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Caribbean Popular Culture. 1. Sugar Cane Alley 2. Language, 3. Dub poetry 4. Music: Bob Marley & Fugees as Examples. Popular Culture & Racial Consciousness. Voodoo or other African folk beliefs

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Caribbean Popular Culture

1. Sugar Cane Alley

2. Language, 3. Dub poetry

4. Music: Bob Marley & Fugees as Examples

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Popular Culture & Racial Consciousness

  • Voodoo or other African folk beliefs

  • Pre-Emancipation: riot, petit marronage (小走私) in francophone islands-leaving home to meet girl friends, or for a forbidden church meeting. * Maroons (孤立的黑奴遺族)

    • Music: Work Song, Abeng

  • Post-Emancipation: Violent riot

  • 20th Century:

    • dub poetry and its Conscious Use of Creole

    • Carnival,

    • Music: Calypso, Reggae

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The Caribbean Islands and their migrants




The U.S.

“Children of the Sea”; Fugees

Annie John

M. Cliff, B. Marley

Wide Sargasso Sea

Sugar Cane Alley

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Sugar Cane Alley: background (1)

  • Setting: Martinique in the 1930s; Black Shack Alley, Port-de-France

  • Slums of the Empire

    2. Emancipation as the false door to freedom;

    Toils on the sugar cane plantations:

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Sugar Cane Alley: background (1)

Toils on the sugar cane plantations:

Season: right after X’mas to August.

  • Working hours: 10-11 hrs a day, six days a week.

  • The traditional planting method: hoe (instead of plough); dung basket (instead of cart)

  • Cutting: in a dry season, sent to the factory right away. Bend down to cut at the bottom, and then stand up to strip trash or dry leaves.

    e.g. “[Cutting cane] has given me a house and helped me raise six children, . . . but [cutting cane] can take everything out of you.

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Sugar Cane Alley: background (2)

  • film production:

  • (1985, Euzhan Palcy); from the novel Joseph Zobel, Black Shack Alley

  • worried about the white creole elites’ responses

    • use French, but not Creole French

    • first shown in Martinique but not in France; several awards in Venice film fest and French Cesar

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Sugar Cane Alley: Major Themes

  • Exploitation of the black laborers and their ways of resistance (examples of Caribbean folk culture)

  • Cultural identities -- different senses of black/creole/white identities.

    • What contrasts or oppositions are portrayed in the film?

  • Education --Who gets educated and by whom?

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Sugar Cane Alley: Major Themes

  • Exploitation of the black laborers and their ways resistance (examples of Caribbean folk culture)

  • -- the laborers: Ti Coco, Twelve-Toe, Medouze

  • -- the colonizers and overseers: Mr. de Thoral, Mr. Whitley, Carmen’s mistress.

  • -- in-group exploitation: Mme. Leonce

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Sugar Cane Alley: Exploitation

  • Exploitation of Labourers before and after Emancipation

    • the workers -- their songs; their ways of rebellion; Ti CoCo's wage;

    • Medouze

    • the overseers -- e.g. Whitley

  • Seen from the children’s perspective

    • the broken bowl episode

    • the rum-drinking episode child laborers

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Sugar Cane Alley: Cultural/Gender Identity

Who else (besides Jose) gets education or “liberated”?

  • Self-Hatred (or Black Skin, White Mask): M. Flora

  • Cross-Cultural Gender relations:

    • Black women’s position: Leopold’s mother

    • Carmen

  • Jose’s friends,

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    Sugar Cane Alley: Education

    • Education of Jose

    • the grandmother’s role;

    • Medouze’s influence: respect for nature, “Africa”

    • the two teachers

    • Major turning points in the film:

      • Rum

      • Medouze’s death

      • Mme. Leonce moving to the town

      • Being chosen to Port-de-France

      • Being suspected of cheating. Getting full scholarship

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    Sugar Cane Alley: Education

    How do you read the line at the end--"Take my Black Shack Alley with me"?

    Does Jose's "success" suggest that things are changing? That there will be justice? Or is he simply an exception?

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    Sugar Cane Alley: Filmic Techniques

    • Structure: the post card views at the opening

    • Colors:

      • the use of different color tones for different settings (Black Shack Alley—dark and sepia,

        Leopold’s house & Port-de-France--bright)

    • Shots:

      • no scenery shots

      • Many close-ups

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    The people’s resistance to colonialism:some examples ofCaribbean Popular Culture

    • Ways of rebelllion:

      • with music, dance, religion (voodon), or simply their different way of living;

      • pretend sickness, steal, or even poison their masters.

      • Dub poetry: forerunner of hip-hop

      • Calypso: originated in the songs of African slaves who worked in the plantation fields of Trinidad. Forbidden to talk to each other, they used calypso to communicate feelings and information.

