For decades, the writer has not been able to be in Saint Lucia for the observance of what the Folk Research Center has started to call Mwa Ewitaj Kweyol, and has had to depend on family, friends and other contacts in Saint Lucia for information on the observance.
For decades also, the stories from the family, friends and other contacts have been quite consistent. To a great degree, they report on people displaying artefacts, others viewing the artefacts, and some buying them. To a lesser degree, they speak about people telling stories or performing dances or performing music, and some paying to experience these performances. And to a very small degree, they speak of the presentation of information about the histories of the artefacts and the stories and the dances and the music.
In all of these accounts, there especially are few reports about what makes the artefacts and the stories and the dances and the music kweyol. The accounts suggest that in spite of the spirit of understanding and appreciation and celebration that we claim to be the hallmarks of journen or semen or mwa or l’annee or pais kweyol, with reference to the word “kweyol,” there is a “line” we will not “cross,” and/or a “demon” we will not “fight.” This article tries to promote the admission of the existence of this line or demon, and to promote a certain “crossing” of the “line” or a certain “wrestling” with the “demon.”
Let us consider the word “kweyol.” An on-line Saint Lucian Kweyol dictionary defines it as “creole language,” (which does not say much, for the authors of the definition use the word to define the word) and a “person of African descent” (which leads us to wonder why a person who is of African descent is not an Afwichen or a mamai Afwik).
Let us consider the word “creole.” An on-line “non-Saint-Lucian” dictionary defines it as “a mother tongue formed from the contact of two languages,” and “a person of mixed European and black descent, especially in the Caribbean.” We may argue with the idea that a “creole” that is born of two earlier languages is a “mother” tongue. We also may argue that a person who is “mixed” would be of European racial/regional descent and the equivalent African racial/regional descent (not “black”, which is not equivalent to “European”). And, we may argue that whether we consider “language” or “blood,” the ideas of “kweyol” and/or “creole” refer to the result of the mixing of two “parents” in a context or location that is different from the original “homes” of these “parents.”
Let us go back to the accounts of the observance of journen or semen or mwa or l’annee or pais kweyol. The accounts give the impression that the observers in Saint Lucia focus mainly on the histories of the artifacts and stories and dances and music in the island of Saint Lucia, and perhaps in the other islands of the Caribbean, almost entirely in the last few decades, and to a much lesser degree, within the last few centuries.
The accounts also create the impression that when the presenters give the histories of the artifacts and the stories and the dances and the music, they focus almost entirely on the histories of the European contributions to them, and almost never on the histories of the African contributions to them. The accounts remind us of the key lines from the masterpiece from kaisomaster Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, Dey En See Africa At All. In the song, he puts himself in the place of an eavesdropper who overhears a conversation mothers are having about the physical features of their children. He reports this:
For, hear dem boas, to deh friend and deh naybuh
“My baby nose from de Spanish Granfadduh
“My gran mudduh married a Chinie name Lowe
“Dat is de eyes so pretty, an she have such tick eyebrow
“De dimples come from me husband side who great gran mudduh was Irish
“An watch how de eyes pretty an white, cause de mudduh mix wid British
“An watch at me – (I’m) Carib an Portuguese, so, me chile hair curly”
De baby black down to de eyeball – dey en see Africa at all
De baby black like a voodoo doll – (but) dey en see Africa at all….
The mothers seem very comfortable connecting their children to diverse and perhaps assumed ancestors, but refuse to connect the children to their African ancestors – even though the children display very obvious evidence of African ancestry. In the same way, one impression is that observers of journen or semen or mwa or l’annee or pais kweyol in Saint Lucia connect their kweyol artifacts or stories or dances or music to the region in recent times, to Europe in recent and ancient times, and to Africa in almost no times.
