Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ray Neiman. Ray who?

Call it pidgin. Call it Patois. Call Ray a new-born star

Once you've figured out the main features of the Xperia for which I heavily advertised one blog entry ago - and should really be getting paid for - do you get yourself a Bose headphone, plug it in the cell phone, surf to youtube and look for music by Ray Neiman.

Ray who? Ray Neiman, a rising star in the French music scene. His music, a perfect blend of reggae, dancehall, pop, rock, r&b and zoukh, all jazzed up with local spices, is bound to turn every wall flower into a too-hot-to-trot dance miracle.

I bet you did not know, however, that Neiman's history started some 25 years ago in Surinam, in a settlement very near to the Marowijne river. He comes from a big family (ten children and a father who was hardly in sight). Remarkably enough, he considers his first family to be the Amer Indians and regrets never having learned their language.

Soon Surinam proved too small for his ambitions, so he decided to move to the Netherland. Yet after a while he became restless again and moved on to France and the UK.

At the same time slowly but surely his musical identity has begun to take shape. He features on a remix of Shy' m's super hit Femme de Couleur and is doing gigs in France, Belgium, the UK and Switzerland, winning many awards on the way.

And don't you for one moment think Neiman has forgotten about his Surinamese heritage, as his songs breathe the spirit of the Aucan language. Okay, teacher Sharida delves into Wikipedia: Aucans are descendents of Maroons, runaway slaves in the West Indies, Central America, South Ameria and North America who formed independent settlements together.

Now, you should know that slaves frequently escaped within the first generation of their arrival from Africa and often preserved their African languages and much of their culture and religion. The jungles offered food, shelter, and isolation for the escaped slaves. Maroons survived by growing vegetables and hunting. Individual groups of Maroons often allied themselves with the local indigenous tribes and occasionally assimilated into these populations.Maroon/Marokon settlements often possessed a clannish, outsider identity. The language that they spoke has various names, but one
such Maroon Creole language, in Surinam, is the Aucan language, Neiman's language.

In the years to follow, many of the vernacular forms of English, and Dutch for that matter, spoken in the Caribbean changed into different, broken languages, also referred to as pidgin languages or Patois. Jamaican Patois for instance is comprised words from the native languages of the many races within the Caribbean including Latin, Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Amerindian, and English along with several African dialects. Some islands have creole dialects influenced by their linguistic diversity; French, Spanish, Latin, Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew, German, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and others. Often these Patois are popularly considered "bastardizations" of English, "broken English", or slang.

Of course, you are now dying to listening to a few of his songs. Check out the songs Viens, Fais Moi Danser and Shake it. And try and discover how many different languages are incorporated in the songs. Neiman has a hyves page and can be found on MySpace.

Mister Ray Neiman's songs are a classic example of the cultural and linguistic richness of his background. Call it Patois. Call it Creole. Call it anything you like. I prefer to call it musical magic.

Photo credits
- First two photos from Neiman's Hyves and MySpace, as is most of the textual info on Neiman.
- Maroon photo from Ted Hill, Suriname River in 1955. Wikipedia