Dancehall Gospel as Masculine Christianity
2. Winston C. Campbell, ‘Suppose a God Song Mi did a Sing’: A Case Study on Lyrical Typecasting in 21st Century Dancehall
3. Anna Kasafi Perkins, Love the long ding dong– Tanya Transgresses Christian Sensibilities?

Session 3B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Reggae Film, Media and Iconography in Brazil –
Chair: Patricia do Reis
1. Leonardo Vidigal, Brazilian documentaries about Jamaica
2. Laura Guimaraes Correa, Reggae Music in Brazilian Advertising
3. Carlos Bendito Rodrigues da Silva, The Iconography of reggae music in Brazilian Jamaica

Session 3C – HR Seminar Room
Reggae, Resistance and Social Consciousness – Chair: Mel Cooke
1. Iheanacho George Chidiebere, Diasporic Humanism and Resistance in Reggae
2. John D Marquez, Mexica Binghi I and Jahwaii: Reggae and Resistance in Latin(o) America and the Pacific Islands
3. Christian Akani, Diasporic Resistance and African Resistance: The Challenge of Reggae in the New World Order
4. Wayne D. Russell, Reggae’s Social and Political Contestation: Global Reggaefication and the Global Impact of Reggae

Neville Hall Lecture Theatre (N1)
Presenter: Professor Carolyn Cooper
“Reggae University:’ Rototom Sunsplash and the Politics of Globalising Jamaican Popular Culture”
Chair: Professor Claudette Williams

Session 4A – Multifunctional Room – Main Library
Diasporic Pedagogies –
Chair: Michael Barnett
1. Bobby Seals, Reggae and the Rastafari Movement (WORKING TITLE)
2. Leonie Wallace, Teaching Bob Marley in France
3. Renato Tomei, The Influence of Jamaican Reggae English on the Ethiopian English, With Special Focus on the Rastafarian Community in Shashamane

Session 4B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Imaging Culture: Films, Videos and Future Possibilities
Chair: Rachel Mosely Wood
Chris Browne
Paul Bucknor
Brian St. Juste

Session 4C – HR Seminar Room
Reggae Subcultures Transforming Society
Chair: Kim Marie Spence
1. Louis EA Moyston, Howell, the Early Rastafari: Development in Black Nationalism, Jamaican Nationalism and the Revolution in Music.
2. Christopher A. D. Charles, Anti-informer and Anti- snitch Subcultures: A Discursive Analysis
3. Christina Abram-Davis, “Role of the Cultural Pan Africanist in Transforming Society

Presenter Tekla Mekfet


Session 5A – Multifunctional Room, Main Library
Participation/Contribution of Persons with Disabilities to Jamaican Music
Chair: Floyd Morris
Floyd Morris,
Grub Cooper,
Derrick Morgan
Cidney Thorpe

Session 5B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Dancehall Feuds, Factions and Fandom –
Chair: Anna Kasafi Perkins
1. Michael Barnett, Prince Buster vs Derrick Morgan: The Original Dancehall Clash
2. Annie Paul, Eyeless in Gaza and Gully: “Mi deh pon di borderline”
3. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Gully vs. Gaza?: Feuds, Factions and Fuelling Fandom in Jamaican Dancehall Performance
4. Kim-Marie Spence, Clash! – Jamaican Artistes in a New Digital Music Market

Session 5C – HR Seminar Room

Session 6A – Multifunctional Room, Main Library
The Legal Framework for Jamaican Music
Chair – Clyde Williams
Peter Goldson
Andrea Scarlett Lozer
Simone Bowie
Sundiata Gibbs

Session 6B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Sexual Politics in Dancehall ––
Chair - Shakira Maxwell
1. Keino Senior, Sexuality in Dancehall Music: A Philosophical Perspective
2. Agostinho M. N. Pinnock, ‘Rude- boy Don’t Apologise to No Batty Boy!’: Gay Politics; Trans-National Identities and the Jamaican State.
3. Brent Hagerman, Slacker than them: Yellowman and the Nadir of Jamaican Popular Music

Session 6C – HR Seminar Room
Genesis, Transformation and Innovation: Comparative Dimensions II –
Chair: Chuck Foster
1. Christopher Johnson, Caribbean Abstraction: Reggae Music, Jazz and Transcendent Performance
2. Camille Royes, The Riddim Method: Friend or Foe?
3. John C. Baker, Natural Audiotopias: Dub’s Construction of Sonic Space
4. Michael Barnett and Paul Barnett, Who Really Pioneered Reggae?