There no doubt are many reasons for that lack of conscious connection. One is that the observers do not have much information on the connection of their persons and lives to People of the African Continent. One is that the social and cultural system in which they live does not legitimize their knowledge of or describing of that connection. One is that many who could help with that legitimizing (like the “intellectuals” and “progressives” and “revolutionaries”) refuse to help with it. They express these views: “These damned Africans. They sold us into slavery. To hell with them!” But they almost never express these views: “These damned Europeans. They imposed slavery on us. They exploited us and dehumanized us and turned us into calabashes during slavery. Then they filled the calabashes we have become with a psychology they can exploit. To hell with them!”
But one very real, and very unstated, reason, is as follows: the education to which all of us have been subjected creates in us a tendency to place people and things in ranks and statuses and classes. We call them the high rank or status or class, middle rank or status or class, and low rank or status or class. The education leads us to strive to rise into or stay within the high rank or status or class, and to rise from and never sink into the low rank or status or class. In addition, the education leads us to place people and things from Europe in the high rank or status or class, and place people and things from Africa in the low rank or status or class. And so, the education leads us to minimize, or even eliminate, our conscious connection to things African – including People of the African Continent or People of African Descent. It thus leads us to become victims of a “demon of deliberate disconnection.” One piece of evidence lies in the words of the mothers. Here is how Africans Before CARICOM explains the situation and one way out of it:
“As a group, we of the Caribbean are in two minds about whether we want to study the African part of our heritage. On the one hand, we say we want to study it because we believe it is an important key to our appreciation of ourselves. On the other hand, we say we do not want to study it because we believe it is an important key to our devaluation of ourselves. Actually, in most of us at most times, the reason for studying the African part of our heritage loses and the reason for not studying it wins. That is because deep inside we believe that through this study we will discover things that will make worse a terrible feeling that is in us.
“One person who addressed these matters directly was the late Stephen Wayne Louis. He studied the story of members of the World African Community over thousands of years. That is the long story from the beginning of human beings on earth to the coming of members of the Community to the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas. What he found and shared with us was not a story that developed or worsened this terrible feeling. It instead was a story that clarified the record, promoted understanding, taught many lessons, and yes, eased that feeling.”
The remainder of this article presents highlights from the story of the members of the World African Community over thousands of years. From these highlights, it arrives at ideas that have been at the center of the thinking and living of these members, also for thousands of years. It describes how the ideas are in one philosophy of these members, and the constitutions of their traditional societies. It describes how the ideas are in the structure, performance, ideas and lyrics of their music. Then it uses these descriptions of the long history and heritage and culture of these members in the development of an appreciation of the works of one of the musicians of the Caribbean. Yes, do read on.
The studies that the multigenius Cheikh Anta Diop conducted led him to conclude that thousands of years ago the world of human beings more or less included two “cradles” or centers for the development of civilization: the Northern Cradle or center stretched from Europe to Central Asia, and the Southern Cradle or center stretched from Africa through Southern Asia. He concluded that in their colder and harsher environment, those in Europe (specifically, those in Ancient Greece and in Ancient Rome) developed such tendencies as individualism; xenophobia; competition; moral and material solitude; the emphasis on the centrality of the male in family and social and societal affairs; the view of the ultimate aggregate social system as the city state; and the conquest or domination of the “other.” He also concluded that in their warmer and more welcoming environment, those in the Southern Cradle in general and Africa specifically developed such tendencies as collectivism; xenophilia; cooperation; moral and material solidarity; the emphasis on the centrality of the female in family and social and societal affairs; the view of the ultimate large social system as the territorial state; and cosmopolitanism. In fact, Diop and Charles Finch argue that even after thousands of years, these tendencies have not been obliterated from beings or lives of the children of the respective cradles.
The tendencies of the Southern Cradle in Africa seem to be embedded in the philosophy of MAAT that Maulana Karenga tells us that children of Africa in Kemet (the so-called “Ancient Egypt”) first developed thousands of years ago. Many say this philosophy has at its center what lay persons call seven “principles” but experts call “interpretations”: Truth, Justice, Propriety, Harmony, Balance, Reciprocity, and Order. When we read the constitutions of traditional African societies as Chancellor Williams presents them, we also see the principles or interpretations serving as anchors of these constitutions. And one of the major conclusions of Molefi Kete Asante is that among People of the African Continent (PACs), in the Universe, “coherence among persons and things accords.”
