In The Middle

Mid-Semester. That time of the academic year that an institution tests your learning ability for the short time you have been taught the material. This is college so one semester courses do exist. And…the last time I checked, this was also an ARTS college. So, why are we sitting down and writing what we know? Mind you, this has everything and nothing to do with the fact that I HATE tests and find I remember NOTHING when I sit in front of a paper, but I just think that this ‘Arts College’ has lost its creativity almost totally. Why not have a race; like ‘the first to give the most info on a topic wins’? Or an interactive group quiz? We don’t even have to discuss the answers. the group gets their collective score but the individual’s score is kept in the books. Incentive? We may act old, but we’re never too old for candy! If that’s not good enough then…I don’t know the class can figure it out.

Lecturers shouldn’t be afraid to make the class interesting. Children of a certain age and maturity have short attention spans…well so do young adults! If we don’t wanna take part in this fun lecture then we loose the lesson and the grade. That’s completely on the student. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for written tests for SPECIFIC subjects not all. For those that need that ordinary method, let them be. There’s nothing wrong with good old fashioned practice. It’s still needed sometimes. But where it isn’t needed – don’t use it.

Then again, when those than run, or have been apart of, an institution can admit to the lack of vision for growth of that institution, that’s when one has to ponder upon the vision no one will plant.

Duplicate Dance

We are African, Indian, Chinese and European – among other things – and we move as all the people we are. But as Jamaicans we move mostly like the Africans and Europeans. Dances that represent our connection to both nations are Dinki Mini, Brukins and Quadrille – the latter two with a more European dominated feel.

Pelvic thrusts, hip movements, bent elbows and knees – all present in this dance as well as African traditional dances. Brukins feels just like this; at least to someone of African descent.

Brukins is an interpretation of a European dance, apparently originating in Italy. But that is debatable and not what this is about. This folk dance is really a competition against families of royal descent vying for a seat on the throne. The red and blue costumes represented each family and were taken so seriously that they weren’t seen till the day of the competition. It’s mostly practised in the east but still makes itself know to the entire island. As many of our folk dances were, Brukins was an African imitation of European lifestyle.

 

But enough if that; let’s go to Jamaica and her movements. Dance, like fashion, is a cycle. All the moves seen in Jamaican dance, especially, can be somehow linked to a dance either straight from Africa or from a folk dance. Though not greatly practised in recent times, folk dances present our history through movement. It would seem that if history should be retained, it should be taught in dance – Brukins is one of those dances.

Music Mirror

With popular music reflecting society at a time, the music is destined to change. Music gives mention to economic, social, and political situations that many may not experience or even find out. Musicians make it their duty to tell the people the truth and in so doing, they are able to expose others. Popular music is part of any country’s culture and since independence; Jamaica’s music has mirrored society.

Mento came before a lot of things were developed and introduced to this small island. Mento was ours; from the dance to the music to the very lyrics. This was a time that the hardships of life were made fun of and that sort of tradition was formed. Like a lot of other cultural things, Mento lost its popularity and is now used mostly for other cultural celebrations or private performances. In its time it did pave the way for the exposure to the more easily accessible popular music of the foreign nations.

So it’s the 1940s – 1950s. Mento has died and transistor radio now exist, RJR is now a choice of radio programming and, best of all, ‘Sound Systems’ are now a thing.

The 1960s are here and with it came Ska. Brought about by the desire to have Jamaican music by and for Jamaicans, Ska was our first and truly Jamaican rhythm. This fused the styles of Mento and R&B. Ska came about just as the island became independent. This…was…big! We have we have our own country and now the music to accompany that freedom – that was Ska. It was fun, vibrant and full of life. Within a few years the popularity of Ska had even reached the Jamaicans living in England at the time. Ska was booming, but soon it, too, would start to depict the situations affecting the people. This lead to the rise of a new kind of music…

 

 

A music style that only lasted two years, Rock Steady slowed the pace and highlighted the economic social and political oppression now felt by the people. In this time there was the first wave of violence in Jamaica and this gave way to yet another style of music.

 

 

 

It seems that Reggae has its many perspectives. For one; it is popular music since the 60s yet it is seen as the beat made popular from 1969 to 1983. Another perspective is the ‘Early Reggae’ and ‘Roots Reggae’ eras said to exist in 1969-1974 and 1975-1983 respectively.

On another note, listening carefully, one will hear the Ska riff sitting atop the slowed Rock Steady bass line and sporting a little Mento influence. With the help of Bob Marley, the music started to have a message. This came at a time when America’s civil rights struggles were prominent. Unfortunately, Bob died. And his death left a hole in the heart of reggae – something had to take its place.

Stopping the vocals in parts of a song evoked a positive response in people and dubing was born. These blanks gave time for interaction with the crowd. Dubing gave way to deejaying and with the decline of their popularity, they gave way to Dancehall. Dancehall shows that music is no longer just entertainment, it is now a way of life.

Music has become life and life music.