SPECIAL SESSION – Multifunctional Room, Main Library
Presenter: Hon Edward Seaga
“Jamaican Music Industry as a Site of Nationalistic Fervour”

Session 7A - Multifunctional Room – Main Library
Genesis, Transformation and Innovation: Comparative Dimensions I –
Chair: Clinton Hutton -
1. Chuck Foster, Jamaican Musical Genres: Innovation and Transformation
2. Meaghan Sylvester – Identity and Soca Music in Trinidad and Tobago
3. Dennis Howard, Genre Bonding and Defiance in Kingston’s Creative Commune: Genre Development in Jamaica

Session 7B – Special Needs Seminar Room
Language, Lyrics, Listening and Literary Issues – Chair: Rohan Anthony Lewis
1. Nickesha Dawkins, Gender-based Vowels Used in Jamaican Dancehall Lyrics
2. Michael Kuelker, The Many Functions of the Bus in Jamaican Music
3. Wayne D. Russell, Paradigm Shifts in Content: Recasting Lyrics and Images in Reggae- (A Video Supported Presentation)
4. Winston Campbell - When Did Dancehall Cease to Exist? Thematic Engagement of Dancehall Lyrics of the 90s and 21st Century.
5. Lloyd Laing, “Inoculating the Dancehall Virus: An Introduction to Memetics”

Session 7C – HR Seminar Room
Screening/Cleaning: Image, Content and Management –
Chair: Christopher Charles
1. Jon Williams, Screening/ Cleaning the Lyrical Content of Our Music
2. Hume Johnson, Mending Jamaican Music’s Crisis of Image: What Role for Public Relations and Crisis Management?
3. Charles Campbell, European Penetration Requires New Strategies
4. Joshua Chamberlain, Control Dis: Jamaican sound system influence on media regulation


Artistes, PMI, Principal, Community Leaders


Entertainment – Reggae/Dancehall Fashion Show and Reggae Concert – (VENUE TBC)

Session 8A – Assembly Hall
Supportive Institutions: The Jamaican Situation – Chair: Clyde McKenzie


Session 9A – Assembly Hall
Music Associations and Federations –
Chair –

Lunch Hour Entertainment – ASSEMBLY HALL
Skit from the Play Soundclash

Assembly Hall
SPECIAL SESSION - Jamaican Music in Europe: The Homphobia Debate
Chair: Donna Hope Marquis
Ellen Koehlings
Pete Lilly

Assembly Hall
Chair: Professor Rupert Lewis



Feb 8, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The King is dead! Long live the King! Rex Nettleford 1933-2010

Issa Scholar, later Rhodes Scholar, 1957

The following is excerpted from “To be Liberated from the Obscurity of Themselves: An Interview with Rex Nettleford” by David Scott which was published in Small Axe Number 20 in June 2006. A quote from David's preface to the interview is used here to locate Nettleford for readers not from the region who may not know who he was. For me the extraordinary thing about T Rex, as i privately thought of him, was that he was both an intellectual and a dancer at once, ingeniously harnessing mind and body. I am extremely glad that i had the opportunity to see Rex dance his signature role of Kumina King at least once...