Reflections in Music
We find the reflection of this Harmony, Reciprocity, Balance, Order or “Coherence” in the structure of the music of People of the African Continent (PACs), and the music of People of African Descent (PADs) in the Caribbean. One reflection is call and response, in which one part “calls” and one other “responds,” and the combination of parts seems like a certain “give and take” that creates an atmosphere of “coming together.” Another reflection is syncopation, in which performers do not play out certain accents, those in the performance arena seem to receive an invitation to contribute these accents, and so the combination of parts also creates an atmosphere of “coming together.” Yet another is diversity within unity, in which the “song” allows certain parts to “take off” to do their “own thing,” but to come back to the other parts in the “main song” in a certain “coming together.” Still another is dialogue among voices, in which each part has its “turn,” with the sum and sequencing of these “turns” resulting in some sense of “coming together.” In addition, a study that the writer of this article conducted of People of African Descent in the Eastern Caribbean in the early 1990s reveals that they would like their music to become popular because they believe that in this way the music would promote a sense of membership in a group, promote the integrity of a group, promote solidarity among the members of a group, and create benefits that these members as a whole could enjoy.
The conventions in the structure and performance of music by members of the World African Community, and the reasons People of African Descent in the Eastern Caribbean give for wishing that their music become popular, all point to the presence within these peoples of the tendency toward Harmony, Balance, Reciprocity, Order or “Coherence” – toward the philosophy the Kemetu in the Nile called MAAT. This means one approach to understanding and appreciating the “kweyol” element that we find in Saint Lucia, the Eastern Caribbean, and the Greater Caribbean is to understand and appreciate the idea of this African “coming together” in “kweyol” artifacts or stories or dances or music.
It is extremely easy to find the presence of this “coming together” in the music of People of African Descent in the Caribbean. In kaiso, we find call and response especially in the works Earl Rodney arranged for Sparrow and those Leston Paul arranged for Arrow. In reggae, we find syncopation especially in the interplay between the bass and the drums in the instrumental accompaniment that Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare (Sly and Robbie) provide. In kaiso, we find diversity within unity in the weaving of rhythms in the “devil beat” in the works of Shadow or in individual works such as Dance Dis Dance from Arrow. In kaiso also, with the “taking of turns,” we find dialogue among voices in the “picong” tradition. And among the respondents in the study, one reason for desiring that Caribbean music become popular in other parts of the world is the perception that the popularity will lead to visits to the region and so to benefits not just for musicians but also for the entire economy – in other words, benefits for the community as a whole. All this points to the presence in the artists and their audiences of the strong inclination toward a certain “come together,” and a certain related “sense of community.”
Ideas and Lyrics in Music
We have considered the reflection of “coming together” or “sense of community” in the structure and performance of the music of people of African Descent in the Caribbean, but these reflections seem to be present in the ideas and related lyrics in the music. But before we examine these ideas and lyrics, it may be wise to look at two specific works: Wonderful World, Beautiful People from the late 1960s; and One Love from the 1970s.
What appear to be the key lines in the first song say: “Instead of fussing and fighting, cheating, backbiting, scandalizing, (and) hating / We could have a Wonderful World … Beautiful People….” – the emphasis is on exhorting people to aspire to and move toward an ultimate condition that is the coming together of all. What appear to be the key lines in the second song say: “Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon / So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom / Have pity on those whose chances grows t’inner / There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation. One Love!” – the emphasis is on confrontation or even warfare, in which one of the parties is The Man and his camp; the victory of The Man and his camp and the corresponding defeat of some other camp; the imposition of the way of the winning camp on the losing camp; and the claim by the winning camp that the new condition represents “One Love.”
