Guerrilla queens and percussive poets there where our paths cross : in search of dub poetry scholarship and practitioners

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Indiana University
At its core, dub poetry involves the process of creating and presenting a fusion of words and sounds (or "word-sounds") with musical and dramatic components. The genre has deep roots in the long-standing oral, musical, and dramatic traditions practiced in Jamaica, and a significant body of printed information exists regarding pioneering dub poets who first gained notoriety in the late 1970s in Jamaica and England. My own fieldwork and artistic history interviews in Kingston in 1996, revealed that alongside the pioneering figures of the dub poetry movement an array of talented, less internationally recognized poets existed in Jamaica. While the body of dub poetry scholarship successfully documents the history and development of the dub poetry tradition and its pioneering poets, it does not represent the complete range of dub poetry practitioners. This study presents the artistic histories of two established Jamaican poets, Cherry Natural (b. 1960) the "guerrilla queen" and Mbala (b. 1953) the "percussive poet," as a tool for the reevaluation of both the development of dub poetry and the creative and social dynamics of the genre. I argue that the documentation and examination of the creative contributions of a fuller range of poets enriches our understanding of the poetic culture among dub poetry practitioners. The artistic history case studies of Cherry and Mbala highlight their personal and creative backgrounds and key events in their careers as poets, and emphasize the centrality of the creative processes that shape their live poetry performances within the Jamaican context. Part One of the study discusses how my encounters with members of the Poetry Society of Jamaica and the concepts of the poetic "pathway" (Jackson 1989), the personal experience narrative (Stahl 1989), and the mediaization of music (Wallis and Malm 1984) guided my research process and analytical critique of the "textual terrain" of dub poetry scholarship. Part Two of the thesis begins with a description of the ways in which dub poetry and dub poets have been represented in the mass media The artistic history case studies that follow focus on Cherry's and Mbala's place within the fraternity of Jamaican poets and the artistic and social contributions they have offered to the poetic culture in Kingston, Jamaica. I end the study by suggesting that further research be conducted on the dynamics of the social networking that occurs among dub poets in Jamaica and on the ways in which new communication and recording technologies have influenced dub poetry practitioners.
Thesis (MA)--Indiana University, Dept. of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, 2000
Dub Poetry, Reggae, Jamaica, Caribbean, Oral Tradition, Artistic History, Folklore, Personal Narrative
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