THE ORAL TRADITION
The oral tradition constitutes the main element of transmission and coverage of the oral literature and history, music and dancing. The Afro-Caribbean folklore of the Archipelago is a mixture of the African, the British, and the Creole aspects distributed through a cultural continuum of variations. The members of the elite develop certain forms of local standardise practices of archaic British culture and the Creole people trigger-off a series Caribbean syncretism with a mixture of Amerindian and African feeling.
The tradition of the Spoken Word was essential in promoting effective communication, family life, togetherness of the community and conflict resolution. The telling of stories, playing of games, poetry, oratory and debating were critical for disseminating information, passing on traditions and educating a people about themselves. The telling of stories, playing of games, poetry, performance and oratory are still a large aspect of Caribbean culture and tradition.
Ancestral traditions were in some measure preserved in their transition across the waters from Africa, India and other parts of the globe, through the stories told to our forbearers; whispered remembrances, passed from generation to generation, defying the laws and rules which were set up to keep us oppressed and to ensure that we always succumbed and failed. These tactics did not work, as Caribbean peoples from the indigenous to the indentured labourers fiercely and actively found ways to preserve their traditions. The resilience of our ancestors has paid off and borne fruit, oral tradition across the Caribbean is very much alive, grounded as it is, in a history of defiance, spanning tradition and development modernity.
The oral tradition is the most important source of inspiration for the dub poets. To be placed within this tradition is an important aspect of their identity as popular artists in the full sense of the word. Being part of the oral tradition is one of the programmatic principles of the art form. With all its historical and (sub) cultural implications it has an almost mystical significance for dub poets. If the dub poet’s radical and programmatic use of Creole language reveals its oppositional character, then the oral tradition, too, is regarded as of equally paramount importance. Apart from music and dance, it is the oral tradition which links the Caribbean present most clearly to the African past. In it is encapsulated the basic concept of the original African cultural framework, which needed neither literacy, letters, books to constitute art, knowledge, civilisation nor a social system. This oral nature and order of original Black culture secured its survival during the travails of slavery and the brainwashing of colonialism. There were no books, no documents, and no dogmatic scriptures to be burned. The archive of African culture was not of material substance. Arriving in the “New World,” the slaves had nothing but their memory. Endowed with an extraordinary ability adapt and improve was sufficient to preserve the nature of African culture in captivity and exile. Today, the very existence of a flexible oral tradition demonstrates that resistance to the European destruction of this orally based culture has so far been successful.
The dub poets have remodelled the component of the oral tradition, placing it within the context of a revolutionary struggle against cultural and physical oppression.
Dub poetry similarly employs all the features of the oral traditions which were brought from Africa by the slaves.
Songs of African and/or slave origin characterized by the African-derived “call-and-response” pattern (“jamma songs”). The lead singer or “bomma” tells the story in the tune whilst the group, or “bobbin,” responds with a one-line refrain/chorus commenting on the theme given by the leader.
Folk tales such as “historical narratives” about individual slaves, “duppy” or ghost stories, or the famous “trickster narratives, which revolved mainly around Anancy the spider character, which can be traced back to West African stories.
Children games, including ring games and handclapping (“Brown girl in the ring”; “Bapsikaisico pinda shell”)
Nursery rhymes (most of which were taken over from the British tradition but also (re)created in a Caribbean context).
Riddles (“riddle me dis, riddle me dat, guess me dis riddle and p’raps not”) and proverbs.
The imagery of the Bible, channelled through the oratory of preachers, plays a distinctive role in the formation of the oral tradition. This biblical imagery, recontextualised by the Rastafarian perspective, is characterized by a “strong propensity for metaphor”. The Biblical story is readily amenable to exclusively black interpretations. It supplies a whole range of peculiarly appropriate metaphors for the condition of poor, black, working-class West Indians (Babylon, the suffering Israelites) and a complementary set of metaphorical answers to the problems which define that condition (delivery of the Righteous, retribution for the Wicked, Judgement Day, Zion, the Promised Land).
DIFFERENT FORMS OF ORAL LITERATURE:
1. FOLK SONGS.
2. RING PLAY TUNES.
3. SONG PLAYS AND GAMES.
4. PROVERBS AND MAXIMS.
6. DUPPY OR GHOST STORIES.
7. HISTORICAL NARRATIVES.
8. POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.
9. A VARIETY OF JOKES AND FOLKLORIC HUMOUR.
10. FABLES, NANCY STORIES, AND UNCLE RABBIT STORIES.
11. RHYMES AND STORIES.
DIFFERENT FORMS OF MUSIC AND DANCE:
1. RELIGIOUS MUSIC.
1.2 NEGRO SPIRITUALS.
2. BANTA MUSIC.
2.2.3 COUNTRY BLUES.