One point of view is that the first song seems to be reflective of the Southern Cradle or African thinking, and the second seems reflective of the Northern Cradle or European thinking, about the Universe. But there is one other observation: the first song became popular in the Caribbean before the beginning of the reggae “revolution” among People of the European Continent and People of European Descent, and the second one became popular in the Caribbean only after that “beginning.” This means that we have to ponder the possibility that Wonderful World, Beautiful People is an indication of what People of African Descent in the Caribbean celebrate without, and One Love an indication of what they celebrate with, the intervention of their dominators. After all, one opinion among many of the People of African Descent (including the “intellectuals” and “progressives” and “revolutionaries”) in the Caribbean is that One Love is an excellent song in part because the British Broadcasting Corporation has called it the Song of the Millennium!
Clearly, the better representation of the Southern Cradle or African mind set would be Wonderful World, Beautiful People, and not One Love. Indeed, in song after song and in album after album and over decade after decade (over more than 50 years), the writer and performer of Wonderful World, Beautiful People has been revealing to us through his music that he has been examining, understanding, internalizing, celebrating, and/or propagating, the idea of “coming together” and the display of the “sense of community” that are so characteristic of the traditional African mind set. The writer and performer calls the idea and display “oneness,” acknowledges the place of this idea in the African mind set by calling it “African Oneness,” calls his band “Oneness,” and as far back as at Reggae Sunsplash 1981, staged a presentation he called a Night of African Oneness.
Perhaps at this point a new look at the word “creole” in the Caribbean context would be in order. In its broadest and most neutral and most universal sense, the word refers to the child that is the result of the mixing of two “parents” in a context or location that is different from the original “homes” of the “parents.” This means we may have a creole or kweyol language, a creole or kweyol person, or a creole or kweyol story, food, dance, dress, music or other human expression. This also means that we may apply the word “creole” or “kweyol” to the works of Sesenne Descartes, Paul Keens Douglas, Louise Bennet Coverly, Jamesie and the Happy Seven, Arrow, Sparrow, De King Arrow, Coupe Cloue, and Jimmy Cliff. They all create Caribbean “expressions” that are the results of their weaving of things they secure from “parents” that include Africa and Europe.
Works on “African Oneness”
In the past, in the celebration of our “creole” or “kweyol” expressions, several accounts reveal that we have incorporated the discussion of the European contributions to these expressions, and reduced or eliminated the discussion of the African contributions to them. In the correction of this state of affairs, this article has described the reflection of the African stress on “coming together” and “sense of community” in the use of call and response, syncopation, dialogue among voices, and diversity within unity in the music of members of the World African Community in general and People of African Descent in the Caribbean in particular. Further in the correction of the state of affairs, this article now describes the reflection of the “coming together” and the “sense of community” in the ideas of “oneness” in general and “African Oneness” in particular in the works of one musician who is a Person of African Descent and is from the Caribbean. It also ponders the possibility that the presence of the “coming together,” the “sense of community” and “African Oneness” in the person and life and works of the musician may explain the long “subterranean” popularity of his works in the Caribbean, the “phenomenal” popularity of his works in “Afro Brazil,” and the “exponential” popularity of his person and works throughout Africa – in all three locations, a popularity over more than five decades.
At the center of this body of works from the musician is the importance of what he calls Universal Love, the organically and unboundedly and universally reciprocated presence of which is synonymous with African Oneness. The nature of this Love seems apparent in one of the most popular songs in the region before the “revolution”: “It has got no age / No beginning, no end / Won’t slip, won’t slide / Won’t break, won’t bend / My love is as solid as a rock / Solid as a rock / Solid as a rock / My love is as solid as a rock / I can’t stop!”
