Decolonising the Voice: Podcast training course

Welcome to Decolonising the Voice – an interactive podcast series about the sonic qualities of the voice.

White middle-class privilege and heritage has dominated spoken word training in the UK acting conservatoire for over a century. It is, therefore, timely to suggest interventions that will help recalibrate the dominant sonic context in order to include voices not previously heard or recognised at the centre of voice training.

This series promotes an active dialogue between speaker and listener in order to include a wider range of cultural and geographical sonic landscapes, lived experiences and pathways towards finding one’s voice. It cultivates new perceptions, based on the activation of memory, experience and association, which can then be incorporated into the participant’s conscious sonic experience.

Each podcast episode features a selection of listening, embodiment and reflection exercises in which to consider the influences and impact on the expressive voice in relation to a selection of sung and spoken word samples.

Engagement in the process will provide individuals with a clearer understanding of the ways in which their expressive voice is shaped. The process also surfaces a view on how to think about and shift towards an inclusive Global Majority cultural position, away from the mono-cultural dominance of whiteness.

Decolonising the Voice podcast training course has been collaboratively created by Jane Boston (concept originator, speaker and script editor) and Deelee Dubé (podcast editor, researcher, speaker, and vocalist).

[00:00:20] INSTRUCTIONS TO BEGIN

Jane Boston: I’d like to take you through a few instructions for getting the best out of the podcast workshop. I invite you to find a specific notebook and a pen, in which to note down your reflections as you listen. Make sure the notebook and pen are within easy reach at all times.  

Ensure that you find a comfortable seated position, with your feet on the ground, where you can experience a free exchange of breath – the incoming and outgoing breath – felt without effort. See if you can find pleasure in the process of breathing simply and deeply. Notice the sensation of your feet on the ground and your sit bones on the chair as they both provide you with the stability of groundedness. If you lose focus at any point, simply take your attention back to the breath and return to the broadcast. 

Deelee Dubé: The music you are about to hear is a track titled ‘California Dreamin’, which was originally performed by the vocal group The Mamas & the Papas. It is taken from my album The Blue Bird Sings, which was recorded and digitally released in 2013. I’ve chosen this track to help you begin to enter into a relaxed and reflective state of mind in order to better access memory, set the mood and association as the workshop proceeds.   

[00:02:04 to 00:04:37] ‘California Dreamin’ (2013) from The Blue Bird Sings by Deelee Dubé 

[00:04:40] WRITING EXERCISE

Deelee Dubé: Welcome to this first part of the sonic podcast series, ‘Diasporic Voices’.  

This a writing exercise for your reflective journal.  

Firstly, make yourself comfortable and write down all the voices you have grown up listening to that are closest to you. Think about each one and assign a colour and shape on page one of your reflective journal. Note down what stands out about the tone, the rhythm, the pace and the accent.  

For example, in my own case, my mother’s voice is the colour yellow. Her diction, phrasing, vernacular and dialect are all accented by South African and Zimbabwean English sounds that include the Multi-cultural English (MLE) and non-RP sounds. The quality, timbre, texture, and tone of her voice are all fairly high and light, gentle and slightly animated and reassuring, warm, vibrant, clear, with a consistent spoken pace, which is sometimes upbeat in rhythm (depending on her mood), but mainly calm and collected. 

The common thread that I have managed to detect in my relatives’ spoken voice is of a certain vocal quality that is imbued with warmth and resonance – a roundedness that is sonically quite familiar and immediately recognisable to me. The identifiable vocal tradition and sonic distinctions pertain to a certain type of texture that I would describe as warm, resounding and authoritative (with or without an accent).   

Enjoy creating a vocal profile and list of the voices that have most influenced you in your immediate surroundings. Write down the answers to the following questions, and do take your time to return to your answers at any point as you begin to reflect more deeply: 

  1. Who are your chosen voices and what is your connection to them? 
  2. Are the voices mentioned heard in public, or are they more often heard in private?
  3. Can you describe an identifiable vocal tradition in your background? Are you able to describe its sonic distinctions at all?

Think about features, voice qualities, rhythms, cadences; and allow yourself to reflect. 

Thanks for writing down your thoughts. 

Next up, we have another listening exercise called ‘The Windrush Generation’. 

[00:08:15] LISTENING EXERCISE – The Windrush Generation

[00:08:22 to 00:10:20] Extract from Small Island (2004), spoken by Angela Wynter  

‘Oh Hortense, when I am older…’ all her dreaming began with ‘when I am older’ ‘…when I am older, Hortense, I will be leaving Jamaica and I will be going to live in England.’ This is when her voice became high-class and her nose point into the air – well, as far as her round flat nose could – and she swayed as she brought the picture to her mind’s eye. ‘Hortense, in England I will have a big house with a bell at the front door and I will ring the bell.’ And she made the sound, ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling. ‘I will ring the bell in this house when I am in England. This is what will happen to me when I am older.’  

I said nothing at the time. I just nodded and said, ‘You surely will, Celia Langley you surely will.’ I did not dare dream that it would one day be I who would go to England. It would one day be I who would sail on a ship as big as a world and feel the sun’s heat on my face gradually change from roasting to caressing. But there was I! Standing at the door of a house in London and ringing the bell. Pushing my finger to hear the ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling. Oh, Celia Langley, where were you then with your big ideas and your nose in the air?  

