Black Kos, Week In Review

The African origin of Afro Caribbean music, Reggae, Calypso, Compas, and Zouk – The Story of the How the Music of Africa Took Over the World, Part 3

“African” — Peter Tosh

Don’t care where you come from
As long as you’re a black man
You’re an African

No mind your nationality
You have got the identity of an African

‘Cause if you come from Clarendon
And if you come from Portland
And if you come from Westmoreland
You’re an African

No mind your nationality
You’ve got the identity of an African

‘Cause if you come Trinidad
And if you come from Nassau
And if you come from Cuba
You’re an African

By dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

The influence of the African diaspora has been felt stronger in the Caribbean than anywhere else in the Americas. Among the greatest of these influences is how the music of the Caribbean islands have been shaped by the music of Africa. Caribbean musical forms like Reggae, Calypso, Zouk, Mento, Soca, Compas, while all distinctly different from each other all have roots in African musical forms practiced by enslaved Africans. As I combined the music of the Spanish speaking Caribbean in an earlier story I’ll focus on the West Indian Islands of the Caribbean.

I usually start my historical stories with accounts of when I first heard of a subject. But I really couldn’t even begin to guess. when this music first touched me. I’m sure my mom sang mento and calypso to me when I was developing in her womb.  Growing up I heard a steady stream of Jamaican Gospel, Reggae, R&B and Calypso from when I was in diapers — or as we say in Jamaica “from wi eye deh ah knee ” (literally a kid’s eyes at an adult’s knees). Later as a teen I was obsessed with the rising Jamaican musical form known as dancehall, as my cousins and I built our own “sound system.”

In this third part of this series, I’ll take a tour of the musical traditions of the Caribbean, which includes the English speaking nations of Belize and Guyana, as well as the French and Creole speaking parts of the Caribbean,

Calypso 

Calypso was the first Afro-Caribbean (non-Latino) musical form to break out to a wider global audience. Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago during the 17th century. Its roots come from West African Kaiso and canboulay music brought by captured West African slaves imported to the Caribbean islands to work on sugar plantations. Kaisos were performed by a griot or chantwella local bard who told stories in song, offering social commentary through praise, satire or lament. African slaves were brought to work on sugar plantations. Their captures attempted to strip them of all connections to their homelands and family, by not allowing them to talk to each other while working. But in order to increase productivity they were allowed to sing.

Caribbean slaves famously created lyrics sneakily mocking their slave masters. These lyrics would then be recited at the harvest festival of Canboulay. Canboulay was a parallel to the pre-Lent Carnival, because at the time even freed slaves were barred from Carnival. In 1881, percussion drumming was banned by the British colonial authorities. This resulted in the invention of steel pan music, which initially consisting of frying pans, dustbin lids and later oil drums.

The earliest calypso songs were actually sung in French Creole. As calypso developed, the role of the griot late became known as a chantuelle, then a chantwell and eventually a calypsonian. Calypso’s rhythms can be traced back to West African Kaiso and the arrival of French planters and their slaves from the Haiti and the French Antilles (Caribbean) in the 18th century (after the Haitian revolution). During the early to the mid-19th century, Calypso spread to the rest of the Caribbean and to Venezuela by the mid-20th century.

It is thought that the name “calypso” was originally “kaiso” which is now believed to come from Efik “ka isu” (“go on!”) and Ibibio “kaa iso” (“continue, go on”), used in urging someone on or in backing a contestant. There is also a Trinidadian word “cariso” that means “old-time” calypsos. The term “calypso” is recorded from the 1930’s onwards. John Cowley’s argues in Carnival, Canboulay and Calypso: Traditions in the Making, that the word might be a corruption of the French carrouseaux and through the process of patois became caliso and then finally “calypso”.

What ever the historical origins of its name, modern calypso began in the 19th century. It started as a fusion of music ranging from the masquerade song lavway, French Creole belair and the calinda stick-fighting chantwell. Calypso’s early rise was closely connected with the adoption of Carnival by Trinidadian slaves, including canboulay drumming and the music masquerade processions. The French brought Carnival to Trinidad, and calypso competitions at Carnival grew in popularity, especially after the abolition of British slavery in 1834.

The first identifiable recorded calypso song was produced in 1912 by Lovey’s String Band while visiting New York City. In 1914, the second calypso recordings, including the first sung in English, were done by chantwell Julian Whiterose, who was better known as the Iron Duke. The majority of these the World War I era calypsos were instrumentals by Lovey and Lionel Belasco. Due to the constraints of the wartime economy, no more recordings were produced until the early 1930’s, when the “golden era” of calypso cemented the style, form, and phrasing of the music.

Calypso played an important role in political expression, while serving to document the history of Trinidad and Tobago and later Venezuela. Calypso allowed the masses to stealthily challenge the then unelected colonial era Trinidadian Governor and Legislative Council. As English and English patois replaced French creole as the dominant language, calypso migrated into English, but in so doing it attracted more attention from the government.

Calypso evolved into a way of spreading news around Trinidad. Politicians, journalists and public figures often debated the content of each song, and many islanders considered these songs the most reliable news source. Calypsonians pushed the boundaries of free speech as their lyrics spread news of any topic relevant to island life, including speaking out against political corruption. Eventually British rule enforced censorship and police began to scan these songs for damaging content.

Prior to Trinidad and Tobago winning independence, calypsonians would use music to express the struggles of life in Trinidad. They critiqued racial and economic inequalities and express opinions on social order. The Black poor especially used calypso music to protest inequalities inflicted upon them under British rule and advocate for their rights. Even with colonial censorship, calypso continued to push boundaries, with a variety of ways to slip songs past the scrutinizing eyes of editors. Double entendres were one way, as was the practice of denouncing countries such as Hitler’s annexation of Poland, while making pointed references toward the UK’s policies on Trinidad. Sex, scandal, gossip, innuendo, politics, local news, bravado and insulting other calypsonians were the order of the day in classic calypso, just as it is with classic hip-hop. And just as the hip-hop of today, the music sparked shock and outrage in moralistic sections of British colonial society. Calypso recordings were dumped in the sea in the name of censorship. Although in truth, rival US companies did this in the spirit of underhanded competition, claiming that the rivals’ material was unfit for US consumption.

An entrepreneur named Eduardo Sa Gomes played a significant early role in spreading calypso. Sa Gomes, a Portuguese immigrant who owned a local music and phonograph equipment shop in Trinidad’s capital of Port of Spain, promoted the genre and gave financial support to local artists. In March 1934, he sent Roaring Lion and Attila the Hun to New York City to record; they became the first calypsonians to record abroad. This brought the genre out of the West Indies and into pop culture

The first major stars of calypso started crossing over to new audiences worldwide in the late 1930s. Attila the Hun, Roaring Lion and Lord Invader were first, followed by Lord Kitchener. Lord Kitchener was one of the longest-lasting calypso stars in history, who continued to release hit records until his death in 2000. 1944’s “Rum and Coca-Cola” by the Andrews Sisters, a cover version of a Lord Invader song, became an American hit despite the song being a very critical commentary on the explosion of prostitution, inflation and other negative influences accompanying the American military bases in Trinidad at the time.

