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Jamaica: A State of Language, Music and Crisis of Nation

Langue, musique et crise de la nation jamaïcaine
Hubert Devonish and Byron Jones
Translation(s):
Langue, musique et crise de la nation jamaïcaine

Abstracts

The paper examines the evolution of language use in popular Jamaican music over six decades, between the two coexisting and simultaneously competing languages of Jamaica. English, a colonial linguistic inheritance, the official language of the post-colonial Jamaican State, competes for a place in music lyrics with the Jamaican Language (Jamaican Creole, Patwa). This is the native language of the mass of the population and the de facto national language. The paper discusses how this battle plays out in terms of which language varieties are predominantly associated with which Jamaican popular music genres. It culminates in examining the role which the Jamaican Language came to play, via its use in music, in the most significant challenge to the existence of the Jamaican State since independence, the military confrontation in West Kingston/Tivoli Gardens events of May 2010, around the arrest and extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

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Text / excerpt

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Outline

Introduction
Language Foundations: Jamaican Popular Music in the Pre-Independence 1950s
The Nationless State
The Making of the Nation Through Language in Music
“Prophecy”: The Stateless Nation will Seize the Nationless State
Christopher “Dudus” Coke: Challenging the State in the Name of the Nation
The Fire Next Time?

Text / first lines

Introduction

Since gaining political independence from Britain in 1962, Jamaica has managed to capture an unusually prominent place in the international public imagination. In addition to a fourth leg, athletics, this prominence stands on three legs, its music, its language and political conflict associated with international crime. We seek here to understand the nexus between these three areas of Jamaica’s fame/notoriety on the international scene. At the core is Jamaican popular music and its relationship to the languages used in Jamaica.

In order to understand the role language plays in Jamaican popular music, we first have to understand the elements which make up a musical piece. One is the musical element itself, made up of sound organised according to pitch and rhythmic sequences, and reducible to a musical score. Another is the actual production and performance of these sounds whether by musical instruments or other technology, and/or the human voice. For music involving the hu...

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References

Electronic reference

Hubert Devonish and Byron Jones, « Jamaica: A State of Language, Music and Crisis of Nation », Volume ! [Online], 13 : 2 | 2017, Online since 21 April 2017, connection on 20 September 2017. URL : http://volume.revues.org/5321 ; DOI : 10.4000/volume.5321

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About the authors

Hubert Devonish

Hubert Devonish est un linguiste caribéen qui fut professeur de linguistique à l’University of the West Indies depuis près de quarante ans. Ayant pris sa retraite en 2016, il continue à défendre les droits de la communauté des personnes parlant les langues créoles des Caraïbes, en tant que coordinateur de la Jamaican Language Unit à l’UWI. Il a fait de nombreuses recherches et publié de nombreux ouvrages en linguistique, couvrant l’ensemble des champs de la discipline, de la phonologie et à la syntaxe, via la sociolinguistique et l’aménagement linguistique, sans oublier le rôle de la langue dans les musiques caribéennes. Son ouvrage le plus connu est Language and Liberation: Creole Language Politics in the Caribbean (Arawak Press, 2007).

Byron Jones

Byron Jones a étudié la linguistique à à l’University of the West Indies ; sa thèse porte sur les usages de la langue dans les musiques populaires jamaïcaines. Il s’intéresse également à l’évolution et à la variation des langues, à la linguistique sur corpus, à l’argot, à la syntaxe et à la sémantique anglais, ainsi qu’aux musiques et cultures populaires et à la traduction biblique. Il a créé et conçu le Corpus of Jamaican Popular Music (COPJAM)

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Copyright

L'auteur & les Éd. Mélanie Seteun

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