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Department of Linguistics

Endangered Lyrics in Endangered Languages: Documenting the Arumahani songs of the Garifuna in Belize and New York City


Date: 25 September 2015Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 25 September 2015Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell SquareRoom: MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room

Type of Event: Lecture

Speaker: Daniel Kaufmann

Host: London Middle East Institute

In this talk, I report on ELDP-sponsored work on the documentation of endangered Garifuna song genres in Belize. The Garifuna are a trans-national community with roots both in Africa and the indigenous people of St. Vincent in the eastern Caribbean. Their language is one of the larger Arawak languages spoken today and the only Arawak language that has been transplanted in any numbers to major US cities.

One outcome of the large out-migration of men from Garifuna communities in Central America has been the break in transmission of songs not traditionally sung by women. Focusing on the arumahani genre, I compare performance and transmission across Belize and New York City. While a small number of male singing groups exist in New York City, the genre appears to be now kept alive primarily by women in Central America.

I give here an introduction to the language and music as well as discussing general issues in the documentation of traditional song. The larger question I hope to address is: What can be done to document and support endangered languages in diaspora?