This Love not only seems to be different from, but especially seems to be in contrast to, the outcomes of the work of the traditional “institutions.” One of these outcomes is the lack of connection and compassion, which seems apparent from the opening lines from another one of the most popular songs in the Caribbean before the “revolution”: “Will you patronize me, brother / Do you recognize me, brother / Do you believe what your teacher said / Or, is it the food that your preacher fed / Why you minimize me, my brother / Oh, brother!”
Indeed, one idea that also is apparent from the lyrics of another song that did not earn great popularity after the start of the “revolution” seems to be that the institutions have little value in the attainment of the Love that is the foundation of African Oneness: “We don’t need no new religion / We don’t need no other savior / What we need is to understand / Our fellow man and our behavior / To live in Love and Unity / Universally! / Universal Love!”
The idea that emerges from these songs and others is that the essential constituents of the Universe are not “institutions” and other interests that dichotomize the Universe by cultivating such mind sets as “my camp” versus “those who are outside” or “my camp” versus “those who are different” or “my camp” versus the “those who are opposed to it,” but that these essential constituents are on the one hand individual human beings and on the other hand relationships between and among human beings.
The idea that the essential constituents of the Universe are single human beings, and a related respect for the individuality of these human beings, as well as the equivalence and equity and equality that should be the privilege of each of them, seems to be in one of the key lines of the song My Philosophy: “You be you. I be me.”
But there also is the consistent and persistent and passionate call for the weaving of the constituents into relationships: This seems to be captured in the entirety of the quoted part of My Philosophy: “You be you, I be me. Let’s get together, and we’ll agree.” Indeed, it seems that in the body of works, the smallest part of the Universe appears to be the individual, and the next smallest part appears to be the relationship – but not just any.
It seems specifically that for the “getting together” and for the “agreeing” to take place, there needs to be between the parties not only equivalence and equity and equality, but also the relationship that has its center an organically and unboundedly and universally reciprocated Love. The nature of this Love is captured in key lines that indicate that it does not discriminate against those with any specific attributes. We find this idea in key lines of the song Love is All: “Still I love the rich, because they’re yet so lonely / And I love the poor, because they’re still so many / Love is all I have to give … To give and take”).
Indeed, this “getting together” or “coming together” weaves not only individuals in different stations in life, but also those in different groups that appear to be concentric circles – such as the self, family, friends, and outsiders – as we find in Samba Reggae: “Ain’t nobody gonna stop us here / It’s Unity at Pelhourinho Square / (We) got our friends and we’re a family / Be a part of this Unity!” Moreover, this “getting together” or “coming together” even applies to all the elements in the Universe, an idea we find in the song I am in All: “There is no ‘my’ mind and no ‘your’ mind / All there is is the cosmic mind / I am in All / And, All is in I”).
One attribute of this “coming together” is the view of the Universe as made of entities with equivalence and equity and even equality. But another is the view of the Universe as made of relationships that specifically have at their center an agape love that is the equivalent to the giving of oneself and from oneself so others would be stabilized and realized. We find the advocating of this agape love in the song Lonely Streets:
Evening comes … sun sinks low / Shadows tell that it’s time to go
Mystic smiles … on faces wild / Comic styles … but their faces don’t glow
I walked the lonely streets / I walked the lonely streets
I walked the lonely streets / I walked the lonely streets / There was no love to be found
Wandering child … searching for / Directions … that images don’t show
It’s a sin … (children have to go) beckoning / For the love … that (they) need to know
I walked the lonely streets / I walked the lonely streets
I walked the lonely streets / I walked the lonely streets / There was no love to be found
In the song, the lead singer painfully and plaintively paints the picture of children who have no home to which they can go; the economical accents of the lead guitar respond to and accentuate the depiction of the situation; and the bass guitar and the bass drum paint the picture of the hard/harsh environment in which the children have to survive. The song is like an “essay” that stirs understanding the children: their situation, their necessities, and the importance of helping them become stabilized and realized.