Born in Falmouth, Jamaica, on 3 February 1933, Rex Nettleford [was] vice chancellor emeritus
of the University of the West Indies. His achievements are too many to list and in any case too
well known to require listing. Recently, Oxford University, where he pursued postgraduate studies in politics as a Rhodes Scholar, awarded him both a Fellowship of Oriel College as well as an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws, and the Rhodes Trust established a Rex Nettleford Fellowship
in Cultural Studies to be awarded in perpetuity. He is the author of many books, including
Mirror Mirror: Identity, Race, and Protest in Jamaica (1970), Caribbean Cultural Identity (1978), Dance Jamaica: Cultural Definition and Artistic Discovery (1985), Inward Stretch, Outward Reach: A Voice from the Caribbean (1993), and (with Philip Sherlock) The University of the West Indies: A Caribbean Response to the Challenge of Change (1990); and editor of Manley and the New Jamaica (1971), Jamaica In Independence: Essays on the Early Years (1989), and Race, Discourse, and the Origin of the Americas (1995), as well as of Caribbean Quarterly, the University of the West Indies journal of cultural studies.

David Scott: I want to begin, Rex, with the early years. I imagine you have told this story more than once. But tell me where you were born, where you grew up, and also, tell me what your earliest memories of childhood are.

Rex Nettleford: Well, I was born in Falmouth, Trelawny, and I grew up there for a while with my mother Lebertha Palmer, who is still aliveall of ninety-seven years old! I am a typical member of the so-called 70 percent clan, that legendary 70 percent of the Jamaican population who were born to a mother who did not have the benefit of confetti. And therefore what they would now grandly call a single-parent household was for me matriarchal and matrilocalmatrilocal in the sense that my brother and my two sisters by my mother all grew up for a short while together; matriarchal in that she certainly ruled the roost, absolutely. No doubt at all about that. I remember that, from very young, traipsing about on my own, finding my way, for some strange reason, I just had an interest in reading. And she encouraged it. I remember that at about three years old she sent me to what they now call basic schoolbut we didn’t call it that in those days. It was just a little place which was in somebody’s yard. And we were taught the very basic three Rs. And she felt that I should go; maybe it was to keep me out of trouble, or to give her free time to go and do whatever she wanted to do, but she was very strong about protecting her children. I remember that very, very clearly; she was very, very loyal to us.

But obviously things got hard. With the advantage of hindsight, I can see this. She decided to migrate to Montego Bay. She took the youngest one of us with her. The boy was sent off to his father in Sherwood Content and I was sent to my grandmotherher motherin Bunker’s Hill, which is in the hinterland of Falmouth. This was typical. I didn’t feel that I was disadvantaged because of it; I guess I was too young to even think in those terms. But I went to Bunker’s Hill and had a very rural upbringing. And again, from early, not just with the advantage of hindsight now, but from very early I understood the importance, or the significance, of that particular exposure.

Sixth former at Cornwall College, Montego Bay, 1950

My grandmother, Florence Reid, got married to a gentleman who [in consequence] was my step-grandfather, and who in fact made me understand that I was an outsider when I got there [to Bunker’s Hill]. She protected me, really. She too was very strong on education. And I suppose because I chatted a lot, she said, “Well, this little boy is bright, you know. I better send him to school.” And the school was really a haven. I went to school, while my young uncles and aunts had to stop from school, particularly on Fridays as was the custom in rural Jamaica at the time. I gather it still holds today. School is kept for half a day to release the children to go and work in the fields. She never stopped me from going to school.


DS: ...I want to get a sense of this involvement of yours in theatre in Montego Bay. So tell me about this vaudeville group.

RN: Well, the thing is I was very conscious of the need for me to be comfortable in my own skin in order to exist. But I couldn’t do it without relating to other people. So I found myself anywhere there was some kind of collective communal kind of work. And there is a storythe devil is in the detailsof Worm Chambers as he was called, who was illiterate, couldn’t read or write. He wanted a letter written. And he saw me, this little boy, thisbright boy from Cornwall College one morning on my way to school and asked me if I could write a letter for him. I used to write letters for lots of people, like a scribe. And it’s interesting, when I went to Africa I remembered those scribes on old imperial typewriters typing away. They were the scribes for people who wanted letters written. And this is very important in a way, because were back to my elementary school thing. We were taught to write letters of application for jobs, as well as telegrams. Remember in elementary school, once you finish sixth standard, youre going out to look for a job. So how you write a letter was very, very important. All of this we learnt in elementary school in those days.

