The quote above is useful to explain contemporary Black British collective identity because in the same way that Britain can be described as multi cultural Black British identity can be said to have a different layers to it. Black British collective identity is the only identity that comes from the black diaspora that is able to mix the cultures and practices of Black Caribbean, Black Americans and Black British and then be inclusive of others races sharing in their experiences and identity.
It’s important in the exam that you keep focused on the here and now the contemporary but to be able to talk with some relevance about the contemporary texts you need sometimes draw comparisons to the past and see how things and representations have changed and why
You will need to do the same thing with music texts
Important to notes that Reggae was used as a vehicle to communicate collective struggles of the black poor. The working classes were feeling a certain way and they way that they ALL felt came out in the lyrics of the songsThe blacks in Britain in the 1970s felt a similar oppression as the Jamaicans in Jamaica (think about how Black British were treated in the 1970s – ‘Pressure’) – so the lyrics spoke to them too – there was a sense of a collective identity across the waters
The Wailers picture is a hyperlink to a song/videoClick on the first link and read the lyrics to Concrete Jungle – what do you think the song is talking about?Now click on the second link and read the analysis of the song lyrics
These Black British bands were able to vocalise how the young Black youth in the 1970s and early 1980s were feeling, not accepted as British because of their Afro-Caribbean heritage and not able to ‘go back home’ because they were in fact British, their collective identity and how there positioned socially was communicated in the music of these bands.Clack on the Aswad and Steel Pulse pictures to listen to the music, there is also a link for the lyrics of the Steel Pulse song
Acculturation = modification of the culture of a group as a result of contact with a different cultureSyncretism = fusion of differing belief systems - the result is heterogeneous.Heterogeneous = consisting of elements that are not of the same kind or natureBefore The Specials there was Smiley Culture see these links (what is he representative of?)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_ZDPMwrPDM http://www.justsomelyrics.com/1072239/Smiley-Culture-Cockney-Translation-Lyricshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jOjZKDoo08&feature=relatedhttp://www.lyricsmx.com/lyrics.php?mode=song&song=5610
Consider the differences between the collective identity represented through Reggae and the collective identity represented through 2Tone
Read a try to understand slides 16-22, the answer this questionWhy can 2Tone music and bands like The Specials be seen as representation of syncretic processes that are at the root of contemporary black British collective identity?You’ll need to think aboutWhat 2Tone represented/ symbolisedHow bands like The Specials communicated collective identity at the timeAnd how what they represented is still communicated through music today (see slide 23)It will also help if you have watched the 2Tone documentary http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=E465C60BA830AC92
Black British collective identity Black British Collective Identity “The creation of a supposedly multicultural society has created a situation where it’s increasingly difficult to define what it means to be British. There is no longer any clear distinctive about being British…” http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A809895 Why is this quote useful to explain contemporary Black British collective identity? Black Britain defines itself crucially as part of a diaspora. Its unique cultures draw inspiration from those developed by black populations else-where. In particular, the culture and politics of black America and the Caribbean have become raw materials for creative processes which redefine what it means to be black, adapting it to distinctively British experiences and meanings. Black culture is actively made and re-made. (Paul Gilroy ‘Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’ )
MUSIC – Historical - Reggae Music was seen not merely as a form of entertainment, but it also functioned as a vehicle for social and political aspirations. Reggae music, which originated among the working classes in Jamaica in the late 1960’s, was a mode of expressing the collective struggles of the black poor. Simon Jones wrote that 'the 1970’s as a whole were characterised by an extraordinary degree of synchronisation between the political ideologies expounded in Jamaican popular music and the conditions of race and class oppression experienced by Blacks in Britain'. In its initial stages the British reggae market was dependent on the Jamaican one. The political situation in Jamaica, which was reflected in the reggae tradition, had special significance for the black community in Britain.
MUSIC – Historical - Reggae Music by the Wailers affected the black British community, especially with their first two albums, Catch a Fire (1973) and Burnin' (1973). In them subjects concerning anti - imperialism and racial solidarity were raised, thereby creating a sense of race and class consciousness. http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bob+marley/concrete+jungle_20021669.html http://www.shmoop.com/concrete-jungle/lyrics.html In the late 1970s Black British reggae groups such as Aswad, Steel Pulse and Matumbi, emerged, and Britain developed its own unique brand of reggae, characterized by a merging of soft soul and reggae.
