Notes: seamless spaces

Thursday, November 26, 2009

By Christopher Cozier

Kevin Lyttle billboard

Billboard advertising a Kevin Lyttle concert, Paramaribo, October 2009; photo by Christopher Cozier

While photographing a Kassav concert poster in Paramaribo, I noticed a bird cage hanging nearby. The owner informed me that his bird could sing anything, even Kassav, if I wanted to hear. This was the same kind of seed bird one finds in Trinidad in similar cages — birds that are walked and sunned obsessively by their keepers — birds for whom music is often played to motivate them to trill, or “shine”, as we say in Trinidad.

I began to wonder if the ones at home could sing David Rudder, Jah Cure, or Kassav. Many of these birds fly over to Trinidad from the continent and, sadly, are sometimes brought over by smugglers. I wonder what tunes they carry in their heads if they have been moved from one forest, urban space, or state of captivation to another?

bird and kassav

Caged songbird and Kassav poster, Paramaribo, October 2009; photo by Christopher Cozier

This was on my mind walking through the streets of Amsterdam a couple of months later, when I came upon a poster for a reggae event. There is a way that Caribbean music or musical interests create a seamlessness between locations. The dance-floor, the beat, is always there; wherever the people settle and or pass through, from island to island, from islands to continents.

This sense of a presence is always there ... this visibility or audibility often defines the world in which we find ourselves, whether in concert halls, from car stereos and radio stations, or inside our iPod in the subway, tube, or tram. The playbills, the posters map out this transnational dancehall. This heartbeat, as Africa and India become processed or process their influences, seems to be everywhere now. How is contemporary visual practice to be understood through its dialogues and contexts in comparison?

Vybz Kartel was just in Trinidad, while in Suriname I saw posters for Kassav, and friends were flying over to Curaçao to catch a performance of Juan Luis Guerra. The electronic voice from the GPS system giving directions in a car in London was programmed to have a London-Jamaican accent!

A thumping car passes outside as I make this note ... if I close my eyes, where could I be within this moment?

Amsterdam Poster

Posters for a reggae concert, Amsterdam, November 2009; photo by Thomas Meijer zu Schlochtern


FSJL said...

I read this, and was thrown back in memory to a warm spring day in New York, when I was listening to Habte Selassie on the radio (WBAI), and could have been in Kingston.

My old friend Michaeline Crichlow, in Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination, makes the argument that the Caribbean has become trans-local. Music is, I suppose, one means of translocation.

Anonymous said...

o very true, these thoughts and words, come and have a look in The Hague in summertime, you'll find the Surinamese men with their birds like 'twa twa' and 'pikolet'in the middle of some Dutch fields... wonder where I can find the GPS with the Jamaican accent... guiding me through the highways of Europe!