Posts Tagged ‘west indies’

Cultural Resonance in Rihanna’s Dancehall

February 25, 2016

Riri

Rihanna’s “Work” is slathered with dancehall aesthetics, oozing and dripping off the brows and shoulders of dancers, the froth spilling from Red Stripe neck and mouth, and in every twist, dip and arms crossed on the lower back arch of a woman throwing it back on a man. The dancing is straight dancehall as is her look, equal parts dancehall queen and fashion staples from yard.

When The Guardian explored Rihanna’s use of accent and language in the song, linguist Lisa Jansen is quoted as considering how, “Although she uses some prominent Caribbean features in Work, they are not specifically or uniquely Bajan”; while contemplating that “Rihanna draws on various elements and eclectically builds her own linguistic repertoire.” What Jansen doesn’t note is that those “Caribbean features in her lead single” aren’t just quasi-Caribbean-sounding-kinda-ting, and yes, it’s not Bajan at all, but it’s not some Rihanna-speak, it’s specifically Jamaican patois with a Bajan lilt. I am not fluent in Jamaican patois (not even remotely close), so I won’t presume to comment on the replication of that patois, but we know it’s Jamaican patois being employed — at least the Anglophone West Indies and anyone who knows sung Jamaican patois knows this.

Jamaican patois is the lingua franca of Caribbean Cool and dancehall is its long standing center as the pulsing vein of contemporary West Indian popular culture. And in a region that is sometimes bubbling with inter-island assertions and jealousies about culture, pride and ownership, this might be a difficult thing for some of us to acknowledge, but it is. Jamaicans know this; the rest of us either begrudgingly admit this or pretend this isn’t the case.

Where dancehall culture and black cultural masculinity meet, further interesting things unfurl which dictate the lean and swag of men, the stereotype of the screw face of every badman in a Jamaican movie, the clothes they wear, how they operate, receive and give wines, dagger, receive or give oral, or purport not to, and this is all encoded in the language of dancehall. It’s part of what DJ Khaled taps into in his snapchats punctuated by sporadic Jamaican patois interjections and phrases, and his claims that he doesn’t go down on women (“like a Jamaican”): it both complicates and ups his cool quotient.

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Why I Love to Love and Hate to Love West Indian Men

June 4, 2015

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Every now and then, an article or two makes the rounds touting the pros of dating “a Caribbean man”, primarily for the elucidation of women outside of the region and our cultures. Sometimes, a few women and men friends of mine post these on Facebook with either an eye-roll, a pointed ‘no comment’ or as comment bait, but more often than not, they often go ignored by most of the folks I know personally. It’s almost like once you’ve been living with it all your life, like sunshine and warm oceans, it’s not that special — The Caribbean Man — and certainly not warranting all that list attention. Plus, we like to try to not feed the machine (cough, egos). Furthermore, not all of us may agree. According to a Trini sistren I know, “Trini man is de worst!” But unfortunately, guess who holds her heart right now? Yes, a Trini man. Cue the sound of sighs. Love dem too bad and hate to love dem.

But what is it with West Indian men? Living abroad, dating West Indian men can be like comfort food. I like hearing my own accent and dialect tumbling in my ear. I like the worn familiar feeling of an old and obscure-to-nearly-everyone-but-Trinbagonians Machel song. I like how they love me — for the most part. I like how they freely wine or stoically rather not. How we fight. How I challenge their worldview as a queer black feminist. Or, watch them leave me, walking away with a headshake saying, “Nah. We are too different.”

I love West Indian men’s carriage and swagger, their walk and heteropatriarchal expressions of protection and care. I love how they hail up one another and embrace, give each other bounces and touch thumbs. I love some of the many things they share all up and down the archipelago, not just Trinidad and Tobago. There is plenty that I don’t love about West Indian masculinity too, by the way. But right now, for the time being, I just want to sit on the verandah and watch them gallery deyself.

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In the Castle of Our Skins

September 20, 2011

“The needles of their masts /  That thread archipelagoes. . . ” –Derek Walcott

A call to submit to:

“In the Castle of Our Skins”: A blog carnival series focused on voices exploring the range of contemporary Caribbean/West Indian heritage, background, culture and where these intersect with race & identity.

Contributors and bloggers are encouraged to ponder their own range of issues and intersectionality such as: What concerns do you have if any about your race and national identity? Do these function in tandem at all for you and in what ways? Are they separate or intertwined; in what ways? Is it complicated, this business of how you see yourself and your collective cultural identity? What about where your gender intersects with any of these ideas?–Your sexuality? How you look at the world? How has this skin that you’re in impacted your worldview? Do these outlooks/concerns/ideas change when you’re outside the Caribbean versus inside? In what ways?

What about skin tone? Socio-economics? Crime, perceptions of crime or political agenda narratives? Constructs of beauty, attractiveness, virility and the like? Body image? Your sexuality? You’re a straight, black West Indian man or a gay Caribbean man, or a queer, ‘mix-up’ Caribbean femme? How do you negotiate these variant identities — and in what ways?  What’s everyday survival like and everyday living? What bothers you about these conversations? What would you like to see changed or hear more of? And anything else you want to say!

We’re a small collective of Caribbean and West Indian bloggers, feminists, writers, creative thinkers & artists who think the conversations in this blog carnival are both vital and necessary.

Talk yuh talk — join us and be part of the conversation!

We’re hoping to broaden this conversation with a specific focus on Indo-Trinbagonian identity, womanhood, personhood and what these variant identities mean for the people embodying these spaces. How do these multiple spaces function inside of contemporary West Indian/Caribbean identity? And in what ways? (This call for examination too, is a work in progress—but doh study it, it’ll come together somehow).

Pieces can be any length, any style. Be unflinching if you need to be — or not. Previously written posts and essays are welcome. Send questions, thoughts, suggestions, concerns, essays or submissions links to creativecommess [at] gmail [dot] com.

Unfurling a tightly woven rope—

June 8, 2010

might at first prove easy to do but then what do you do when it wants to—fights to, curl back up on itself?

Late last week I finished Marlon James’ incredible Book of Night Women and I’ve been thinking about some of the many things that struck me about the novel. It was an extremely riveting and visceral book to read on some levels but I got through it and I would highly recommend it to anyone. On top of which, week before last, while I was still reading it, I heard Spokenheart ( a local poet) read her stellar poem “House Nigger” at an open-mike, reflecting on the historical legacy coupled with her own experiences of being a light-skinned, pretty, black American southern girl with light eyes, grappling with all that comes with inhabiting her skin. Her words were a powerful examination of colour privilege, stereotypes, intra-racism, race, identity and the self.

Because colourism, its manifestations and perceptions and constructs of beauty fascinate me (and also makes my head & heart hurt sometimes)—the colourism in James’ book was interesting to me. Inside a slavery narrative, where fiction meets historical context in the West Indies on a  Jamaica plantation estate—of course there is going to be colourism and some of its attendant intersections; but the complexities of how it is woven into this particular story and James’ own attention to interrogating some inherent constructs of said colourism was some powerful stuff. In one fell swoop, he takes The Tragic Mulatto, the “browning”—the notion of the presumed beauty of the mulatto woman, the presumed unattractiveness of the un-mixed black woman—and complicates the whole lot of them. This, on top of everything else that is taking place within that space.

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