The Race and Popular Music Program Initiative Presents Creole Audibility: Soundings on Dominica's Popular Music

Women's Formal Lounge, 4:00pm



The RPM (Race and Popular Music) Initiative announces its visiting scholar for Fall 2016: Timothy Rommen, Professor of Music and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Focusing specifically on the historical trajectories of popular music emanating from the Commonwealth of Dominica starting in the 1970s (cadencelypso and bouyon), this paper develops an inquiry into what I call creole audibility. Creole audibility wrestles with the simultaneous and somewhat paradoxical audibility (within other genres) and inaudibility (as discreet genres) of these creole sounds within and without the Caribbean. I argue that the linguistic, processual, and identitarian uses of the “creole” so thoroughly integrated into analyses of Caribbean social and cultural contexts are inadequate to the Dominican scene and, by extension, to the contemporary moment throughout the region. New questions emerge in light of these Dominican musical trajectories: Can we think about creole sounds as instantiating, following Michel Foucault, a particular type of (very productive) heterotopia? That is, can cadencelypso and bouyon play the role of a sonic mirror that is simultaneously sounding the “there where I am” and the “there where I am not” of the Dominican social imaginary? What might thinking about these genres as sonic mirrors (both utopian and heterotopic, both real and virtual, both audible and inaudible, both bounded and borderless) afford us in terms of developing critical purchase on the contemporary dynamics of small places (Dominica) and peripheral spaces (the Caribbean)? Can creole audibility be productively nuanced by recent work in archipelago studies that explores how the ubiquitous presence of the sea informs the relations between simultaneously interconnected yet isolated and discreet spaces? Put otherwise, are cadencelypso and bouyon shaped by a hydraulics or, following Brathwaite, a tidalectics of place that informs both social imaginaries and sonic possibilities? As Gordon Henderson (the pioneer of cadencelypso) has put it: “Some may say we are divided by the sea. I say we are linked by the sea.” How, moreover, might we connect answers to these questions with Michaeline Crichlow’s articulation of a post-creole imagination—connect them, that is, to her desire to see Caribbean Studies fleeing the plantation, recognizing in creole formations and productions structures of becoming and potentiality rather than endpoints of history? Finally, what interventions can thinking about creole audibility in these ways make within the larger conversations concerning decolonial thought and aesthesis (Mignolo, Quijano, Walsh)?

Prof. Rommen, noted expert on Caribbean music, is the author of "Mek Some Noise": Gospel Music and the Ethics of Style in Trinidad (2007), and "Funky Nassau": Roots, Routes, and Representation in Bahamian Popular Music (2011).

Jennifer Gallinat

Administrative Coordinator