In 1956 Mighty Sparrow won Trinidad’s Music contest. Calypso, especially a toned-down, commercial variant, became a worldwide craze with pop song “Banana Boat Song“, or “Day-O”, a traditional Jamaica folk song, was recorded by pop singer Harry Belafonte on his album Calypso (1956). The Calypso album was the first calypso record to sell more than a million copies. 1956 also saw the massive international hit “Jean and Dinah” by Mighty Sparrow. This song too was a sly commentary as a “plan of action” for the calypsonian on the widespread prostitution and the prostitutes’ desperation after the closing of the U.S. naval base on Trinidad at Chaguaramas.

In the Broadway theater musical Jamaica (1957), Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg cleverly parodied Belafonte;s “commercial” style of calypso. Several films jumped on the calypso craze in 1957 such as Island in the Sun that featured Belafonte and the low-budget films Calypso JoeCalypso Heat Wave, and Bop Girl Goes CalypsoRobert Mitchum released an album, Calypso…Is Like So (1957), on Capital Records, capturing the sound, spirit, and subtleties of the genre. Dizzy Gillespie recorded a calypso album Jambo Caribe (1964) with James Moody and Kenny Barron. In the mid-1970s, women entered the calypso men’s-oriented arena. Calypso Rose was the first woman to win the Trinidad Road March competition in 1977 with her song “Gimme More Tempo”. The following year with “Come Leh We Jam”, she won the “Calypso King ” competition, the first time a woman had received the award. The competition’s title was changed to Calypso Monarch in her honor.

During Trinidad and Tobago’s independence movement (1950-1962 Independence), calypso lyrics stepped up their critiqued British colonial rule. Lyrics express colonialism as being immoral and oppressive to Caribbean people. In particular, during the movement to independence, calypso music would include common messages of freedom, anti-colonialism and empowerment of African descended people.

Neville Marcano, known as the Growling Tiger, became notorious for creating songs calling for independence of Trinidad and Tobago. In his song titled “Abraham Lincoln Speech at Gettysburg”, Tiger used inspirations from Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address to draw on values of liberty, equality and democracy. These three principles paralleled some of many ideas circulating during the nationalist movement in Trinidad and Tobago. His lyrics struck with those in support of an independent Trinidadian nation. Another well known Calypsonian Lord Kitchener, became noted for his politically critical lyrics in his music. Kitchener used calypso to shed light on the grievances of the windrush generation, a generation of Caribbean families migrating from the islands to England in response to increased labor demands after World War II. Kitchener’s 1948 song “Windrush” was written in two versions. The first version gained more global popularity as the lyrics expressed gratitude and appreciation of British rule. However, second version found greater popularity among Caribbean people themselves as the lyrics conveyed a story of exile, oppression and inequality living in England. Although Kitchener’s alternate version of “Windrush” did not gain as much commercial popularity, the duality of the two versions exemplify how calypso music was used as an outlet to challenge colonialism.

After Trinidad and Tobago gained independence in 1962, calypso music continued to be used as an outlet for political commentary. With Eric Williams serving as the first Prime Minister of an independent Trinidad and Tobago, calypsonian Mighty Sparrow released his song “William the Conqueror” where he praises Williams’ victory and prides the island in its new found independence. Sparrow sings:

I am no politician, but I could understand if it wasn’t for Brother Willie and his ability, Trinidad wouldn’t go neither come. We used to vote for food and rum but nowadays we eating all the Indians and them. And in the ending, we voting PNM. Praise little Eric, rejoice and be glad. We have a better future here in Trinidad.

Compas

Compas is one of Haiti’s musical traditions. Although it is known to outsiders simply as compas, in Haitian Creole, Haitians identify it variously as compa, conpa, and konpa-dirék. Regardless of its various spellings, compas refers to a complex, ever-changing music genre that fuses African rhythms and European ballroom dancing. The word may have derived from the Spanish compás, which relates to the musical rhythm of the “beat” or “pulse.” One of the most distinctive features of Haitian compas music is the steady, pulsing drum beat, which makes it easy to dance to.

Compas, short for compas direct, is the modern méringue (mereng in creole) that was popularized in the mid-1950s by the sax and guitar player Nemours Jean-Baptiste. His méringue soon became popular throughout the Antilles, especially in Martinique and GuadeloupeWebert Sicot and Nemours Jean-Baptiste became the two leaders in the group. Sicot then left and formed a new group and an intense rivalry developed, though they remained good friends. To differentiate himself from Nemours, Sicot called his modern méringue, cadence rampa. Méringue is a guitar-based style historically connected to Dominican merengue but without the use of the accordion that Dominican merengue uses. The blend of African and European cultures has created popular dance music, music played on simple acoustic instruments. Méringue has lost popularity to kompa.

In creole, compas is spelled as konpa dirèk or simply konpa. It is also commonly spelled as it is pronounced as kompa.

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Mento 

Mento is a style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced later musical forms like ska and reggae. Mento is a fusion of African rhythmic elements and European elements. Mento’s popularity peaked in the 1940s and 1950s. Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rhumba box. A rhumba box is  a large mbira in the shape of a box that can be sat on while played. The rhumba box carries the base part of the music.

Mento is often confused with calypso, a musical form from Trinidad and Tobago. Although the two share many similarities, they are separate and distinct musical forms. During the mid-20th century, mento was conflated with calypso. Mento was frequently referred to as calypsokalypso and mento calypso. Mento singers frequently used calypso songs and techniques. As in calypso, mento uses topical lyrics with a humorous slant, commenting on poverty and other social issues.Sexual innuendos are also common.

Mento draws on musical traditions brought by enslaved West Africa people.Enslaved musicians were often required to play music for their masters and often rewarded for such skills. The Africans created a creole music, incorporating such elements of these traditions, including quadrille, into their own folk music.

The Jamaican mento style has a long history of conflation with Trinidadian calypso. The lyrics of mento songs often deal with aspects of everyday life in a light-hearted and humorous way. Many comment on poverty, poor housing, and other social issues. Thinly veiled sexual references and innuendo are also common. Mento can be seen as a precursor of some of the movement motifs and themes dealing with such social issues found in modern dancehall. It became more popular in the late 1940s, with mento performances becoming a common aspect of dances, parties and other events in Jamaica.

The entomology of the word mento is uncertain; its origon could be either from an African language or Cuban Spanish. Rex Nettleford claimed the term was brought back from Cuba by Jamaicans returning from work there. Supposedly, it derives from the Spanish verb mentar, “to mention, call out, name”, because of the subtle ways that lyrics criticized people (whether black workers, or the whites who were in charge).

