Now that I finally understand that a love of Martinique does not necessarily equate to an endorsement of colonialism, mental slavery or white supremacy, I’m coming out of the closet as a Madininaphile. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that my chosen residence at present is the centre stage of an animated feature at cinemas now. Enter Battledream Chronicle.
I really love the music I hear in Martinique. Old and new. As people across the Caribbean from Haiti to Trinidad and Tobago and many of the islands in between, and the region’s many coastal nations all gear up for the most spectacular of our Caribbean traditions, carnival, I thought I’d share some of the (admittedly non-carnival) sounds that are just unavoidable in Martinique at the moment.
1) Soprano – Fresh Prince. This track’s joy comes from a mixture of 90s nostalgia, dancing ‘à la Carlton’ and comedy lyrics like ‘Jeffrey, bring us some ice!’ Seriously catchy.
2. Lycinaïs Jean – Aimer (to love). If the last big zouk tune you heard was a Kassav tune from the early 90s, catch up here. This song has dominated the airwaves for MONTHS.
3. E.sy Kennenga – Comme Si (As if). As in…dance ‘as if’ no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, live every day like it’s the last day of my life, as the lyrics suggest. Another catchy number with a video produced by fan-generated content. If you’re not in a place where dancing, drunkenness and disorderly or ‘no’ behaviour in the capital’s streets will be socially acceptable for the next 7 days, enjoy this taster of some of this French Caribbean island’s contemporary popular music.
If you’re not feting hard but you wish you were, this selection of the biggest, latest soca tracks from Trinidad Carnival 2015 is for you (from DJ Private Ryan)
I don’t watch TV here. I used to. 10 years ago I lived on a daily diet of BET and a German cop show I still remember storylines from relatively vividly. It was called Le Clown in French, and it was awesome. A standard detective/action hero main character but because it was German the things that people called the police for were different from what I was used to. The things that a jury would think were important were different. I found it fascinating to see how another people lived. That it, like lots of violent cop shows came on at like 8am was also a revelation; we have a ‘watershed’ in the UK, which means that if it’s not suitable viewing for kids it shouldn’t be on TV before 9pm.
It’s probably why I like languages in theory. I say in theory cos in practice I become more reluctantly bilingual by the day I swear. When I’m feeling stressed out, suddenly I’m all ‘argh, as if my day wasn’t shitty enough, I have to explain my vex face in french! ARGH!!’ But that happens when you’re a bit homesick.
I used to love French. When I was in secondary school, I used to translate my favourite RnB tunes into French – for fun! In my spare time! And then I’d do my regular French homework! When I did A levels, I would listen to French radio every morning. And not the music stations, like news programmes. I was a proper francophile. Continue reading
Madinina, as Martinique is known to locals, is a beautiful place. It’s very easy, on any random day, to take a picture lifted out of a stereotypically stunning postcard version of Caribbean topography on an average mobile phone.
The Flower Isle
I’ve not done any empirical research on this, but it seems sometimes as if every Caribbean island’s name has a subtitle; Dominica is the Nature Island, St Lucia is Simply Beautiful, Grenada is the Spice Island, Madinina is the Flower Island.
Can you imagine how many flowers you have to be able to see, how frequently, how many varieties and how lovely they have to be for an island to end up nicknamed ‘the flower island’? Combine the overflow of beautiful flowers in all manner of species and colours, with a terrain of peaks, valleys and more peaks, rivers and waterfalls, a fabulous coastline, rainforest and incredible landscapes. And that’s just the land mass.
As much as I love walking across the beach after work, or watching the sun dip behind the horizon line spectacularly at dusk, what I really love are the people. Unfortunately, they have a distorted vision of themselves. I never knew any one people to be so convinced of their own worthlessness. And I’m black. Nothing gets Matinitje (pronounced Mat-in-it-che) more frenzied than talking about the wotlessness of other Martiniquais (pronounced Mar-ti-nee-kay)*. Seriously. But I always find the display somewhere between alarming, amusing and disturbing because it has not been my experience at all.
The greatest gift that Africa, with its traditional culture of ubuntu, the Biko quote goes, would give to the world, is a more human face. Without getting overly sentimental, that’s kinda how I feel about moun matinitje aka Martinican people. For me, this is an unconditionally giving people. They give of themselves very naturally and very generously. Continue reading
I love Martinique. Love it! Why? Because I catch the most jokes here. I write this with a silly grin, teary eyes and chuckling. This place is nuts. It’s like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. Beautiful but incomprehensibly crazy. Though it might be a crap analogy because I remember feeling like I didn’t ‘get it’. Although it’s possible that it is therefore the perfect analogy.
But I digress.
What had me laughing so hard I felt compelled to blog about it? Slavery – history versus the discourse here? The state of education in contemporary Martinique? Or perhaps both? I’ll let you decide.
First off, I was not alone. The group of crying splutterers included me, two Martinican dudes, and two girls, one Martinican and one Guadeloupean. We had convened at 8am and were reviewing the contribution of our comrade in educational struggle, who was also a Martinican, at around midday. His task was to translate the fruits typically found in a jaden kréyol Matinitje (literal translation: traditional Martinican creole garden) into kréyol – as in the language – so that creole-speaking students learning to read and write their language could have a written reference point aka a dictionary while they learned a bit of Martinican cultural history. There’s a real and problematic lack of learning materials in creole – the first language of many if decreasing numbers of Martinicans (and St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeans, Trinidadians and Haitians…Mauritians, and Seychellois…but that’s another story). Bref, this was an important task. Continue reading
In the name of attempting to describe some of the bonuses to living in Martinique, I will simply describe the past week and let you decide if this place is awesome, or what.
This morning, peckish but not starving, I considered my breakfast options. Once I’d decided, I jumped out of bed, wandered into my garden and with the help of an ‘tool’ carefully manoeuvred so that the guava I’d had my eye on all week, would fall towards me rather than into the bushes directly below the tree, or worse, onto the neighbours’ patio. Score! Manoeuvre completed, I then scrutinised the mango tree opposite, decided there was nothing ripe and instead went for the mango tree at the front of the house.
The mango hit the ground with a thud.
Breakfast was ready.
It’s all been a bit intense around here. I’ve got deadlines, and major headaches accompanying them, not least with a crazy cold. Feeling stressed, tired and ill seems doubly miserable when the sky is bright blue, the horizon line is well-defined and the sunshine is gloriously skin-tickling warm. Carnival feels like a long time ago.
I was in the library for hours this morning, trying to talk through an assignment with a colleague, and then complete it. Nothing especially complicated, but a lot of preparation is required for a lengthy document which I have to produce in French. So it’s just a little stressful. Over-enthusiastic air-conditioning did not help matters.
Having anticipated a distractingly sour mood, I had one appointment at least to look forward to. To clear my head a little, I did lunch with a sister-friend. We had a lot to catch up on seeing how we hadn’t sat down together for 2 whole weeks! And catch up we did: we just talked and talked and talked and talked for four straight hours. Continue reading