NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 46

Theatre of Harlem ’ s production of a colorized macbeth , praising the “ riveting savagery ” and “ primal effectiveness ”) of the production rather than attributing the re-imagination of the Shakespearean text to a construction from the well-spring of cultural responses revealed in Jazz and Reggae , Carnival and Gelede Masquerade , Gospel and Santeria , Dance and Marching Bands , Spoken Word and Hip Hop , even Steppin ’ and Double-Dutch . As one Caribbean writer noted , if there is to be change in our social reality , “ you cannot talk to a hurricane in standard English !”
Most African languages , irrespective of diversity of cultures , are tonal in character , leading the distinguished Nigerian composer and musicologist , Akin Euba , to observe that the language of African music is “ conditioned to the spoken languages of African peoples .” The stylistic inventions in African languages depend strongly upon tonalities in its sound system , vocabulary , grammar , sentence structure , and semantic insinuation . Such is evinced in “ talking drums ” whereby , in the speech mode , “ drums are actually used for talking by virtue of their tones being made to correspond with those of formal speech ” ( The Language of African Music , Interlink III , iii ).
In his poem , How You Sound , the poet-activist , Amiri Baraka / LeRoi Jones reasserts the irrefutable role of music in augmenting the power of Word in the language production of African Diasporeans :
how you sound ??” is what we recent fellows are up to . How we sound : our peculiar grasp on , say : a . Melican speech , b . Poetries of the world , c . Our selves ( which is attitudes , logics , theories , jumbles of our lives , & all that , d . And the final … The Totality Of Mind : Spiritual … God ? ( or you name it ): Social ( zeitgeist ): or Heideggerian umwelt . ( New American Poetry , poetics , 1960 )
The Nigerian Nobel Prize Laureate , Wole Soyinka , affirmed the role of music in achieving a heightened effect on poetry , when he declared :
If tragedy enforces its own music , its own poetry , if this tragic grandeur can be expressed only in beautiful tomes of sublime music , or the particular sound and orchestration of words which we call poetic , what is wrong with that ? That is part of the property of experience , and that is part of the richness of art and literature . ( Myth , Literature and the African World , Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 1976 )
Upon the Word altars erected by African Diasporic poets , we discover a continuity of the African rhythmic sensibility in the acoustic iconography of the near-percussive cadences in the “ rhythmic architecture of text ,” a feature expounded by Fred Moten in his book , In The Break . The wide practice of word / song by African Diasporic poets , often improvisations that resist closure , is also a call to the spirit . In his phonic alignment of music with the textural oeuvre of Baraka , a seminal innovator of word / song whose voice became virtually an instrument when performing his poems , Moten observes that inside the “ rhythmic architecture of text ,” sounds will often have equal weight of words which “ are somehow constrained by their implicit reduction to the meanings they carry ,” implying that sounds provide amplitude for an “ absence of inflection ; a loss of mobility , slippage , bend ; a missing accent or affect ; the impossibility of a slur or crack and the excess — rather than loss — to preserve intended meaning ” ( 2003 : 42 ). Such is dramatized in Baraka ’ s signature poem of the Sixties , It ’ s Nation Time , where the blues devices of rhythm ‘ n repetition , break / cuts , space , even silence are included to provide his incantation rhetorical amplitude :
Time to get
time to be one strong fast black energy space
one pulsating positive