Major 1950s mento recording artists include Louise BennettCount LasherHarold RichardsonLord FleaLord FlyAlerth Bedasse with Chin’s Calypso SextetLaurel AitkenDenzil LaingLord ComposerLord LebbyLord PowerHubert Porter, and Harry Belafonte, a New Yorker of Jamaican origin. His wildly popular hit records in 1956-1958, including “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell,” were mento songs sold as calypso. Previously recorded Jamaican versions of many Belafonte’s classic “calypso” hits can be heard on the Jamaica – Mento 1951-1958 CD released by Frémeaux & Associés in 2009.

Due in part to Belafonte’s popularity, mento became widely conflated with calypso in the 1950s. In a 1957 interview for Calypso Star magazine, Lord Flea explained:

“In Jamaica, we call our music ‘mento’ until very recently. Today, ‘calypso’ is beginning to be used for all kinds of West Indian music. This is because it’s become so commercialized there. Some people like to think of West Indians as carefree natives who work and sing and play and laugh their lives away. But this isn’t so. Most of the people there are hard working folks, and many of them are smart business men. If the tourists want “calypso”, that’s what we sell them.”[9]

This was the golden age of mento, as records pressed by Stanley MottaIvan Chin, Ken Khouri and others brought the music to a new audience. In the 1960s it became overshadowed by ska and reggae. Mento is still played in Jamaica, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Lloyd Bradley, reggae historian and author of the seminal reggae book, Bass Culture, said that Lee “Scratch” Perry’s seminal 1976 dub album, Super Ape, contained some of the purest mento influences he knew. This style of music was revived in popularity by the Jolly Boys in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the release of four recordings, and a tour that included the United States Stanley Beckford and Gilzene and the Blue Light Mento Band also revived rural mento in the 2000s. The mento dance is a Jamaican folk-form dance with acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums and rhumba box.

Ska

Ska is a musical genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950’s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. It combined elements of mento and calypso with African-American jazz and R&B . Ska is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off beat. It was developed in Jamaica in the 1960’s when Stranger ColePrince BusterClement “Coxsone” Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems to play American rhythm and blues and then began recording their own songs.In the early 1960’s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica.

There are multiple theories about the origins of the word skaErnest Ranglin claimed that the term was coined by musicians to refer to the “skat! skat! skat!” scratching guitar strum. Another explanation is that at a recording session in 1959 produced by Coxsone Dodd, double bassist Cluett Johnson instructed guitarist Ranglin to “play like ska, ska, ska”, although Ranglin has denied this, stating “Clue couldn’t tell me what to play!” A further theory is that it derives from Johnson’s word skavoovie, with which he was known to greet his friends. Jackie Mittoo insisted that the musicians called the rhythm Staya Staya, and that it was Byron Lee who introduced the term “ska”. Derrick Morgan said: “Guitar and piano making a ska sound, like ‘ska, ska”.

After World War II, Jamaicans purchased radios in increasing numbers and were able to hear rhythm and blues music from the Southern United States in cities such as New Orleans by artists likes Fats DominoBarbie GayeRosco Gordon and Louis Jordan whose early recordings all contain the seeds of the “behind-the-beat” feel of ska and reggae. The stationing of American military forces during and after the war meant that Jamaicans could listen to military broadcasts of American music, and there was a constant influx of records from the United States. To meet the demand for that music, entrepreneurs such as Prince BusterCoxsone Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems.

As the supply of previously unheard tunes in the jump blues and more traditional R&B genres began to dry up in the late 1950’s, Jamaican producers began recording their own version of the genres with local artists. These recordings were initially made to be played on “soft wax” (a lacquer on metal disc acetate later to become known as a “dub plate”), but as demand for them grew eventually sometime in 1959 producers such as Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid began to issue these recording on 45rpm 7-inch discs. At this point, the style was a direct copy of the American “shuffle blues” style, but within two or three years it had morphed into the more familiar ska style with the off-beat guitar chop that could be heard in some of the more uptempo late-1950s American rhythm and blues recordings such as Domino’s “Be My Guest” and Barbie Gaye’s “My Boy Lollypop“, both of which were popular on Jamaican sound systems of the late 1950s. Domino’s rhythm, accentuating the offbeat, was a particular influence.

This “classic” ska style was of bars made up of four triplets but was characterized by a guitar “chop” on the off beat, known as an upstroke or ‘skank’, with horns taking the lead and often following the off-beat skank and piano emphasizing the bass line and, again, playing the skank. Drums kept 4-4 time and the bass drum was accented on the third beat of each four-triplet phrase. The snare would play side stick and accent the third beat of each 4-triplet phrase.The upstroke sound can also be found in other Caribbean forms of music, such as mento and calypso. Ernest Ranglin asserted that the difference between R&B and ska beats is that the former goes “chink-ka” and the latter goes “ka-chink“.

One theory about the origin of ska is that Prince Buster created it during the inaugural recording session for his new record label Wild Bells.The session was financed by Duke Reid, who was supposed to get half of the songs to release. The guitar began emphasizing the second and fourth beats in the bar, giving rise to the new sound. The drums were taken from traditional Jamaican drumming and marching styles. To create the ska beat, Prince Buster essentially flipped the R&B shuffle beat, stressing the offbeats with the help of the guitar. Prince Buster has explicitly cited American rhythm and blues as the origin of ska: specifically, Willis Jackson‘s song “Later for the Gator” (which was Coxsone Dodd’s number one selection).

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The first ska recordings were created at facilities such as Federal RecordsStudio One, and WIRL Records in Kingston, Jamaica with producers such as Dodd, Reid, Prince Buster, and Edward Seaga.The ska sound coincided with the celebratory feelings surrounding Jamaica’s independence from the UK in 1962; an event commemorated by songs such as Derrick Morgan‘s “Forward March” and The Skatalites‘ “Freedom Sound”.

Because it took Jamaica some time to ratify the international copyright laws, musicians did not need to honor musical copyright protection. This created many cover songs and reinterpretations. One such cover was Millie Small‘s version of the R&B/shuffle tune, “My Boy Lollypop”, first recorded in New York in 1956 by 14-year-old Barbie Gaye. Smalls’ rhythmically similar version, released in 1964, was Jamaica’s first commercially successful international hit. With over seven million copies sold, it remains one of the best selling reggae/ska songs of all time. Many other Jamaican artists would have success recording instrumental ska versions of popular American and British music, such as Beatles songs, Motown, and movie theme songs. They also created their own versions of Latin-influenced music from artists such as Mongo Santamaría.

