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Jamaican Plight for high voice and piano (2015; 2017)

 

​Jamaican Plight is a six-song cycle for high voice and piano with text by the Jamaican poet Louise Bennett-Coverley, in the Jamaican patois. This patois is a language specific to several islands in the Caribbean and consists of broken English (creole) mixed with words direved from Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and African dialects. The language is heavy on inflections, truncated or abandoned grammar and phrases with extensive use of literary devices such as similes and metaphoric prose.
 

The narrative of the cycle depicts a peddler having to tutor a recently unemployed relative on how to make a living being a peddler; a task the relative once thumbed their nose at. Low income and high prices, along with the plummeting Jamaican economy have made the struggle even greater. This brings about a resolve to seek greener pastures—The United States.

A few years after migration a heavy sense of nostalgia slinks in. The yearning to return to their homeland is great but sadly the entire extended family has also migrated to the United States. There is no one to return home to. Eventually a visit is paid to Jamaica and they marvel at all the changes that have taken place in such a short time. Visiting their hometown, they reunite with neighbors and friends but the reunion takes an interesting turn when their neighbors and friends express great disappointment in their returning without a foreign accent.


The anecdotes were popularized by Jamaican poet Louise Bennett Coverley in the 1940’s where she expounded on many Jamaican proverbs and scenarios (including her own) in Jamaican patois dialect. The soloist is the voice of the people and the pianist is the metaphoric and dramatic enactment of the situation being explained. The pianist is also a person who once was a stranger to the soloist but gradually becomes more familiar and even rambunctious as the cycle progresses.

 

Duration: approx. 25-30 mins. 

 

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