The Artword Artbar is becoming an important artistic/cultural hubs of the city. This past weekend Ron and Judith, through their connections in the Toronto scene, brought us another wonderful mix of music and language.
The main performer was Rhoma Spencer, a transplanted Trinidadian now rooted in Toronto as a writer, actor, director, etc.; the evening was billed as "an evening of Caribbean comedy and the oral traditions." Her presentation, a mixture of stand-up comedy and storytelling, was complimented by sets from the calypso musician (acoustic guitar!) Roger Gibb.
Although we non-Caribbeans had been warned that some of the terms and expressions of everyday Trinidadian speech would probably be incomprehensible to us, Rhoma often took the time to explain them and their origens. Doing so certainly drew me (with my curiosity for language and usage) deeper into her performance. Enough so that I truly felt part of the mostly Caribbean-Canadian audience.
Much of Rhona's spoken word delivery (both poetry and prose) was based in the tradition brought from WestAfrica of trading a (friendly) mixture of brags and insults as entertainment and competition, closely related to the Afro-American "dozens." The lilt and inflections of Trinidadian speech, as she pointed out, differed a great deal from that of Jamaican. Roger "Rajiman" Gibbs traced how calypso developed out of sung presentations and commentary on the news and concerns of the day, often with one singer answering a previous one and making this a musical competition rather than Rhona's spoken word; he traced the development of traditional calypso into soca, kaiso, rapso and other forms.
No matter where you look, the English language continues to change, proving that it is alive and well. I used to be a stickler for "proper" usage. Not any more. The changes in the use of language can't be stopped or tied down by rules. Now all I ask for is consistency: if you're going to say (or write) "I ain't" do not turn around and say "I'm not" in the next sentence.