Byron Lee & the Dragonaires performed ska with Prince Buster, Eric “Monty” Morris, and Jimmy Cliff at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. As music changed in the United States, so did ska. In 1965 and 1966, when American soul music became slower and smoother, ska changed its sound accordingly and evolved into rocksteady.However, rocksteady’s heyday was brief, peaking in 1967. By 1968, ska evolved again into reggae.

Zouk

Zouk is a musical movement pioneered by the French Antillean band Kassav’ in the early 1980s. It has become indistinguishable from Compas. originally characterized by a fast tempo, a percussion-driven rhythm, and a loud horn section. The fast zouk beton of Martinique and Guadeloupe, faded away in the same 80’s. During the second half of the 1980’s, a slow Compas romantic style, dubbed zouk-love, has been promoted  The original faster style became known as “zouk béton”, “zouk chiré” or “zouk hard”. Zouk is considered a synthesis of various French Caribbean dance music styles of the 20th century: kadanskonpa and biguine. Unlike the fast carnival zouk beton, zouk love is actually the French Lesser Antilles (Caribbean islands) Compas.

The Haitian cadence and the its music compas has been dominating the French speaking Cariibean’s music scene since its introduction in the late 1950’s. Compas direct is a modern méringue popularized in 1955 by the Nemours Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian saxophone and guitar player, which was appropriated by the Antilleans who labeled their version cadence-lypso and later, zouk or zouk-love.

The original zouk was zouk béton, a fast tempo jump up carnival style of music originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, was popularized by the French Caribbean’s Kassav’ in the 1980s. However it was too fast, and the style lost ground in the 1980’s due to the strong presence of kadans or compas, the main music of the French Caribbean. The problem is that musicians from Martinique and Guadeloupe have wrongly labeled compas as zouk or zouk love, creating a sense of confusion in Africa, Cape Verde, Angola, Brazil, Portugal and other places. Haitian musicians taught the French Caribbean how to play compas, and it is from them that zouk’s rhythms derive in origin, which somecredit is due in its creation.

The most popular zouk style today,  zouk-love (contemporary zouk), uses the French Caribbean cadence or compas. Its characterized by a slow, soft and sexual rhythm.

Kriol Brukdown music

After centuries of being inhabited by Mayans , British colonizers arrived in the area  of Belize in the 17th century. Belize was Britain’s only colony in Spanish-dominated Central America until Belize self-government in 1964 with it gaining full Independence in 1981. Europeans brought polkas, waltzes, schottisches and quadrilles. But far more influential than the presence of the British, was their importation of African slaves. Among the most popular styles created by Kriol musicians was brukdown

Africans brought numerous instruments and percussion-based musics, including marimba. African culture resulted in the creation of brukdown music in interior logging camps, played using banjo, guitar, drums, dingaling bell, accordion and an ass’ jaw bone played by running a stick up and down the teeth.

Brukdown evolved out of the music and dance of Belizean loggers, especially from a form of African music called buru. Buru was often satirical in nature, and was accompanied by a donkey’s jawbone, drums and a banjo. Buru eventually evolved into brukdown.

The word brukdown comes from broken down calypso, referring to the similarities between brukdown and Trinidadian calypso music. The presence of large numbers of Jamaicans in Belize also led to an mento music influence. This genre of music has primarily African elements, whit the only significant European element being the accordion.

Recently, new modern instruments have been added to brukdown. The “boom and chime groups” use bass guitar, electric guitar and congas, for example. Popular brukdown groups include The Tigers, The Mahogany Chips, Mimi Female Duet and Brad Pattico. But today Brukdown remains a largely rural rarely recorded musical genre.

Garifuna music

The Garifuna (also called Garinagu) are descended from escaped Island Caribs who were deported from St. Vincent to Central America (especially Honduras and also Belize) in 1802 by the British when they conquered St. Vincent. The Garifunas kept themselves apart from the social system then dominant, leading to a distinctive culture that developed throughout the 20th century.

Forms of Garifuna folk music and dance encompass many styles including: punta, hungu-hungu, combination, wanaragua, abaimahani, matamuerte, laremuna wadaguman, gunjai, charikanari, sambai, charikanari, eremuna egi, paranda, berusu, punta rock, teremuna ligilisi, arumahani, and Mali-amalihani. Punta and Punta rock are the most popular forms of dance music in Garifuna culture. Punta is performed around holidays and at parties, and other social events. Punta lyrics are usually composed by the women. Chumba and hunguhungu are circular dances in a three beat rhythm, which are often combined with punta. There are other songs typical to each gender, women having eremwu eu and abaimajani which were rhythmic a cappela songs, and laremuna wadaguman which were men’s work songs.

Drums play an important role in Garifuna music. These drums are typically made of hollowed-out hardwood such as mahogany or mayflower, with the skins coming from the peccary (wild bush pig), deer, or sheep. Also used in combination with the drums are the sisera. These shakers are made from the dried fruit of the gourd tree, filled with seeds, then fitted with hardwood handles.

In contemporary Belize there has been a resurgence of Garifuna music, popularized by musicians such as Andy Palacio, Mohobub Flores, & Adrian Martinez. These musicians have taken many aspects from traditional Garifuna music forms and fused them with more modern sounds in a style described as a mixture of punta rock and paranda. One great example is Andy Palacio’s album Watina released on the Belizean record label “Stone Tree Records.”

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Reggae

Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora. A 1968 single by Toots and the Maytals, “Do the Reggay” was the first popular song to use the word “reggae”, effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that was strongly influenced by traditional mento as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues and evolved out of the earlier genres ska and rocksteady. Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and political commentary. Reggae spread into a commercialized jazz field, being known first as “rudie blues”, then “ska”, later “blue beat”, and “rock steady”. It is instantly recognizable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat and the offbeat rhythm section. The immediate origins of reggae were in ska and rocksteady; from the latter, reggae took over the use of the bass as a percussion instrument.

Reggae is deeply linked to the Rastafari, an Afrocentric religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930’s (See Black Kos — The Religion of the Rastafari 2019), aiming at promoting Pan Africanism. Soon after the Rastafarimovement appeared, the international popularity of reggae music became associated with and increased the visibility of Rastafarianism spreading the Rastafari gospel throughout the world. Reggae music is an important means of transporting vital messages of Rastafari. The musician becomes the messenger, and as Rastafarians see it, “the soldier and the musician are tools for change.”

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Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of various black musical styles such as rhythm and blues, jazz, mento, calypso, while also drawing influence from traditional African folk rhythms. One of the most easily recognizable elements is offbeat rhythms; staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure. The tempo of reggae is usually slower paced than both ska and rocksteady. The concept of call and response can be found throughout reggae music. The genre of reggae music is led by the drum and bass. Some of the founding musical artist or reggae are Jackie Jackson from Toots and the MaytalsCarlton Barrett from Bob Marley and the WailersLloyd Brevett from The SkatalitesPaul Douglas from Toots and the MaytalsLloyd Knibb from The SkatalitesWinston GrennanSly Dunbar, and Anthony “Benbow” Creary from The Upsetters. The bass guitar often plays the dominant role in reggae. The bass sound in reggae is thick and heavy, and equalized so the upper frequencies are removed and the lower frequencies emphasized. The guitar in reggae usually plays on the offbeat of the rhythm. It is common for reggae to be sung in Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English, and Iyaric dialects. Reggae is noted for its tradition of social criticism and religion in its lyrics, although many reggae songs discuss lighter, more personal subjects, such as love and socializing.

