NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 45

a land far far away/ where there’s no night/ there’s only day When anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles were being waged in Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, some expressions of African consciousness were couched in the language of Pan-Africanism. These were basically statements of solidarity like the Abyssinians’ ‘South African Enlistment,’ for example. In the song ‘Free Africa,’ the Twinkle Brothers assert If Africa no free, black man can’t free The youthful Hugh Mundel sang ‘Africa must be free/ by the year 1983.’ There was Tapper Zukie’s celebratory ‘mpla’ alluding to the victory of the revolutionary forces in Angola during the anti-colonial war against the Portugese, with its banal chorus mpla/ natty going on a holiday Bob Marley’s ‘Zimbabwe’ celebrates the triumph of the liberation struggle in that country and calls for unity of purpose, an appeal that he also makes in ‘Africa Unite.’ BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 43 The re-diasporisation of new world blacks in Europe, as Stuart Hall calls it, saw the establishment of a Caribbean diaspora in Britain. My generation developed not only a West Indian or Caribbean consciousness, but also an African consciousness. In racialised Britain, where the legacy of slavery was a major cause for post World War Two immigration, a shared awareness and consciousness was inevitable. In the same way that slaves had brought Africa with them to the new world, black people brought Africa from the Caribbean to Britain. The black power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was a political expression of African consciousness in the uk as well as a black working class movement. For second and third generation young blacks in Britain, reggae music was an important factor in the formation of new identities of un/belonging. Reggae music, through sound systems, provided a nexus for a culture of resistance to racial oppression. So expressions of African consciousness in Jamaican reggae were an important influence on us and caused us to socialize around it in a particular spirit or disposition. Jamaican reggae also facilitated the growth of Rastafari in Britain. British reggae, too, reflected a continuity of African consciousness through bands like Aswad, Matumbi, Misty in Roots, Steel Pulse, DJ Macca B and others. The success of Bob Marley and his elevation on the world stage as a superstar had inspired a new generation of British roots reggae exponents. Although Lovers’ Rock, that particularly British genre of romantic reggae, continues to hold its own, by the end of the twentieth century, roots reggae in the uk had begun to decline and with it expressions of African consciousness in the music of young black Britons. The technologicallydriven music of young blacks at the start of the new millennium seems to reflect more on the realities of urban life and its dominant consumerist ethos. It is an ethos that is very influenced by American standards, perhaps most apparent in the music video industry. Nevertheless, expressions of African consciousness still continue in reggae and dancehall music in Jamaica today, 500 years after Africans were first brought to Jamaica. To summarise, then, African consciousness is rooted in the Atlantic slave trade, the historical experience of slavery and its legacy. A cultural dimension of this consciousness is its expression in reggae music, where it often gives way to despair and affirmation, defiance and illusion, resistance and hope. In the uk, reggae music significantly influenced the formation of Black British identities. Whilst expressions of African consciousness declined in Jamaican popular music during the 1980s, they endure in twenty-first century Jamaica, but have declined in Britain. This decline reflects the demise of reggae as the dominant music of today’s Black British youth. n BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Africa becomes iconic and takes on a utopian dimension in some reggae songs. The lyrics of Bunny Wailer’s ‘Dreamland’ can be interpreted as a utopian, romanticised vision of Africa, for example. Another example is Third World’s song ‘Tribal War, which mythologises Africa as a place free of tribal conflict. In ‘Satta Massagana,’ The Abyssinians describe Africa as