Elombe’s journey

elombemottleyJamaica-based Barbadian cultural historian, Elton Elombe Mottley is on a journey.

And Mottley, a former Director of the National Cultural Foundation, has published 15 books titled Chronicles of 20th Century Barbados — a Journey of Discovery.

Today, he told Barbados TODAY, he had put out the books to celebrate his 75 birthday.

“As a celebration to my 75th birthday, I basically wanted to summarise where I was going in terms of publishing these books; and at the moment, there are 15 books that I was launching,” he said.

“It is primarily laying the corner stone of a house that consist of stories of 20th century Barbados, with commentaries, with profiles. But it tells the story of Barbados over the hundred years,” the author added.

Mottley explained that it started as an exercise to look for Barbadian music, because all the anthropologists he came across and the people who recorded music never recorded local folk music.

“They recorded Cuba, Jamaica, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Kitts, Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St.Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Cariacou, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, but never recorded Barbados,” founder of the defunct Yoruba House cultural centre observed.

Mottley said even Emery Cooke recorded only a few songs by the group of the late veteran musician Keith Campbell, calypsonians Lord Radio and Mighty Jerry. However, he pointed out that these were not part of the traditional scenario.

Among the 15 books are Identities Volumes 1 and 2; Better Must Come Volumes 1 and 2; Cover Down Yuh Bucket, the story of sticklicking in Barbados; and The Music Bubbles Volumes 1 to 3.

In his introduction to Identities 1 and 2, Professor Ian Boxill wrote: “Elombe Mottley has created a mirror for Barbados equalled only by the likes of George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, Timothy Callender and Austin ‘Tom’ Clarke. In his collection of short essays, he (Mottley) takes us on a journey of life; his life, and ultimately the life of people who have influenced him most — Bajan people.”

Professor Linden F. Lewis also had something to say in his introduction in Better Must Come.

“The publication of the book Better Must Come, has to be seen as part of a broader project of the brainchild of the author, Elombe Mottley,” Lewis asserted.

“The book is conceived as part of his ongoing observations and reflections on life, social change and politics in Barbados, all of which is generally captured under the heading of Chronicles of 20th Century Barbados.

“Mottley recalled becoming fascinated with indigenous music because it was not recorded, and therefore, he gravitated to such early pioneers as Allan Nomax and another man who, in the early 1950s, had a programme on Voice of America – Jazz USA and popular music.

“This man started recording the music of Ginea and Senegal, playing different instruments. So this was fascinating to me. And when you talk about folk music, there is the balance of folk music at that level as opposed to professional folk musicians that came along, who were the big recording artists, like Belafonte or whoever,” the researcher and producer related.

Mottley said this music also represented the people of the Caribbean.

“I know, from my own experiences,” he remembered, “that these people used to come to my father’s house every bank holiday, on weekends; they would come up. The first steelband that came to Barbados was led by a man called Prowler, who became known as Little Sparrow and he went on to sing in the Bahamas; and a fellow called Blackman, Blackie, and they came up.”

This, Mottley told this newspaper, encouraged him to start his search for Barbadian music, which he reasoned would have been influenced by outside sources. (EJ)

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