Reggae has spread to many countries across the world, often incorporating local instruments and fusing with other genres. Reggae en Español spread from Spanish-speaking Panama and Puerto Rico to the mainland South American countries of Venezuela and then to the rest of South America. Caribbean music in the United Kingdom, including reggae, has been popular since the late 1960s, and has evolved into several subgenres and fusions. Many reggae artists began their careers in the UK, and there have been a number of European artists and bands drawing their inspiration directly from Jamaica and the Caribbean community in Europe. Reggae in Africa was boosted by the visit of Bob Marley to Zimbabwe in 1980. In Jamaica, authentic reggae is a major sources of income.

Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, mento, calypso, African, and Latin American music, as well as other genres. Reggae scenes consist of two guitars, one for rhythm and one for lead—drums, congas, and keyboards, with a couple of vocalists.

Reggae is played in 4-4 time because the symmetrical rhythmic pattern does not lend itself to other time signatures such as 3-4 time One of the most easily recognizable elements is offbeat rhythms; staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure, often referred to as the skank.

This rhythmic pattern accents the second and fourth beats in each bar and combines with the drum’s emphasis on beat three to create a unique sense of phrasing. The reggae offbeat can be counted so that it falls between each count as an “and” (example: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, etc.) or counted as a half-time feel at twice the tempo so it falls on beats 2 and 4. This is in contrast to the way most other popular genres focus on beat one, the “downbeat”.

The tempo of reggae is usually slower than both ska and rocksteady. It is this slower tempo, the guitar/piano offbeats, the emphasis on the third beat, and the use of syncopated, melodic bass lines that differentiate reggae from other music, although other musical styles have incorporated some of these innovations. Harmonically the music is essentially the same as any other modern popular genre with a tendency to make use of simple chord progressions. Reggae sometimes uses the dominant chord in its minor form therefore never allowing a perfect cadence to be sounded; this lack of resolution between the tonic and the dominant imparts a sense of movement “without rest” and harmonic ambiguity.

The concept of “call and response” can be found throughout reggae music, in the vocals but also in the way parts are composed and arranged for each instrument. The emphasis on the “third beat” of the bar also results in a different sense of musical phrasing, with bass lines and melody lines often emphasizing what might be considered “pick up notes” in other genres.

Soca

Soca is a genre of Afro-Caribbean music with heavy East Indian influences. It originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1970s. It later developed a range of styles from the 1980s onwards. Soca was initially developed by Lord Shorty. Lord Shorty, its inventor defined it as the Soul of Calypso’s African and East Indian rhythms. It was originally spelt Sokah, but because of a spelling error in a local Trinidadian newspaper reporting on the new music it was erroneously spelled as Soca. Lord Shorty later confirmed the error but to avoid confusion chose to not correct it.

Lord Shorty created it in an effort to revive traditional Calypso, whose popularity had been falling among younger Trinidadians due to the rise of Reggae from Jamaica and both Soul and Funk from the USA. Soca is an offshoot of Kaiso/Calypso, with influences from East Indian rhythms and hooks. The “father” of Soca, the Trinidadian Garfield Blackman, rose to fame as “Lord Shorty” with his 1964 hit “Cloak and Dagger” and who adopted the name “Ras Shorty I” in the early 1980s. He started out writing songs and performing in the Calypso genre. A prolific musician, composer and innovator, Shorty experimented with fusing Calypso and elements of Indo-Caribbean music after 1965 before debuting “the Soul of Calypso”, Soca music, in the early 1970s.

From its development in the early 1970s, Soca grew in popularity. A sound project started in 1970 at KH Studios in Trinidad to find a way to record the complex Calypso rhythm in a new multi-track era. Soca’s development as a musical genre included its fusion with Calypso, Chutney, Reggae, Zouk, Latin, Cadence and traditional West African rhythms.

Shorty was the first to define his music as “Soca” during 1975 when his hit song “Endless Vibrations” caused musical waves on radio stations and at parties and clubs, not just in his native Trinidad and Tobago, but also in cities with significant Caribbean populations such as New York, Toronto and London. Soca was originally spelled Sokah, which stood for the “Soul of Calypso” with the “kah” part being taken from the first letter in the Sanskrit alphabet, representing the power of movement as well as the East Indian rhythmic influence that helped to inspire the new beat. Shorty stated in a number of interviews that the idea for the new Soca beat originated with the fusion of Calypso with East Indian rhythms that he used in his 1972 hit “Indrani”. Soca solidified its position as the popular new beat adopted by most Trinidadian Calypso musicians by the time Shorty recorded his crossover hit “Endless Vibrations” in 1974.

In 1975, Shorty recorded an album entitled “Love in the Caribbean”that contained a number of crossover Soca tracks. During the subsequent promotional tour, Shorty stopped at the isle of Dominica and saw the top band there, Exile One, perform at the Fort Young Hotel. Shorty was inspired to compose and record a Soca and Cadence-lypso fusion track titled “E Pete” or “Ou Petit”, which was the first in that particular Soca style. Shorty consulted on the Creole lyrics he used in the chorus of his “E Pete” song with Dominica’s 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo, and two Creole lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron.

Soca has evolved since the 1980s primarily through musicians from various English speaking Caribbean countries, not only from its birthplace Trinidad and Tobago but also from Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia, the US and British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Guyana and Belize. There have also been significant productions from artists in Venezuela, Canada, Panama, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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Dancehall

Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s. Initially, dancehall was a more sparse version of reggae than the roots style, which had dominated much of the 1970’s.In the mid-1980’s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall (or “ragga“) becoming increasingly characterized by faster rhythms. Key elements of dancehall music include its extensive use of Jamaican Patois rather than Jamaican standard English and a focus on the track instrumentals (or “riddims“). Dancehall is named after Jamaican dance halls in which popular Jamaican recordings were played by local sound systems. Dancehall is both widely inspiration in helping to birth several international musical genres (like hip-hop) and dance styles, as well as controversial because of it lyrics (often veering into violent, hyper sexual, and homophobic).

