Monday, 13 February 2012 02:30
Antigua St John's - "While ABS pushing soap opera, Bagga drumming African blues" from King Smarty Jnr's 1992 song, "That's what black power means."
Culture is defined as an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.
It is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group. It is one of those uniquely human endeavours which makes us human and distinguishes us from the animals.
When enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the Caribbean during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, they brought with them cultures and various languages indigenous to the plethora of African ethnic groups which were victims of that saddest chapter in human history.
Over time, and through a process of creolization, this entity called culture evolved as the enslaved Africans developed a new set of cultural norms unique to their experience here in the West.
Professor Lewis Gordon of Temple University, at the opening ceremony of the UWI's country conference on Science, Education & Development on Monday, January 16, reminded us that it is the development of indigenous and unique national institutions which will educate and liberate our minds, and establish our humanity, interactions, and further evolution.
Music is an expression of this culture, which makes use of sound and silence. When allied with social morals and ideals, it can become an institution, a cry for change, and an expression of a people's plight and hope. To many people in many countries, music is an important part of their way of life and we, African peoples, have always played and lived our music. One instrument which always stands out is the drum steel or hide a pre-eminent instrument which survived the many years of change and turmoil, characteristic of our time here in the West.
All over the world, the drum is used either as a solo act or in a band to make that unique human norm called music. At major theme parks such as Disney World, performers dance to its captivating beat; at funerals it leads the march commemorating a fallen brother/sister.
A younger sibling to the eternal drum is the incredible steel pan, the newest musical instrument developed in the past century.
The very same sounds and beats unique to the African peoples can be found within the Diaspora, emanating from our drums, which have become an institution, reflecting the resilient and unconquerable spirit of a people, the sound of rebellion and uprising - rebel music.
Likewise, the practitioners using these instruments have an acute understanding of the sanctity of our hard-fought-for freedoms. Those inalienable rights which encapsulate our humanity are to be defended and valued, and not an inch should be surrendered to anything or anyone seeking to reduce those freedoms. Here in Antigua & Barbuda, many great stalwarts have used these instruments to beat back the "down-pressors," to rally the troops on to a higher cause, and to simply entertain and educate us.
It is common knowledge that the Great Rebellion of 1736, plotted by that Caribbean visionary, King Court, used the drum as an instrument of war and to relay important events, messages, and communiqués. That spirit of our resistance should never be victimised in these times of plenty and peace. It is to the drum we owe so much, and it should be shared with visitors and residents alike. It should not be ostracized and its practitioners vilified. We refuse and ridicule our ancestors' sacrifice, struggles, and conquests whenever a drumbeater or pannist is mocked, or fractionized.
The griot, the artiste, the soldier, and the trade unionist all sacrificed and gave up life and limb for us to enjoy the great freedoms we do enjoy today. Whenever artistes such as Bagga-Lagga pound out on the drum, the songs of past African glory and in more recent times, Antiguan & Barbudan pride, we should be sharing those great accomplishments with the world, through the selfsame drum and steel pan. Bagga-Lagga is a premiere stalwart of the drum in Antigua & Barbuda and indeed the Caribbean. He has been making rebel music for well nigh 55 years, and his contribution to that seemingly nebulous concept, "culture," should not be understated or undervalued.
Bagga has been a drummer, a performer, and an accomplished sportsman - one of our very own "stewards of the past". Artistes such as Bagga are our warrior artistes, reminding us that others came before us, died for us, and built the freedoms we enjoy today. If major theme parks such as Disney World contract performers to perform and dance to the drum's captivating beat, then why shouldn't we share its captivating beat with the world?
In this 21st century world, there is no better practitioner than the African and his descendants to beat out the blues on this incredible and durable instrument. Our artistes should not be vilified and pilloried for sharing a small piece of our soul, history, and culture with guests and visitors to our shores.
Unquestionably, this "sharing" needs to be managed and handled properly, but that may best be realised by involving civic associations such as the Pan Association and other music guilds in the discourse. This is the revolution which needs to happen. This revolution will help us to regain our youth and revitalize our dormant and moribund communities. Look out for it; Wadadli Pan Revolution 2012 will soon be here.