The Banning of the Drums; or ‘How to be a Good Nigger in Jamaica’

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Under the Saltire Flag

To fully understand the present moment, some say we must understand the past that has given birth to it. So this week, I pause my regular commentary on topical matters in Jamaica, to look briefly at our history.

drums1

In about 1740, across the Caribbean, the drums were banned. Of course this wasn’t so much a banning of drumming as it was a banning of blackness. People had been taken out of Africa. Now it was time to take Africa out of them. Drums not only represented a continent and a vibrant culture; it was a living language loud enough to speak across plantations and in whose syncopated vocabulary, revolts could be plotted. Importantly, the white planters did not understand the language of drums and so these drums had to be banned.

The logic presented was what we might expect from that period of time. It was steeped in racism. Buckra…

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