The ideas and lyrics of Lonely Streets reveal that it seeks to promote compassion from the environment and a related sense of security in the individual, but other songs give indications of other attributes of the ultimate condition in the Universe. For example: Love Comes focuses on a “coming together” that uplifts during the “lowest lows.” And I Walk With Love focuses on a “coming together” that is marked by the synchronization of the actions of individuals with those things in the Universe that they cannot control.
Perhaps the song that best captures attributes of the “coming together” is Where There is Love. One attribute is patience, which the song reveals in “Love suffereth long, and is strong.” Another one is coherence, which it reveals in “Where there is love / There’s Harmony / And unity / Comes naturally.” Yet another is contribution for attainment, which it reveals in “Where there is Love / You understand / Your brethren man / Give him a hand.” Still another is that these attributes lead to a certainty about the world, which the song reveals in the lines, “Where there is Love / There’s no confusion / Only solutions / No illusions.” With the certainty comes optimism, which the song captures in “Where there is Love / It’s only right / To walk in light / Through the darkest night.”
The idea of innocence and bliss that appears to be the ultimate outcome of the “coming together” seems to be captured in one of the key lines of the song: “Where there is Love / Oh, life’s aglow / And babies grow / Like we all know.” And the idea that the “coming together” is an ultimate condition is in the line, “Where there is Love / I’ll be there!”
While the focus in Lonely Streets in on the stimulating of compassion and contribution, and the focus in Where There is Love is on the definition of the ultimate condition in the Universe, the focus in Bongo Man is a “coming together” in the anticipation, promotion, and realization of an ultimate condition. The song captures the “coming together” and the idea of the condition in the line, “I an I are going to Zion.” It captures the idea of the source of the inspiration for the attainment of this condition in the lines, “I hope you are prepared / The Bongo Man is here / The Bongo Man has come / Come! Come!” Because the idea of the Bongo Man represents the persistence of “things African” among People of African Descent, the song represents a “coming together” under the inspiration of the “things African” in the realization of the ultimate condition in the Universe.
That ultimate condition is “oneness.” It may be for this reason that the musician whose work we have been examining calls his band “Oneness.” The comparison of the greater presence of this “oneness” among African peoples and the lower presence of it among European peoples is one basis for calling it “African Oneness.” It may be for this reason that the musician whose works we have been examining staged at Reggae Sunsplash in 1981 an event he dared call a Night of African Oneness. Indeed, the musician declared in two of his songs that “Oneness is our reality!” and that “We need that Oneness!”
Reactions of PACs and PADs
The works of this musician have drawn People of the African Continent and People of African Descent for decades. For example, in the Caribbean, they have included such songs as Wonderful World Beautiful People (which exhorts people toward Oneness), My Love is Solid as a Rock (which recognizes a cornerstone of Oneness), and Brother (which admonishes those that depart from the “warmth” that is an aspect of Oneness). For example, among People of African Descent and other peoples in Brazil, the works have been drawing audiences of more than 50,000 to his concerts since as far back as about more than four decades ago. And people from Nigeria say that there, his works became so popular that they rivaled those of James Brown; there, some of his works may have outsold those of Fela Anikulapo Kuti; and there, his song House of Exile was so popular it was what the musician claimed to have been a second national anthem.
This phenomenal popularity preceded, and has outlived, the “reggae revolution” that took place among People of the European Continent and People of European Descent and shaped a simllar “revolution” among members of the World African Community. For this reason, one perhaps should not say that it was contingent on the validation of the work of the musician by the colonial “order,” the neo-colonial “order,” and children of these “orders.” It seems reasonable to find an explanation for that popularity within some thing that is common to the musician and those within whom his works resonated so much. That common denominator probably includes the structure and performance of the works, but this explanation seems insufficient, as many of the works that became popular in the region and Afro Brazil and Africa in did not conform to what had become validated structural and performance formulas – indeed, departed from them entirely.
