Essay On Oral Tradition In The Caribbean

Oral Traditions and Songs Essay

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Oral Traditions and Songs

Some may say that without a written language, literature cannot exist. However, to deny the oral traditions and songs of cultures prior to the existence of their written languages would deny the world some of the earliest literature of humankind. Whether passed down through oral or written means, literature consists of all stories, songs, and poetry every generation loves, inspires, and passes on.

Early in life children are told stories by parents, siblings, grandparents, and teachers. Those early years are filled with nursery rhymes and silly stories. Sometimes the caregiver will read from a book of composed nursery rhymes. Sometimes it is simply a rhyme they heard in their childhood. Either way such…show more content…

As a matter of fact, many of the nursery rhymes known today got their start through oral traditions. And more importantly, that is how they are generally passed on through the generations. Even before they are transcribed, they are uttered and, hopefully, passed on to the next generation. So although many people find the need to write down such stories so as not to be forgotten, the nursery rhymes are already a part of literature.

As a young child grows older, parents tend to give the child stories with more meaning. Often parents fill their child’s desire for a story with a moral story. Again this phenomenon tends to cross cultural lines. Every culture seems to have a set of morals in which they abide. Furthermore they tend to have stories that demonstrate the moral in action. Young children are told such stories orally. Whether or not the story was written in a book has little effect on the power of it. And whether or not the story is written down in a book before that child grows up to tell it to his/her child is irrelevant. The story, told over and over to generation after generation, has become a part of literature.

Literature is not made up of just stories. Poems and songs can be attributed to literature. Poetry and songs, like the nursery rhymes of childhood, are also vital to a culture. Sometimes a story is told in the form of a poem or song. And sometimes a poem or song can be pure entertainment. However labeled in a culture, the poems and songs

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Oral traditions and expressions including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage

The oral traditions and expressions domain encompasses an enormous variety of spoken forms including proverbs, riddles, tales, nursery rhymes, legends, myths, epic songs and poems, charms, prayers, chants, songs, dramatic performances and more. Oral traditions and expressions are used to pass on knowledge, cultural and social values and collective memory. They play a crucial part in keeping cultures alive.

Some types of oral expression are common and can be used by entire communities while others are limited to particular social groups, only men or women, perhaps, or only the elderly. In many societies, performing oral traditions is a highly specialized occupation and the community holds professional performers in the highest regard as guardians of collective memory. Such performers can be found in communities all over the world. While poets and storytellers in non-Western societies such as the griots and dyelli from Africa are well known, there is also a rich oral tradition in Europe and North America. In Germany and the USA, for example, there are hundreds of professional storytellers.

Hudhud chants of the Ifugao Read more on the element© Renato S. Rastrollo / NCCA -ICH /UNESCO

Because they are passed on by word of mouth, oral traditions and expressions often vary significantly in their telling. Stories are a combination – differing from genre to genre, from context to context and from performer to performer – of reproduction, improvisation and creation. This combination makes them a vibrant and colourful form of expression, but also fragile, as their viability depends on an uninterrupted chain passing traditions from one generation of performers to the next.

Although language underpins the intangible heritage of many communities, the protection and preservation of individual languages is beyond the scope of the 2003 Convention, though they are included in Article 2 as a means of transmitting intangible cultural heritage. Different languages shape how stories, poems and songs are told, as well as affecting their content. The death of a language inevitably leads to the permanent loss of oral traditions and expressions. However, it is these oral expressions themselves and their performance in public that best help to safeguard a language rather than dictionaries, grammars and databases. Languages live in songs and stories, riddles andrhymes and so the protection of languages and the transmission of oral traditions and expressions are very closely linked.

Palestinian Hikaye Read more on the element© Rafi Safieh

Like other forms of intangible cultural heritage, oral traditions are threatened by rapid urban isation, large-scale migration, industrialisation and environmental change. Books, newspapers and magazines, radio, television and the Interne can have an especially damaging effect on oral traditions and expressions. Modern mass media may significantly alter or over replace traditional forms of oral expression. Epic poems that once took several days to recite in full may be reduced to just a few hours and traditional courtship songs that were sung before marriage may be replaced by CDs or digital music files.

The most important part of safeguarding oral traditions and expressions is maintaining their every day role in society. It is also essential that opportunities for knowledge to be passed from person-to-person survive; chances for elders to interact with young people and pass on stories in homes and schools, for example. Oral tradition often forms an important part of festive and cultural celebrations and these events may need to be promoted and new contexts, such as storytelling festivals, encouraged to allow traditional creativity to find new means of expression. In the spirit of the 2003 Convention, safeguarding measures should focus on oral traditions and expressions as processes, where communities are free to explore their cultural heritage, rather than as products.

Communities, researchers and institutions may also use information technology to help safeguard the full range and richness of oral traditions, including textual variations and different styles of performance. Unique expressive features, such as intonation and a much larger number of varying styles, can now be recorded as audio or video, as can interactions between performers and audiences and non-verbal story elements including gestures and mimicry. Mass media and communication technologies can be used to preserve and even strengthen oral traditions and expressions by broadcasting recorded performances both to their communities of origin and to a wider audience.


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