MUSIC – Historical - Reggae These bands connected with disenchanted youth all over Britain. They sang about isolation and rejection from a society that didn’t understand them. http://www.lyrics007.com/Steel%20Pulse%20Lyrics/Drug%20Squad%20Lyrics.html These bands were formed by first generation, British-born blacks who eloquently voiced the fear and anguish of growing up in a predominantly white society. Brought up on British pop and their parent’s records, they combined a punk attitude with a Jamaican reggae sound. Their efforts to become successful mirrored thousands of young black kids across the UK who were coping with right-wing backlash to the influx of Caribbean immigrants
MUSIC – Historical – 2Tone The assimilation of blacks is not a process of acculturation but of cultural syncretism (Bastide, 1978). The Specials can be used as a symbol of this process It is impossible to theorize black culture in Britain without developing a new perspective on British culture as a whole. (Paul Gilroy ‘Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’ )
1979 The Rude Boy character exuded cool, more appealing to British working class audience The movement allowed blacks and whites to share experiences Mix of British and Jamaican music Had it’s own style – Pork pie hat, black and white dress code Combined white and black styles First time blacks and whites played together in the same band First multicultural racial music Fusion of Ska and Punk The Specials, Madness, The Selector, The Beat, The Bodysnatchers Lyrics reflected contemporary Britain – and young people’s lives irrespective of colour The coming together of politics and youth
It would appear that long before the advent of 'rock ‘n‘ roll’, the rise of soul, disco and reggae, the cultural institutions of the white working class were hosting an historic encounter between young black and white people. This meeting precipitated not only fear of the degeneration of the white 'race' in general… but also the creation of a youth sub-culture in which black style and expertise were absolutely central. (Paul Gilroy ‘Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’ ) MUSIC – Historical – 2Tone
In his egalitarianism Ethiopianismand anti-imperialism, his critique of law and of the types of work which were on offer, these young people found meanings with which to make sense of their lives in post-imperial Britain. The two-tone bands appreciated this and isolated the elements in Marley's appeal that were most appropriate to the experiences of young, urban Britons on the threshold of the 1980s. They pushed the inner logic of his project to its conclusion by fusing pop forms rooted in the Caribbean with a populist politics. Marley's populism had been focused by die imperatives of black liberation and overdetermined by the language of Rastafarianism. Theirs was centred instead on pointing to the possibility that black and white young people might discover common or parallel meanings in their blighted, post-industrial predicament. (Paul Gilroy ‘Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’ ) MUSIC – Historical – 2Tone
The experience of living side by side in a ‘ghost town' had begun to raise this question. The Specials' song, which topped the chart as the rioting of 1981 was at its peak, asked, 'Why must the youth fight against themselves?' and cleverly entangled its pleas against both racism and youth-cultural sectarianism. The two-tone operation depended on being seen to transcend the various prescriptive definitions of 'race' which faced each other across the hinterland of youth culture. (Paul Gilroy ‘Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’ ) MUSIC – Historical – 2Tone
How the legacy of 2 Tone relates to the multicultural landscape of today and contemporary Black Britain? Culture is not a fixed and impermeable feature of social relations. Its forms change, develop, combine and are dispersed in historical processes. The syncretic cultures of black Britain exemplify this. They have been able to detach cultural practices from their origins and use them to found and extend the new patterns of metacommunication which give their community substance and collective identity. The defensive walls around each sub-culture gradually crumble and new forms with even more complex genealogies are created in the synthesis and transcendence of previous styles. The effects of this can be seen not only where the cultural resources of the Afro-Caribbean communities provide a space in which whites are able to discover meaning in black histories, style and language, but also where a shared culture, overdetermined by its context of the urban crisis, mediates the relationship between the different ethnic groups that together comprise black Britian. (Paul Gilroy ‘Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’ ) ‘RACE’ ETHNICITY, SYNCRETISM AND MODERNITY