Published December 2010

[African Caribbean culture] exists not in a dictionary but in the tradition of the spoken word.”
– Kamau Braithwaite, in History of the Voice1

The spoken word traditions inherent within Jamaican music reflect the music’s cultural and community significance. Elaborating on his concept of Nation Language, Braithewaite shows how, “oral tradition demands not only the griot but the audience to complete the community.”2 The relationship between griot and community, the call and response between the two, is particularly evident in sound system culture, usually consisting of a group of people who prepare and present music for public consumption. Indeed, the evolution of Jamaican popular music, a widely accepted guardian of African Caribbean culture, exists not necessarily on record but in the tradition of live performance. The unique practice of dubplate recording and presentation within sound system culture provides an ideal point from which to examine the trajectory of the spoken word in popular culture as well as the links between artist and community.

For the complete article, contact The Jamaica Journal (Institute of Jamaica)


1 Braithwaite, Edward Kamau. (1984), History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry. New Beacon Books, London, p. 17

2 ibid., p. 18

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