DENNIS JOSEPH WEEKLY: DBS Radio and the making of the King Creole

Dennis Joseph

Language is the foundation of civilization  and without a systematic form of communication used and understood by all, then nothing could ever be done. Language is older than history, so the actual birth of language, metaphorically speaking, took place too long ago to be recorded.   However, in Waitikubuli we are lucky to be able to live at an exciting time when there is the opportunity to fully create a language from the bottom up-our  ”lange maman nou” Creole tongue.

Our creole language was in danger of becoming extinct with the coming of increased access to radio and the proper English BBC news until  the  Leblanc administration of the sixties introduced the  National Day Gala with its ‘patwa’ dominated competitions.  However there was a disdainful and dismissive attitude towards it by the Roseau based population who referred to the participants as clownish ‘country bookie”.

At the end of the sixteenth century, European expansion and colonization was a primary catalyst for many of the  Creoles known today.  In the horrible days of the African slave trade after  months of being together and coming from different backgrounds the slaves were ingenious enough to create a makeshift language or pidgin to facilitate interaction..  In Waitikubuli the slaves adopted a French  pidgin  and in time it was  adopted by the community as a language,  becoming creole through a process of expansion of vocabulary and grammar called creolisation.

The capitalist and materialistic culture of America and Europe is still enslaving the culture of Waitikubuli.   In the seventies the late Orlando (PIWI) Peltier and followed later by the Gaylords Power Union Talent Committee held weekly talent shows in the then Carib Cinema  and  the talent leaned towards foreign cultures.  It is the same today though it had been hoped that with the introduction of Cadence. Zook, and Bouyon it would have been less so but it cannot be when it appears that the biggest thing in  our World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) is most times a reggae band from Jamaica.  I am not knocking reggae the Bob Marley estate earned USD17 million in the last 12 months and set  to do it again.  If our island home is not to be absorbed, we must struggle to keep the things that identify us  and one of them is our Creole tongue which for us could be more properly called Kweyol..

I recall in 1969 when the band, with which I performed, the Gaylords Power Union (GPU), released its first album titled ‘To Dominica with Love’ one of the efforts I made, as a composer and  producer of the album was to include ‘patwa’ in the lyrics of some of the songs.  Some fans of the GPU were totally disgusted  and made me hear that in really creative, yes, ‘patwa’.

I decided to continue when  I was appointed Manager of  Radio Dominica in 1975.  and successfully sought to change the name to (Dominica Broadcasting Service)DBS.  I then took up the challenge with the support of the staff of introducing for the first time regular ‘patwa’ programs.  This set off a firestorm placing the station staff and myself in the line of sickening attacks from a significant section of the population who promoted a “high culture” and who saw ‘patwa’ as a ‘dirty language’ and an expression of social and intellectual backwardness.  Ferdinand Frampton with his engaging ‘patwa’ style was the station’s front man on air at that time.

Even our promotion of Cadence Music by its creators Exile One and others like, yes, Jeff Joseph and Grammacks though it seems unbelievable today,   met with stiff criticism by  those who simply believed that anything with local ‘patwa’ was degrading. But I refused to budge and  though there was this resistance to cadence music dominating DBS music output it was that very music that brought out the formidable talent of our artists and a number of bands were formed that ended up in Guadeloupe joyfully performing ‘patwa’ songs  and adopting the description of their music style as Creole music. It was satisfying that  by the time I left the station four  years later the ‘patwa’  programs had become so popular that no one would have dared put the brakes on them.  By then it was known as Creole.

In the years 1975 – 1979 in particular DBS Radio stood like a  linguistic agent in the continued resistance to outside domination of the island’s culture.   The station struggled against the notions that denounced ‘patwa’ because it emerged from black slaves and was the language  ghettoed to the “country folk.”  Today our creole tongue surges as King every time we hit the month of October and   we  hear of multitudes of things that are Creole.   It is time to formalize and teach the language in our schools and use this gift more productively and indeed more proudly.  It is time that the  language  be truly crowned and be part of our formal learning experience. It is time to work on it and text book it.  After all we teach Spanish and French in our schools, why not our mother’s tongue?

P.S : Please note that my final article in this series will be next week.  Based and depending on your reviews and feedback to the editor the series will continue  in January 2013.

Listen to the audio version of the article below.

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18 Comments

  1. ROSEAU VALLEY
    October 26, 2012

    Jourd’hui c’est jour Créole. Donc, mon essaierai que person qui écrire/lire Creole sa comprend sa mon veux dire in créole.

    C’est un fantastiq article comme d’habitude par Denis.

    Mais mon pourtant conte la divulgation que peut-être cela et la dernier dans article dans la série par Denis. Ca qui ca Denis avec DNO?

    S’il vous plaît DNO, permettent à Dennis de continuer parceque nous voulez Denis continez. Si nécessaire, DNO siposey payer pour ses articles brillants qui Denis ecrie

    Respectueusement
    Vallée de Roseau

    • October 26, 2012

      @Roseau Valley

      I am sorry but when I left Dominica, I could hardly speak the patois (french dialect) itself, because our adults of my village would not allow us to speak it.