Dancehall saw initial mainstream success in Jamaica in the 1980’s, and by the 1990’s, it became increasingly popular in the Jamaican diaspora. In the 2000’s, dancehall experienced worldwide mainstream success, and by the 2010’s, it began to heavily influence the work of established Western artists and producers, which has helped to further bring the genre into the Western music mainstream. Jamaica was one of the first cultures to pioneer the concept of remixing. As a result, production level and sound system quality were critical to Jamaica’s budding music industry. Since many locals couldn’t afford sound systems in their home, listening to one at a dance party or at a festival was their entry into audible bliss.

Sound systems and the development of other musical technology heavily influenced dancehall music. The music needed to “get where the radio didn’t reach” because Jamaicans oftentimes were outside without radios. Especially because the audience of dancehall sessions were lower-class people, it was extremely important that they be able to hear music. Sound systems allowed people to listen to music without having to buy a radio. Therefore, the dancehall culture grew as the use of technology and sound systems got better.

The Jamaican dancehall scene was one created out of creativity and a desire for accessibility, and one that is inseparable from sound system culture. The term ‘Dancehall’, while now typically used in reference to the specific and uniquely Jamaican genre of music, originally referred to a physical location. This location was always an open-air venue from which DJs and later “Toasters”, a precursor to MCs, could perform their original mixes and songs for their audience via their sound systems. The openness of the venue paired with the innately mobile nature of the sound system, allowed performers to come to the people. At the onset of the dancehall scene, sound systems were the only way that some Jamaican audiences might hear the latest songs from popular artist. Through time, it transformed to where the purveyors of the sound systems were the artists themselves and they became whom the people came to see along with their own original sounds. With the extreme volume and low bass frequencies of the sound systems local people might very well feel the vibrations of the sounds before they could even hear them, though the sound itself did travel for miles. This visceral sensory pleasure acted as an auditory beacon, redefining musical experience.

They began in the late 1940’s among people from the inner city of Kingston who were not able to participate in dances uptown. Social and political changes in late-1970s Jamaica, including the change from the socialist People’s National Party of Michael Manley to the rightwing Jamaica Labour Party of Edward Seaga  were also reflected in the music. There was a shift away from the more internationally oriented roots reggae to a style more geared towards local consumption in tune with the music that Jamaicans had experienced when sound systems performed live. Themes of social injustice, repatriation and the Rastafari movement were overtaken by lyrics about dancing, violence and sexuality.

Sound systems with names like Killimanjaro, Black Scorpio, Silver Hawk, Gemini Disco, Virgo Hi-Fi, Volcano Hi-Power and Aces International soon capitalized on the new sound and introduced a new wave of artist called deejays. In Dancehall DJ’s are the closest equivalent to what rappers are in hip-hop (and this often leads to confusion in international markets). The older toasters were overtaken by new stars such as Captain SinbadRanking JoeClint EastwoodLone RangerJosey WalesCharlie ChaplinGeneral Echo and Yellowman. Deejay records became, for the first time, more important than records featuring singers. Another trend was sound clash albums, featuring rival deejays /or sound systems competing head-to-head for the appreciation of a live audience, with underground sound clash cassettes often documenting the violence that came with such rivalries.

Yellowman, one of the most successful early dancehall artists, became the first Jamaican deejay to be signed to a major American record label, and for a time enjoyed a level of popularity in Jamaica to rival Bob Marley’s peak. The early 1980’s also saw the emergence of female deejays in dancehall music, like Lady G and Sister Nancy. Later other female dancehall stars joined them including Lady Saw, Diana KingCe’cileSpice, and Macka Diamond

Male artist like Beenie ManBounty KillerMad CobraNinjamanBuju Banton, and Super Cat becoming major DJs in Jamaica. With a little help from deejay sound, “sweet sing” (falsetto voice) singers such as PinchersCocoa TeaSanchezAdmiral Tibet, Frankie Paul, Half Pint, Courtney Melody, and Barrington Levy were popular in Jamaica.

The popularity of dancehall  spawned dance moves that help to make parties and stage performances more energetic. Dancing is an integral part of dancehall’s heavily bass-music driven culture. As people felt the music in the crowded dancehall venues, they would do a variety of dances. Eventually, dancehall artists started to create songs that either invented new dances or formalized some moves done by dancehall goers. Many dance moves seen in hip hop videos are actually variations of dancehall dances. 

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In Kingston’s Dancehall: A Story of Space and Celebration, Cultural Dr. Kingsley Stewart writes:

Dancehall is ultimately a celebration of the disenfranchised selves in postcolonial Jamaica that occupy and creatively sustain that space. Structured by the urban, a space that is limited, limiting, and marginal yet central to communal, even national, identity, dancehall’s identity is as contradictory and competitive as it is sacred. Some of Jamaica’s significant memories of itself are inscribed in the dancehall space, and therefore dancehall can be seen as a site of collective memory that functions as ritualized memorializing, a memory bank of the old, new, and dynamic bodily movements, spaces, performers, and performance aesthetics of the New World and Jamaica in particular.

These same notions of dancehall as a cultural space are echoed in Norman Stolzoff’s Wake the Town and Tell the People. He notes that dancehall is not merely a sphere of passive consumerism, but rather is an alternative sphere of active cultural production that acts as a means through which black lower-class youth articulate and project a distinct identity in local, national, and global contexts. Through dancehall, ghetto youths attempt to deal with the endemic problems of poverty, racism, and violence, and in this sense the dancehall acts as a communication center, a relay station, a site where black lower-class culture attains its deepest expression. Thus, dancehall in Jamaica is yet another example of the way that the music and dance cultures of the African diaspora have challenged the passive consumerism of mass cultural forms, such as recorded music, by creating a sphere of active cultural production that potentially may transform the prevailing hegemony of society.

The radical change in Jamaican popular music from roots reggae to dancehall reggae generated an equally radical change in fashion trends. In lieu of traditional, modest “rootsy” style clothing, as dictated by Rastafari-inspired gender roles; women began donning flashy, revealing so called “X-rated” outfits. This transformation coinciding with the influx of slack lyrics within dancehall, which often objectified women. The women who frequented dancehall events would team up with others to form “modeling posses”, or “dancehall model” groups, and informally compete with their rivals.

This newfound materialism and conspicuous consumption was not, however, exclusive a female affair. A party goer’s appearance at a dance hall was exceedingly important. Acceptance by the party goer’s peers encompassed everything from clothing and jewelry, to vehicles, to the sizes of each respective gang or “crew”. These materialistic pursuits were equally important to both sexes.

One major theme behind dancehall is that of space. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, in her article “Mapping Black Atlantic Performance Geographies”, says

Dancehall occupies multiple spatial dimensions (urban, street, police, marginal, gendered, performance, liminal, memorializing, communal), which are revealed through the nature and type of events and venues, and their use and function. Most notable is the way in which dancehall occupies a liminal space between what is celebrated and at the same time denigrated in Jamaica and how it moves from private community to public and commercial enterprise.

In Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall Nadia Ellis explicates the culture of combined homophobia and unabashed queerness within Jamaican dancehall culture. She details the particular importance of the phrase “out and bad” to Jamaica when she writes, “This phrase is of queer hermeneutical possibility in Jamaican dancehall because it registers a dialectic between queer and gay that is never resolved, that relays back and forth, producing an uncertainty about sexual identity and behavior that is usefully maintained in the Jamaican popular cultural context.”In discussion of the possibility of a self identifying homosexual dancer performing to homophobic music she writes, “In appropriating the culture and working from within its very center, he produces a bodily performance that gains him power. It is the power or mastery, of parody, and of getting away with it.”

Ellis not only examines the intersection of queerness and masculinity within the Jamaican dancehall scene, but suggests that the overt homophobia of certain dancehall music actually creates a space for queer expression. In general, homosexuality and queerness are still stigmatized in dancehalls. In fact, some of the songs used during dancehall sessions contain blatant homophobic lyrics. Ellis argues, however, this explicit, violent rhetoric is what creates a space for queer expression in Jamaica. She describes the phenomenon of all male dance groups that have sprung up within the dancehall scene. These crews dress in matching, tight clothing, often paired with makeup and dyed hair, traditional hallmarks of queerness within Jamaican culture. When they perform together, it is the bodily performance that give the homosexual dancers power.

But none of this should sugar coat the homophobia often found in dancehall. Various singers were investigated by international law enforcement agencies on the grounds that their lyrics were incitements to assault homosexuals. Buju Banton‘s 1993 hit “Boom Bye Bye” advocates the murder of homosexuals by shooting or burning, or both (“like an old tire wheel”). Many of the affected singers believed that legal or commercial sanctions were essentially an attack against freedom of speech. Some artists agreed not to use anti-gay lyrics during their concerts in Europe and the United States, although some artists, such as Capleton, continue to have their concerts cancelled due to the Stop Murder Music campaign.

Donna P. Hope argues that dancehall culture’s anti-homosexual lyrics formed part of a macho discussion that advanced the interest of the heterosexual male in Jamaica, which is a Christian society with strong Rastafari movement influence as well. Even while dancehall culture in Jamaica sported images of men in pseudo-gay poses and costumes, the cultural, religious, social and gendered imperatives of the society advanced and promoted the ideal man as macho and heterosexual and men who are homosexual were identified as inadequate and impure portraits of true masculinity.

The international backlash to Banton’s violently anti-gay “Boom Bye-Bye”, and the reality of Kingston’s violence which saw the deaths of deejays Pan Head and Dirtsman saw another shift, this time back towards Rastafari and cultural themes, with several of the hardcore slack ragga artists finding religion, and the “conscious ragga” scene becoming an increasingly popular movement. A new generation of singers and deejays emerged that harked back to the roots reggae era, notably Garnett SilkTony RebelSanchezLucianoAnthony B and Sizzla. Some popular deejays, most prominently Buju Banton and Capleton, began to cite Rastafari and turn their lyrics and music in a more conscious, rootsy direction. Many modern dancehall Rasta artists identify with the Bobo Ashanti Rasta tradition (as a comparison Bob Marley was from the 12 tribes)..

Part of the criticism of Jamaican dancehall does appear to be the product of a cultural clash stemming from a lack of insider knowledge on the nuances of the music’s content and the culture surrounding the music. Never the less the beats of dancehall have had a profound impact on the development of modern urban Latin music (reggaton) and the US (hip-hop)

Conclusion

In the 20th century as Afro-Cariibean people immigrated to parts of Europe and North America they took their musical traditions with them. Because the influence of the African diaspora was been felt stronger in the Caribbean than anywhere else in the Americas (with the possible exception of Brazil) the rhythms of Africa spread with their migration. Caribbean musical forms like Reggae, Calypso, Zouk, Mento, Soca, Compas, while all distinctly different from each other all have roots in African musical forms practiced by enslaved Africans. This had a profound impact on modern pop music. This was especially true in global melting pots like New York, London, and Miami when the Afro-Caribbean musical forms, Afro-Latin, and African-American musical forms all mixed, which I’ll explore in a story.  

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Sources:

BBC: The Surprising Politics of Calypso

NPR: Soca: The Music Of Trinidad’s Carnival

Wikipedia Mento

Carnival, Canboulay and Calypso: Traditions in the Making — John Cowley

Wake the Town and Tell the People. — Norman Stolzoff’s 

Wikipedia Ska

Wikipedia Reggae

Wikipedia Calypso music

 Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall — Nadia Ellis

Kingston’s Dancehall: A Story of Space and Celebration, Cultural — Kingsley Stewart

Youtube as atributed

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NEWS ROUND UP BY DOPPER0189, BLACK KOS MANAGING EDITOR

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A new day dawns in boston Boston Globe: On her first day as acting mayor, Kim Janey visits Charlestown school where she was bused

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Decades ago, the morning arrival at the squat, brick school building just off Main Street in Charlestown was a source of pain and trauma for Kim Janey.

This is where she was bused to, sometimes under police escort, from her South End home as part of the tumultuous desegregation of the city’s schools during the 1970s.

The return Tuesday morning was far more joyful, when Janey entered Edwards Middle School not as a scared child but as Boston’s first Black mayor and first female mayor. It was her inaugural public event since she became the city’s acting executive Monday night, following the resignation of Martin J. Walsh, who hours earlier was confirmed as US labor secretary.

Her presence at that school at this historic milestone in Boston’s history captured the progress the city she loves has made in her lifetime.

“To be able to see schoolchildren today engaged in their learning and being supported by their teachers, I think it’s really important to show how far we have come as a city,” said Janey, surrounded by a welcoming committee that included Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius outside the school’s main entrance.

She added, “I wanted to start here.”

After stepping out of a black SUV into the crisp and sunny morning, Janey said the school, which was built in the 1930s and will close after this school year ends, “has tough, tough memories for me.”

Acting Mayor Kim Janey said her administration will focus on recovering from the pandemic by “renewing our communities.”SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

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Immediately after Georgia Gov. Kemp signed into law sweeping changes to the state’s election rules, Black community groups filed a lawsuit challenging several of its provisions, Talking Point Memo: Georgia Law Creating New Hurdles For Voters Already Faces A Legal Challenge

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Almost immediately after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law sweeping changes to the state’s election rules Thursday, Black community groups filed a lawsuit challenging several of its provisions, which the groups say are unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

“The Voter Suppression Bill inflicts severe burdens on Georgia’s voters through each individual restriction and the cumulative effect of all the suppressive measures which impose barriers to voting absentee and in-person,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is targeting nine specific measures within the new law, including the new ID requirements for mail voting, its limits on dropbox use and its ban on distribution of food and most beverages to voters waiting in line.