Undergraduate in the first Carnival celebrations at the University College of the West Indies, Mona, 1955

And then of course English was taught marvelously, in the way that I think English ought to be taught, as another language for people like ourselves. Not as our language. And thats how I was taught, using that good old Nesfield Grammar text.

DS: You mean that the assumption of teachers was that you did not speak English?

RN: That English was not our first language. I dont even know if they assumed it, but in the Nesfield Grammar textbooks, thats how you were taught English. In grammar, you were taught the parsing, the different figures of speech, and all the rest of it, oh yes. So in fact I got a good grounding in that up to age nine, ten, eleven. I spoke a very heavy dialect to my peers and my family, and when speaking to people in authority I would speak something approaching standard English. And I would certainly write my compositions in standard English.

Director of Extramural Studies

DS: Let’s go back to your meeting with Worm Chambers.

RN: Ok, so I wrote the letter for him and when I brought it back his partner told me that he wasnt there, he was gone to practicewhich of course meant the rehearsal, leading up to the showsbecause they had an August Morning concert and a Christmas Morning concert. So I went to the theatre and there he was with his crew.


DS: Now you’re a boy of eleven.

RN: Eleven, twelve. They were doing the usual thing, because they were greatly influenced by the cinema. Buzz [Busby] Berkley and so on, that kind of musical. You could see [what they were up to]: Who threw the whiskey in the well? And they used sort of blackface, Al Jolson and all the rest of it. So they were doing this number and I asked could I show them something? And he [Worm] said yes, and that was the beginning. The rest is history. I did it every year from then until 1953.

Addressing National Savings
Committee, Savanna-la-Mar, 1973

DS: What did you show them?

RN: Movements to the music that they were singing. Because I had been doing things like that. And then I took over. And I appeared on one or two of the shows doing dialect poems, because I wrote several dialect poems.


DS: . . . One very central theme in Inward Stretch, Outward Reach, is the idea of what you call global learning, a form of education that will, as you say, ensure intellectual plasticity, flexibility, adaptability, an education for creativity, not narrow technical training is what youre after. But isn’t the latter precisely what your very beloved UWI had become mired in?

Rex Nettleford as vice chancellor,
University of the West Indies

RN: Yes, my beloved UWI, UCWI. Let me hasten to say that I’m the first to criticize it for becoming that or being on the verge of becoming that. We have to guard against just being a degree factory, [and become] a community where learning is treasured, where in fact free discourse is encouraged. And if we become a degree factory, which in fact we are being asked to become, we are in for trouble. This place should be preparing its graduates to cope with the texture and diversity of human existence. And I don’t think we have altogether succeeded, particularly in more recent years, with the increase in the student population, also with the massification of education, which Im not against, but we have to find the ways and means to cope with it.

DS: As usual, your criticism is very gentle. But I read Inward Stretch, Outward Reach as a sharp critique of the University of the West Indies, of the decline in the commitment to the creation of what you just referred to as spaces for the cultivation of . . .

RN: . . . the Kingdom of the Mind!

DS: Yes, indeed, the Kingdom of the Mind. And I wonder whether or to what extent Inward Stretch, Outward Reach was read as a critique of the university; but I wonder also whether people at the university appreciated the attempt in Inward Stretch to subvert the increasing orthodoxy of the idea that this should be a degree-awarding factory.

RN: No, I don’t think many did. And let me hasten to say, I will not fool myself into thinking that many of my colleagues even read my work, and that’s one of the things that I find in this university, we don’t read each other’s work. So probably that hasn’t occurred at all to lots of people.

But those who know me well enough would know that I am critical of many of the things that we do. But we have come a far way, because it could have been worse.