      Now that I have lived in the “English speaking” section of Canada for 38 years–I cannot remember much of the patois words, and yet it seem as if you have written this message above in French.

      Can you rewrite it in English so I can match those words above–if it is possible?

  2. S J Cadette
    October 26, 2012

    :!: Please Readers – My apology for misspelling the word sovereignity.

  3. S J Cadette
    October 26, 2012

    Mr. Joseph,

    I am most pleased by this article. In this DBS’s 40th anniversary, I would like to see similar articles on the role of DBS moulding the minds of our country, from music & culture and Cultural soverignity (if there is truely such a concept), to social, educational and political consciousness and identity, in sports and other aspects of our development. I recall becoming acquainted to aspects of our rich culture through the programme “Artistic & Cutural (AC) happenings on DBS with the soothin voices of Tim Durand and the intellectually inspiring Steinberg Henry on Saturday mornings. We should bring back the “MILK & Honey”.

    Mr. Joseph, I would like to humbly suggest that if possible (I believe it’s possible) luminaries like yourself, Lennox Honeychurch, Gordon Henderson, Dr. Alwin Bully and others produce a documentary (for TV, radio series adaptationon, book) the development of Dominica’s Art (Music, Dance, literary works, plays etc from the 60s to 2000. QUITE AN EXCERCISE. But who best can undertake such than than those directly involved during that 40 yr period. ALL OUR LUMINARIES -Please make hast to get this done to help re-inspire and re-invigorate a new sense of identity about all things Dominican.

    Oh I love the son “Pray for the Blackman”. Please post the lyrics on DNO (if IP rights allow)or produce a new recording of that Album for posterity.

    Success

    SJC

    • The Bush Doctor
      October 26, 2012

      It would be appropriate to refer to our historian as Dr. Lennox Honeychurch.

  4. Watch Dog
    October 26, 2012

    And no mention of Felix Henderson, Denis?

    • Realist
      October 26, 2012

      He was speaking more of the beginnings, everything after that is history.

  5. Brathwait
    October 26, 2012

    i have always appreciated your articles from the papers and now on DNO. Our freedom of speech, our democracy allows us to agree to disagree, but all in all you have always done a good job in my opinion. keep it up my Brother.

  6. kweyolite
    October 25, 2012

    So many are too far away from their true national Kweyol identity to even differentiate between right and wrong these days. Our kweyol traditions are being lost and should be a major concern to all. Our positive Kweyol lifestyle is overpowered by one of putting hands out for alms and trinkets and disrespect for the Constitution.

    Many aspects of our Koudmen traditions dying slowly. Dominicans would allow greed, selfishness, corrupt acts, injustices to sweep away all the good things necessary for improving our Kweyol lifestyles- music, language, dance, food, drinks, education, etc. etc.

  7. Oh no
    October 25, 2012

    Informative as usual. Mr. Joseph is a valuable resource who shares his knowledge through this medium and we should welcome the gist and style at all times

  8. Anonymous
    October 25, 2012

    Though sometimes Dennis’ sentences are long and winding I do enjoy reading his pieces and actually look forward to them.

  9. Anonymous
    October 25, 2012

    @mamizoo you post is translated to mean, Dennis write for the opposition? Lol you people have no shame.

  10. Anonymous
    October 25, 2012

    Nov 3rd should be kweyol day on dno all post should be in kweyol any thing in english will be deleted.

  11. Observer
    October 25, 2012

    Thanks DJ for this piece. You have finally written an article that does not rest blame on the present regime and Pm in particular. We are getting somewhere.

    Your arguments are good and yes, you led the way in championing the cause of Kweyole as a valued form of expresssion and communication here, Unfortunately, we have not gotten as far as we might. No one can take that from you.

    With respect to the future you should not give up writing. I do not always like your treatment of the issues you choose to write about. But that is your right so to do. I am sure you appreciate my and others right to dissent and also to express such dissent on the blogs.Perhaps we shoulf reign in the personalities, but we all see things differently. By the way I do hope that your book writing project regarding the events of May 29 1979, as seen through your eyes will continue. It should make interesting reading.

  12. Voice From The North
    October 25, 2012

    These articles put together by Mr Joseph have been very good just as today’s article. I hope DNO will allow more of those kinds of articles in the future.

  13. Anonymous
    October 25, 2012

    Thanks for the history lesson on the eveolution of our cherished creole language and culture. You need to be also praised for your work in ensuring thast the language lives on. I really believe in giving people their flowers while they are alive, and even if I may not always agree to everything you write (especially many of the political commentaries)people like you need to be given the true recognition you deserve especially around this time of year.

  14. Mamizoo
    October 25, 2012

    To the editor of DNO please continue with those articles by Dennis Joseph. Unlike our disgraceful historians Dennis present unadulterated historical facts.

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