The Creole Voices of West Indian Slave Narratives

Part of the The New Urban Atlantic book series (NUA)


In his classic reggae anthem from 1981, Burning Spear uses the pronoun “us” to connect not only to the community of listeners but also as a link across history with enslaved West Indians. Thus, the voice of Burning Spear in 1981 is presented as incorporating other voices from past history. This multiplicity is enhanced by the fact that the name Burning Spear refers to both the singular musician, whose given name is Winston Rodney, and the band. The multiplicity and syncretism of the communities in the epigraph is signaled not only textually in the references to “you” and “us” but also in the rhythm and sound of the song itself—its reggae beat. This beat reflects its creole community and combines influences from various musical styles such as spirituals, West African drumming rhythms, country, blue grass, calypso, as well as American rhythm and blues. In addition, reggae’s roots in the poor and working-class environments of newly urbanized 1950s Kingston, Jamaica, are intricately intertwined with the social and political movements of the same era, in which labor unions across many of the former British West Indian colonies transformed themselves into political parties, each claiming to represent “I-man,” the common man.1 Influenced by church revival meetings, political rallies often featured testimonies from those who had benefited from the largess of the party in question.


Slave System Slave Owner Editorial Note Multiple Voice Narrative Voice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Nicole N. Aljoe 2012

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