A Borderless Caribbean?: The Creole Geographies of Dominica’s Popular Music

Timothy Rommen
Davidson Kennedy Professor in the College; Chair of the Department of Music; Professor of Africana Studies

How is it that a country as small as Dominica (home to a mere 70,000 people and geographically smaller than New York City) has consistently produced popular musics that inform and shape the sounds of the entire Caribbean? What sounds are Dominican musicians tapping into in order to generate such a disproportionate impact on Caribbean popular music? We will approach answers to this set of questions by exploring the history of Dominican popular music in relation to the region and to the region’s musical life.

We will also work to develop a theoretical frame within which to think about these answers, coming to terms specifically with how “the creole” works in Dominica and throughout the region. By connecting history with theory in this way, we will be able to formulate some tentative answers to our initial questions while simultaneously opening our inquiry to additional questions. So, for instance, why would Dominicans call for and musically enact a borderless Caribbean? Why would such a state of affairs be desirable? What, moreover, is at stake in such a claim?

By thinking about these related questions, we will, by the end our time together, come to hear Dominica’s place in (and challenge to) the region—we will be able to hear these ideas and concerns play out in cadence-lypso, and bouyon. And we will be attuned to the musical answers steadily echoing back from the region—answers ranging from calypso to konpa, and from soca to zouk.