By Christopher Cozier
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?
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?
Posters for a reggae concert, Amsterdam, November 2009; photo by Thomas Meijer zu Schlochtern
Thursday, November 26, 2009
By Christopher Cozier