That common denominator probably includes the ideas on the Universe, and the lyrics that express these ideas. This seems to be captured in one explanation the musician gave for the popularity of his works in Africa: they are popular there, he said about 40 years ago, because they reveal that he “thinks” like an “African.” That “thinking” indeed may be the advocating of, aspiration toward, and celebrating of, “African Oneness.”
Contrasts and Curiosities
One issue some critics may raise is, if the works of the musician so much embody the Oneness that is deeply embedded in members of the World African Community, why have the works of the musician not remained exponentially popular in his island and the Caribbean in general. One reason is that the members in the island and the region have been much more susceptible than those in Afro Brazil and those in Africa to the presence or absence of the validation of the works by the parents and children of the colonial “order” and the neo-colonial “order” in Europe and North America.
One other issue some critics may raise is, if People of the African Continent place such great stress on “oneness,” why are their societies so deep in discord and conflict. One answer is that the inclination toward oneness is a central tendency of the whole group, but there will be departures that are close to or far from that tendency. Another answer is that many of the conflicts are the result of tensions between those who seek to retain the native African systems and “leaders” bent on replacing the native systems with the imported systems for the benefit of themselves and their controllers from outside.
But for millennia, conflicts among People of the African Continent have sprung from the conflicts among those outsiders who have sought to employ the PACs as they compete for power and resources in all parts of Africa. The outsiders have included the Semites in the Nile Valley, Greeks in the Nile Valley, Romans in the Nile Valley, Arabs in the Nile Valley and Northern Africa, Moslems in many parts of Africa, “Christianizing” invaders in all parts of Africa, European enslavers in all parts of Africa, Arab enslavers of many parts of Africa, and European colonizers in all parts of Africa. In recent decades, they have included Soviet aspiring colonial dominators in all parts of Africa. In recent years, they have included Chinese aspiring colonial dominators in all parts of Africa.
(The history of these invaders of the Continent over millennia leads to one thesis that demands attention and that may apply to members of the World African Community in general: the greater the integration of members of the World African Community into the systems these invaders of the Continent create inside or outside the Continent, the greater the social, the cultural, and particularly, the psychological degradation of the members of the Community – the lower the inclination toward “coming together,” the inclination toward the “sense of community,” and the inclination toward “oneness,” among the members of the Community. That is, the greater the integration of members of the World African Community into the systems the invaders of the Continent create, the lower the traditional display of “civilization” among members of the Community.)
But there seems to be evidence that in spite of those factors that stimulate tension and conflict and warfare, and the related social and cultural and psychological degredation in the Continent, its people have retained their highly internalized, or even autonomic, inclination toward “African Oneness.” One piece of evidence of that retention may well be the popularity of the works of the musician who celebrates “African Oneness.”
In appreciation of the “creole” in the Caribbean, we mainly have focused on physical things that include the displaying of artifacts, the telling of stories, the performance of dances, and the performance of music. But there are other aspects of the “creole” that demand attention: what are ideas about the nature of the Universe we embed in our expressions, and what is the presence of African, Indian, European or comparable ideas in them; what are ideas about the ideal condition in the Universe that we embed in our expressions, and what is the presence of African, Indian, European or comparable ideas in them; what are ideas about ideal relationships among people and among things and between people and things in the Universe that we embed in these expressions, and what is the presence of African, Indian, European and comparable ideas in them.
The experts helped us determine that as we express an emphasis on a certain “coming together,” “sense of community,” or “African Oneness” in our music, we use four major conventions in structure and performance: syncopation, call and response, diversity within unity, and dialogue among voices. And so, an additional set of questions would be these: through what structural conventions and what performance conventions do we express our ideas about the nature of the Universe, the ideal ultimate condition in the Universe, and the ideal ultimate relationships involving people and things in the Universe; and, what is the relative presence of conventions from Africa, India, Europe, and comparable other sources of our ancestors, in those we call our own conventions.
