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Passa Passa

I want to post aspects of Jamaican culture and life that we come into contact with, and share a hopefully balanced view, more educational than anything. Josh and I live in a small, rural community that struggles to acquire information in a timely way and this negatively affects life for them (us) in a myriad of ways.  All popular culture–be it fashion, music, dance, slang–stems from Kingston and the radio waves.  Eventually, usually through the youth (age 15-30), we see it on our streets at night and early mornings.  In Comfort Castle, some friends of ours participate in hosting a weekly dance event called Up Di Wednesday. Lately, Josh has been having lots of fun DJing up there with the hosts, although he generally comes home before the crowd arrives. We are trying to do our part with helping youth here find some productive, clean ways of entertaining themselves–one of the ways is by hosting a movie night on Sundays up at the same location as Up Di Wed.  Josh’s friends are by far some of the most polite, seemingly respectable young men I’ve met around here.  They have families, hold down employment and speak to me like an equal, look me in the face and ask me wagwaan.  His link with these guys has allowed us a peek into Jamaican culture, for better and worse.  You’ve already probably read a bit about Josh’s foray into graphic design, via his making party posters here.  It’s been an education for him, becoming good at designing them, figuring out what’s “stylish” and developing his own beliefs about the posters and what they represent (along the spectrum of our community members).  I thought you might like some background:

Passa Passa is like a neighborhood dance party, where people come dressed to impress and show off their best moves to dancehall music.  It is dancehall culture at its core.

Music and dance are folk forms integral to the identity of most Jamaicans.  I’ve had friends explain that it’s “inside me, waiting to express.” Here’s a good explanation of the dance forms particular to Jamaica. JCDC 1 JCDC 2

Jamaica is a culture that loves music—there is no doubt about that! The music culture is a sound-system culture. Music is played everywhere on the small island via sound-systems, large mobile speakers. Walking along any Jamaican city street you will hear the deep and pounding bass coming from massive sound systems blaring the current and popular Jamaican music—dancehall reggae. Dancehall music, also known as Ragga, is present day popular Jamaican Reggae, which voices the current population’s concerns, conflicts, fantasies, and frustrations. The music also offers an escape, a humor, and a new outlook towards the country’s harsh economic situation. Dancehall is usually recorded in Jamaican Patois and is the best tool to learn the Jamaican Language. You hear the pace, accent, context of the Jamaican Language while listening to dancehall in addition to the messages about Jamaican society and the world.  http://www.speakjamaican.com/music/

More modern styles of music and dance in Jamaica (dancehall, roots reggae, dub) have been criticized for their anti-gay sentiments, misogynistic views toward women and ultimately violent, narrow-minded and negative.

Root Magazine article: The Dance That Could Save Kingston
Sandra Rose website: Jamaica Bans Hip Hop/Dancehall Music From the Airwaves

YardFlex article: Dancehall Music & Jamaican Society

I met a well-educated native Jamaican woman yesterday (Annie’s host mother’s daughter, for those who know us) who said something to me that I rarely hear expressed. She is well traveled, lives in Paris with her husband who is French, and is here visiting family and friends for a few weeks.  She said to me, “I’m Jamaican, not African. It seems that so many dark-skinned folks living in America and Europe cling tenuously to their ties with Africa, even forcing it on their children.  I’m Jamaican, not African-French or African-American.  I’m Jamaican. There’s a big difference.”

If you come to Jamaica for longer than a week, you will observe that she’s right. There is a big difference and Jamaican culture is distinct.  Whether it’s dancehall music or dreadlocked rastas or bush teas or country hospitality…We have taken pleasure in observing reactions when we show movies in our square like ATL, which highlights African-American teenage life in Atlanta.  It’s just as foreign a culture to them as anything else.  We thought it’d help to show the variety of the African diaspora, and that some U.S. made films DO have black people in them…It is interesting when our Jamaican friends express the realization that they might have more in common with light-skinned Jamaicans than they do with dark-looking people living in other countries.

I hope we are, in some small way, shrinking the world for a at least a few people, as minds become increasingly freed to explore all the intricacies of the human form (instead of US vs. THEM).  As we begin to open our minds, the world around us become smaller because we allow ourselves to grow in knowledge and connect.

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2 Responses

  1. i like that first picture. did you take it? good post. you write well.

  2. Nope, I found it on one of the pages while I was researching. But I put it in as a linked picture, so that should be okay, right? You can help me when you get back. :) Thanks, mon. See, now we’re on a roll for educating and advocating…yay us.

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