- According to the Jamaica Observer, Guadeloupean dancehall deejay Admiral T was in Jamaica last weekend promoting french and francophone culture, his film Neg Maron [Maroon in Creole] and of course his creole-language dancehall. Sounds a bit strange that one could purport to promote all of the above in the same breath, doesn't it? Well, then you know what it's like to be Admiral T. Or any young, identity conscious Guadeloupean or Martiniquan, for that matter.
- Some Haitians love to claim that our francophone cousins from Martinique and Guadeloupe (M&G for short) "have no culture." That's because while we were busy kicking Napoleon out around 1804, they remained colonies throughout the 19th century (much like the bulk of the Caribbean) and when the wave of African and Caribbean independences finally hit in the 60s they chose instead to become French Overseas Departments, embracing French Republicanism overnight. (It's also because M&G-ans listened to and produced nothing but konpa in the 60s and 70s but that's another story.)
- Well, sorry to say but Admiral T is a good incarnation of how younger M&G-ans are managing the seeming contradictions these days. On the whole, they are embracing a kind of diet afro-centrism a good 10-15 years after the heyday of the ideology in America. (Let's face it, the once controversial Len Jeffries is kind of a has-been in the NY scene these days .) They are also hell bent on popping out soca and dancehall tunes in the most Jamaican and Trini-sounding Guadeloupean Creole they can pronounce. Topics, attitudes and values that were once quasi-taboo like Creole itself or Haitian vodou or god forbid blackness are now being discussed openly and quite intelligently on www.sol2zouk.com message boards. (I also sniffed the new status quo firsthand when I went to Guadeloupe in 2002, exactly ten years after my first trip there.)
- Post-colonial repercussions long accounted for so many of those cultural taboos but french republicanism itself (the idea that being french meant you checked ideologies and identities that did not fit into the french mainstream a the door) was also a culprit. Guess what? It sounds like M&G-ans have kind of achieved what many would have thought impossible 20 years ago: they have somehow breached French republicanism a little --not to be confused by the way with American republican party ideology-- and carved out a space for American-style multiculturalism. (The kind that allows Americans to be both American and whatever else they're hyphenated with, a notion the French are painfully grappling with these days, as evidenced by last month's riots.) So people like Admiral T--and increasingly the French themselves-- no longer see a contradiction between the Alliance Francaise sponsoring Admiral's tour of Jamaica on the one hand, and his celebration of his African roots, his demand that more Gwoka be played on the airwaves or his constant denunciation of racism in M&G on the other.
guadeloupe - martinique - dancehall - french
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