The Importance of Oral Traditions in the Caribbean

Topics: Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago Pages: 3 (1025 words) Published: May 1, 2012
ESSAY: Assess the importance of oral tradition in the Caribbean for the development of its civilization from one generation to another. In the Caribbean, oral traditions are a common element in cultures throughout the region. This is due in part to the areas’ origin in colonialism and slavery, which brought to the region various ethnic groups, each with their own cultures and traditions. Many if not all of these groups were illiterate which necessitated the need for oral traditions as a vital means of passing on their culture and history to subsequent generations. Oral traditions are defined as recollections of the past, orally transmitted and recounted, that arise naturally within the dynamics of a culture. They have existed in the absence of written notes or other more sophisticated recording devices. In a culture that has a long period of unrecorded history; oral traditions have allowed Caribbean people to define who they are. The telling of stories, the playing of games and the singing of songs and poetry were all a means of passing on traditions and educating people about themselves. The African slaves that were brought to the region brought with them the oral traditions of their homeland. Griots were adept storytellers, teachers and historians. One such tale that has survived till today is the story of Ananci. Ananci stories were brought to the Caribbean by the people taken from West Africa and were handed down from parents to children. In the Caribbean, Ananci came to represent the Africans in their struggle with the plantation owners.

So powerful was the message of these stories, that some Caribbean scholars have even suggested that “Anancism” is a psychological trait of today’s Caribbean people. The sociologist Leonard Barrett wrote that “so intricately woven is Anancism in Jamaican life that his cunning has become part of the Jamaican personality stereotype”. Reggae and Calypso are two other forms of Caribbean oral traditions that have...

Bibliography: 1) Wikipedia tradition accessed March 13, 2012
2) Doumerc, Eric. “Caribbean Civilisation: The English-speaking Caribbean since Independence” accessed March 13, 2012
3) Caifesta. 2006 accessed March 12, 2012
4) Van Marissing Mendez, Neeltje. “Caribbean Oral Traditions”. Puerto Rico Encyclopedia. Dec 20, 2011 accessed March 15, 2012
5) Hill R, Donald. “Caribbean folklore: a handbook” accessed March 15, 2012
[ 2 ]. A griot is a West African storyteller, praise singer, poet and musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards.
[ 3 ]. Anansi the trickster is a spider, and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. The spider eventually defeats his opponents due to cunning and intelligence, proving brain over brawn.
[ 4 ]. Mento is a style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced reggae music. Mento draws on musical traditions brought over by African slaves. The influence of European music is also strong, as slaves who could play musical instruments were often required to play music for their masters. They subsequently incorporated some elements of these traditions into their own folk music. 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.
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