The groups bringing the lawsuit are The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise, Inc., which focuses on student enfranchisement. The organizations are being represented by Marc Elias, a powerhouse voting rights attorney who also often represents Democrats.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the law on Thursday after Georgia had been the primary target of President Trump’s lies about fraud in the 2020 election. Several of the most extreme proposals the Republicans were considering — such as an end to no-excuse absentee voting and a ban on Sunday in-person voting — did not make into the final legislation. And other aspects of the new law will expand voting opportunities for some counties, by raising the floor on the amount early in-person voting required.

Still, the other provisions that will place new hurdles in front of the ballot box are unjustified, the lawsuit argues, as the state election officials and even a top Republican legislative leader have confirmed that no fraud was found in the myriad reviews of the 2020 results.

ATLANTA, GA – MARCH 08: Demonstrators wear chains while holding a sit-in inside of the Capitol building in opposition of House Bill 531 on March 8, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. HB531 will restrict early voting hours, remove drop boxes, and require the use of a government ID when voting by mail.
(Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) 

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A well-worn path to prosperity is still open. The Economist: African industry is doing better than previously thought

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The future is here,” says Ibrahima Sarr, pointing to the factories he runs in Senegal. After working and studying for 18 years in Europe he returned home to help spark a manufacturing revolution. Now he is with Africa Development Solutions, a Malian conglomerate, managing plants that make electric bikes, pipes and, soon, clothing.

Mr Sarr is not alone in his optimism for manufacturing in Africa. The Diamniadio industrial park he looks out over is the centrepiece of Senegal’s ambitious industrialisation plan. Elsewhere in the region, Ghana has attracted car-assembly plants from Nissan and Volkswagen. Ethiopia, too, has bet heavily on manufacturing.

And the idea of making things is capturing the imagination of young Africans such as Yusuf Bilesanmi, who invented a cheap ventilator that can treat patients with covid-19 even in hospitals without electricity. His device has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize. He wants to produce it in Nigeria after seeing how the pandemic disrupted the supply of medical gear to Africa. Doing so will also allow him to create jobs and distribute it more quickly.

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Sculpture depicting king of African nation was looted from Benin city in 1897 in ‘extremely immoral’ manner. The Guardian: University of Aberdeen to return pillaged Benin bronze to Nigeria

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The University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK) is to return a controversial Benin bronze after a review found the item had been acquired in an “extremely immoral” manner, as the Nigerian government calls on other British museums to reassess their collections.

The bronze, which depicts the Oba, or king of Benin, was part of a haul of thousands of items taken when British forces looted Benin city in southeastern Nigeria in 1897, and will be sent back “within weeks”, according to the university.

In a statement, the institution, which has had the bronze since 1957, said the “punitive expedition” of 1897 was one of “the most notorious examples of the pillaging of cultural treasures associated with 19th-century European colonial expansion”.

Prof George Boyne, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, said the decision was in line with Aberdeen’s “values as an international, inclusive university”, adding that keeping the bust would have been wrong because it was “acquired in such reprehensible circumstances”.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, said the move was a step in the right direction. “Other holders of Nigerian antiquity ought to emulate this to bring fairness to the burning issue of repatriation,” he added.

The controversial Benin bronze that will be returned by the University of Aberdeen. Photograph: University of Aberdeen

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As a money coach and a Black woman, I’ve seen the racial wealth disparity firsthand. VOX: Here’s what the “Black tax” does to so many families — including mine

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On the following week’s video call, Mom was sporting a turtleneck. So this time, I asked her about it and she made a startling confession, sheepishly revealing that she didn’t want to turn up the heat and have a larger utility bill, so she was basically toughing out being in a chilly house. When I urged her to warm things up, she assured me it was just a brief, temporary decision.

But the next Sunday, when I saw her dressed in a coat during our regular check-in, I knew it was more serious. “Mommy, I will pay your utility bill,” I told her. “Turn up the heat to whatever temperature you’d like. But I don’t want you sitting there in a cold house.”

For me, forking over an extra $100 a month for a heating bill is no big deal. But 100 bucks is a lot of money for someone living mainly on a modest Social Security check. The episode served as a harsh reminder of how precarious my mom’s financial situation is, especially at this stage of her life.

At 77, my mom is single, retired, and has no retirement savings at all. Meanwhile, my family and I are doing great financially; thanks to entrepreneurship, investments in stocks and real estate, and some other smart money moves, we’ve amassed a seven-figure net worth.

We’re extremely grateful for the privilege we have and count our blessings daily, especially since we know how rare it is for a Black family like us to be in this position. The median Black household has a net worth of only $24,100, a fraction of the $188,200 in net worth the median white household has, 2019 Federal Reserve data shows.

And these numbers don’t always show the nuance of financial instability for many Black families. A quarter of Black households have zero or negative net worth, compared with a tenth of white families, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The reasons for the wealth gap are complicated and multi-layered, with racism, historical injustices, structural inequality, and educational disparities all playing a huge role. So do career choices, marriage status, and inheritance levels for Black people, which are starkly lower than for white people. The practice of redlining, for example, under which the government would not guarantee loans for Black Americans who were trying to purchase homes, as well as the effect of mass incarceration on Black representation in the workforce, are just a couple of examples of how African Americans are systematically prevented from building wealth.

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There have been more ‘Title 42’ expulsions in the space of a few weeks than during an entire year of Trump’s administration, report says. The Guardian: Haiti deportations soar as Biden administration deploys Trump-era health order

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The Biden administration has so far deported more Haitians in a few weeks than the Trump administration did in a whole year, with the use of a highly controversial Trump-era public health order denying asylum seekers basic legal rights, according to a new report.

The report, The Invisible Wall, due to be published on Thursday by a coalition of immigrant rights groups, focuses on Title 42, part of the 1944 Public Health Service Act invoked a year ago by the Trump administration as grounds for summary expulsion of migrants because of the supposed health risk they posed during the Covid pandemic.

The Biden team has sought to place a moratorium on deportations of immigrants already in the country (though that moratorium has been blocked by a court order), but it has not stopped Title 42 expulsions of newly arrived migrants. The report found the pace of deportation flights to Haiti in particular had increased dramatically.

“More Haitians have been removed to Haiti in the weeks since President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office than during all of fiscal year 2020,” according to the Invisible Wall report, published by the Haitian Bridge Alliance, the Quixote Center, and the UndocuBlack Network.

In part at least, the rise in expulsions mirrors an increase in arrivals of Haitians at the border, misled by rumours and deliberate disinformation from people smugglers, that the Biden administration had relaxed the regime at the border. Most of the new arrivals have been waiting in Mexico for months hoping for a change in the rules affecting Haitians. Some of the deportees may also have been held in detention centres in the US.

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WELCOME TO THE FRIDAY’S PORCH

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THE BLACK KOS COMMUNITY, GRAB A SEAT, SOME CYBER EATS, RELAX, AND INTRODUCE YOURSELF.

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