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Goldsmiths - University of London

Machine-Gun Sonics and Whispering Tides: How Sound and Language in the work of Kamau Brathwaite and Mighty Sparrow provide an Acoustic Inoculation against Insecurities

Harris, Mark. 2018. 'Machine-Gun Sonics and Whispering Tides: How Sound and Language in the work of Kamau Brathwaite and Mighty Sparrow provide an Acoustic Inoculation against Insecurities'. In: Caribbean In/Securities. University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, United States 2017-18. [Conference or Workshop Item] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

The living environmental sounds of the Caribbean, the noises of interaction and music in urban neighborhoods, the subversion of colonial English in speech and calypso, the murmuring of waves on the sand, the memory of slave songs and of the terror of the Middle Passage comprise a soundscape of deep temporality that alerts and protects against present vulnerabilities. These acoustics, invented as vivid audio images by Kamau Brathwaite’s poems and Mighty Sparrow’s songs, mark out territories of affirmation underlying creative resistance to postcolonial hegemony. They form surreptitious sonic maps of identities marked on one level by histories of migration and of slave rebellions and labour strikes; on another level by the familial language of friends and relatives, stories salvaged through acclamation by poets and singers from being overwhelmed by dominant cultural values. Such performances recognize these sounds as the celebration of everyday life, as a sonic inoculation against infection by misrepresentative histories, dysfunctional language and inflexible hierarchies.
Drawing on works including Brathwaite’s History of the Voice and The Arrivants, Edouard Glissant’s ‘Natural Poetics, Forced Poetics’, Louise Bennet’s poetry and Sparrow’s late 1950s calypsos, this paper asks if Caribbean sonic inventions have always provided unconventional possibilities for imagining transformed futures. It speculates that these approaches to the Caribbean soundscape offer alternatives to what preeminent North American and European radical acousticians like Jacques Attali and R. Murray Schafer determine are the means for sound to impact our lives. It asks if Christina Sharpe’s invocation of an undisciplined research to reveal ‘insistent Black visualsonic resistance’ might be addressed by listening to subversive sounds of Brathwaite’s and Sparrow’s half-yelled, half-sung phrases that hurl sonic aberrations and mischievous concepts into an irreverent reinvention of English language.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Art > Staff output
Art

Dates:

DateEvent
15 January 2018Accepted

Event Location:

University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, United States

Date range:

2017-18

Item ID:

22692

Date Deposited:

08 Jan 2018 11:25

Last Modified:

08 Jan 2018 11:26

URI: http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/22692
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