The bottom line is some thing we may say to each other over our back fences or across our front yards or as we lime after school or as we lime after work or as we walk from school to home in the afternoon. Let us think about the “creole” or “kweyol” aspects of our beings and our ways and lives – our pronunciation, enunciation, syntax, grammar, sequencing of phrases, sequencing of clauses, and progression of thoughts, as well as our artifacts, stories, dances, music, and other forms of expression. In the case of our music, as we think of how we conceive and compose and perform the works, and as we absorb the performance of them or join in the performance of them, let us think of the use of call and response, syncopation, diversity within unity and dialogue among voices. Certainly in the case of the music and most likely in the cases of the artifacts, the stories, the dances, and the other forms of expression, let us think of the “coming together” and the “sense of community” and the “oneness” as the many times spoken but many more times unspoken ideals that inspire and inform and direct, and even provide criteria and standards for the celebration of, the expressions. And, let us consider the millennia-old histories in the “motherlands,” and the centuries-old histories in the individual islands and the region, that produced the “children” that are the “creole” or “kweyol” artifacts, stories, dances, music, and other forms of expression. So, as we may say to each other over our back fences or across our front yards or as we lime after school or as we lime after work or as we walk from school to home, “Tink uh de whole uh de (damn) ting.”
History, Heritage, and Culture
As we “Tink uh de whole uh de (damn) ting,” there is at least one major lesson that the lives and works of such masters of Cheikh Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga and Molefi Kete Asante and Ivan van Sertima and Charles Finch and Chancellor Williams and John Jackson and Walter Rodney and C L R James teach us: we dare not limit ourselves to our “history” that spans only recent decades or recent centuries. We should understand our “history” that spans not only recent millennia, but multiple millennia. After all, it is the understanding of that long history that helps us understand at least the structural and performance conventions our music. In addition, we should note that all other peoples develop their understandings of themselves, and develop what they view as the fullest appreciation of themselves, by connecting themselves to their own very long story that takes them all the way back to what we often refer to as “the beginning of times.”
We especially may wish to recall the praise we gave to S. Wayne Louis in Africans Before CARICOM: as he dealt with the psychological “demon of deliberate disconnection” which is deep within us and which in part has its roots in our “terrible feeling” of being worth less because of our connection to Africa, “He studied the story of members of the World African Community over thousands of years. That is the long story from the beginning of human beings on earth to the coming of members of the Community to the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas. What he found and shared with us was not a story that developed or worsened this ‘terrible feeling.’ It was instead a story that clarified the record, promoted understanding, taught many lessons, and yes, eased that feeling.”
Indeed, as we help expand and enrich and liberate our understanding of the “creole” or the “kweyol,” we may wish to stress the essential point that arises from our discussion of how we explain the “kweyol” nature of the music of our people by bearing in mind the millennia-old history that explains the conventions in the music. The point is this:
QUEST FOR PEACE
It is imperative that Saint Lucians and other Caricommoners secure an education on the history, heritage and culture of members of the World African Community over the many millennia before these members came to Saint Lucia, to the Caribbean, and to the western hemisphere. It also is imperative that Saint Lucians and other Caricommoners utilize that education in the cultivation of their understanding, valuation and resolution of things Saint Lucian, things Caribbean, and things global. Without the education and the understanding, valuation and resolution, the psyches of the Saint Lucians and other Caricommoners will find no ‘peace.’ With the education and the understanding, valuation and resolution, Saint Lucians and Caricommoners again will celebrate MAAT, their philosophy of Truth, Justice, Propriety, Harmony, Reciprocity, Balance, and Order; from MAAT, they will fashion their ‘creolism’ that celebrates the equivalence and equity and equality among the histories and heritages and cultures of the peoples of the Caribbean; and from creolism, they will inspire real ‘globalism’ that celebrates the equivalence and equity and equality among the histories and heritages and cultures of the peoples of the world. Then, their psyches will find ‘peace.’
Now, here is what some readers may call a “teasing” but others may call something else. In this article, we focused on the work of musician JXXXY “AFRICAN ONENESS” CXXXF.