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    Bob Marley(1944-1981) & Jamaica: his efforts in promoting peace

    • Formed the Wailing Wailers in 1963.

    • Attempted assassination: before the PNP-sponsored "Smile Jamaica" concert in 1976.

    • the One Love Peace Concert in 1978.

    • Received the Third World Peace Medal by all the African delegations at the United Nations.

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    Rastafarianism Cf. Bob Marley site

    • Origin in Africa:the Nile Valley (including both Egypt and Ethiopia) ; Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a pure form of Christianity that kept its connection with its Judaic and Egyptian pasts, all elements within Rastafarianism.

    • Major Belief: the blending of the purest forms of both Judaism and Christianity; rejects the Babylonian hypocrisy of the modern church. (Babylon can also refer to the Western colonial culture in general.)

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    Rastafarianism (2)

    • practice: the herb "ganja" (marijuana) was regarded as "wisdomweed for a religious rite; a life of asceticism and artistry; the difference between rastas and hippies.

    • Jah: Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, arrived in Jamaica in 1966

    • the 1930s in Jamaica: were years of social upheaval and labor strikes --perfect timing for the rise of Rastafarianism, a religion of the dispossessed. (Different from hippie culture)

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    Peace, love & Anti-colonialism & self-liberation

    e.g. Redemption Song (first part, about slavery)

    “ Old pirates yes they rob I

    Sold I to the merchant ships Minutes after they took I

    From the bottomless pit

    But my hand was made strong

    By the hand of the almighty

    We forward in this generation


    All I ever had, is songs of freedom

    Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom

    Cause all I ever had, redemption songs

    Redemption songs

    Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

    None but ourselves can free our minds ...

    Bob Marley’s major messages:

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    Bob Marley’s song: another example

    • “Buffalo Soldier” from Legend-A gritty ballad that tells the cruelly ironic story of black men being conscripted into the ranks of the Union Army to kill indians.

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    Fugees: The Score“No Woman, No Cry”

    I remember when we used to sit in the government yard in Brooklyn.

    Observing the crookedness as it mingled with the good people we meet.

    Good friends we had,

    Good friends we've lost along the way.

    In this great future you can't forget your past, So dry your tears

    I say And to my peers who passed away,

    No woman, no cry, no woman no cry, say say say.

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    Fugees: a “Hopeful” Image about the refugee

    • A Hip-Hop band from Haiti

    • Hip-Hop style: re-assemble a lot of music and styles by the Black singers in the past;

    • the themes: refugees; colonialism/sexism; their escape and tendencies to commit crimes in the host city

    • these themes are treated with sympathy for the refugees and/or uplifting messages.

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    Strumming dub plates with our fingers,

    Eliminate sounds with our song,

    Killing a sound boy with this sound,

    Killing a sound boy with this sound,

    Taking sound boys' lives with this dub,

    Killing him softly with this sound.

    Strumming my pain with his fingers,

    Singing my life with his words,

    Killing me softly with his song,

    killing me softly with his song,

    Telling my whole life with his words,

    Killing me softly with his song.

    Killing Me Softly

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    Carnival by Wyclef Jean

    • Carnival: the setting is a court trial, in which Wyclef tries hard to excuse himself.

    • e.g. Guantanamera: disclose the beautymyth about the Caribbean woman,

      who is actually a prostitute.

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    Carnival by Wyclef Jean

    • Closing Arguments

      In closing, ladies and gentlemen of the jury

      I'm not gonna sit here and bore you with a long, drawn out story or excuse, of why I think Wyclef is guilty I'm gonna stand by the exhibits as well as the tapes And songs such as Jeopardy, Til Novemeber, All the Girls, and Bubblegoose, which stand side by side with my allegations I rest my case

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    Carnival by Wyclef Jean

    . . . Your honor see, this, this is exactly what I'm talkin about

    I mean I've been meaning to ask this the whole time Who the hell is Bishop?


    And and why the hell hasn't he been brought on the stand?

    Bishop, bishop, not true, false, bishop

    Ohh, bullshit!

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    Map:traveling of people & cultures


    France India


    The U.S.

    “Children of the Sea”; Fugees

    Annie John

    M. Cliff, B. Marley

    Wide Sargasso Sea

    Sugar Cane Alley

    Derek Walcott

    Austin Clarke

    Neil Bissoondath

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    American Imperialism in the Caribbean Area (Cf. Bob Marley site

    • Economic

      • the area becomes the tourists’ heaven and a cheap labor factory (capital, technology and management shipped to the area to use the labor power without leaving the profits there.)

    • military:

      • take over the military bases of several islands,

      • "Caribbean Basin Initiative “a bribe to induce Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean to accredit the armed confrontation in Grenada.”