(Levy 2004:11-12)  

[00:10:27] Jane Boston: Think about some of the ways in which the characters you’ve just heard from speak to feelings of anticipation about arrival in the UK. It was a time when, between 1948 and 1970, over half a million Caribbean people were invited to emigrate only to find a racist and unwelcoming country.   

Write down any of your impressions/thoughts/feelings about the experience of listening to those words. 

Clips Summary

[00:02:04 to 00:04:37] ‘California Dreamin’ (2013) from The Blue Bird Sings by Deelee Dubé  

[00:08:22 to 00:10:20] Extract from Small Island (2004), spoken by Angela Wynter 

 

Works Cited

Dubé, Deelee (2013) The Blue Bird Sings, https://deeleedube.bandcamp.com/album/the-blue-bird-sings. 

Levy, Andrea (2004) Small Island, London: Headline Books. 

 

Notes

1. ‘California Dreamin’’ is a song originally written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips and was first recorded by Barry McGuire. However, the best-known version is by the Mamas and the Papas, who sang backup on the original version and released it as a single in 1965.Originally from the Album: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, by the Mama & The Papas. Recorded: November 4, 1965, Western Recorders, Hollywood on Dunhill Records Released: December 8, 1965.

2. Thanks to Hazel Holder for the introduction to Angela Wynter.

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dubé, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 1 – Diasporic Voices, Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,

https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259227. 

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

[00:00:20] LISTENING EXERCISE ONE
Deelee Dubé: We Need New Names is an exhilarating narrative debut about the unflinching and formidable story of a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and to America, written by Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo. Published in 2013 We Need New Names (2013) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, making Bulawayo the first African female writer to earn this distinction. It is reminiscent of the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her from Junot Díaz to Zadie Smith to J.M. Coetzee while Bulawayo conveys an authentic story of her own.

From my own perspective this story tends to evoke a sense of personal estrangement which perhaps may stem from the polarity between my Black British identity and Southern African lineage. Although a fond Londoner, I sometimes find myself sensing a perpetual longing and curiousness for the distant lands of my predecessors, a place where the soles of my feet have yet to tread and experience the touch of Southern African soil that somewhat may or may not seem to be foreign to me. I have yet to discover and see.

[00:02:14 to 00:04:40] Extract from We Need New Names (2013), read by Deelee Dubé

Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad. But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few.

(Summary from Goodreads Review of Books).

Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.

(Bulawayo 2014: 146)

The first extract that you have just heard from Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, significantly highlights the psychological, emotional and physical trauma that is experienced in separating from the motherland – Zimbabwe – when, as she says in the extract, ‘it is no longer possible to stay’.

Please reflect on the use of words used such as ‘blood’, ‘wounds’, ‘soil’, ‘footsteps’, ‘shock’, ‘hunger’, ‘grief’ and ‘loss’ in relation to the process of emigration from Zimbabwe. Try to imagine the ways in which they reflect the painful reality involved in moving away from everything that is familiar and ‘known’ towards a culture that is hostile and rather foreign, to your experience. Allow the readings, as spoken by myself, to assist in your auditory experience and understanding of the voice/sonics behind the words.

Note down any responses that resonate with the experience of belonging and separation from your ancestral roots.

[00:06:25] LISTENING EXERCISE TWO
Deelee Dubé: The second extract you will hear from Bulawayo sums up the problem in which language itself becomes a literal separation and a barrier to the individual’s task of finding their own identity in a white dominated society.

Another interesting paradox here is that while the author speaks of countless obstacles encountered in English pronunciation, here I am learning and attempting to speak with a Southern African accent, whilst hoping that it sounds right but also having to rely on and lean into the inherent and innate memory of my maternal late grandmother’s and my mother’s vernacular and speech pattern. In my attempts, I begin to feel a closeness to my ancestral roots. I also become consciously aware of this sense of otherness, in knowing that as a Londoner I too have this sense of cultural longing. Oftentimes when I feel this way, I start listening to songs and music from my childhood, music that I found in my mother’s highly eclectic record collection, which was diverse in style from pop and rock, classical to country & blues, to soul, jazz and swing and world music artists such as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Paul Simon and Black Mambazo, Ipintombi Thomas Maphumo and more. These kinds of sonics take me to a place of familiarity. They transport to a land that I have yet to see and explore.

[00:08:50 to 00:10:15] Extract from We Need New Names (2013), read by Deelee Dubé

The problem with English is this: You usually can’t open your mouth and it comes out just like that – first you have to think what you want to say. Then you have to find the words. Then you have to carefully arrange those words in your head. Then you have to say the words quietly to yourself, to make sure you got them okay. And finally, the last step, which is to say the words out loud and have them sound just right.

But then because you have to do all this, when you get to the final step, something strange has happened to you and you speak the way a drunk walks. And, because you are speaking like falling, it’s as if you are an idiot, when the truth is that it’s the language and the whole process that’s messed up. And then the problem with those who speak only English is this: they don’t know how to listen; they are busy looking at your falling instead of paying attention to what you are saying.

(Bulawayo 2014: 193)

Write down any of your impressions/thoughts/feelings about the experience of listening to these words, about words themselves and any echoes or recognitions that may arise. Draw your attention to the breath and breathe freely as you listen to the words and reflect.

[00:11:00] LISTENING EXERCISE THREE
Deelee Dubé: The final reading is from the work of Guyana born poet, Grace Nichols (born 1950). Her collection: i is a long memoried woman won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1983 and it talks about the ways in which racism separates individuals from their mother tongue.

This final reading draws my attention to speak to the memories of my late grandmother who emigrated from Zimbabwe to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Although she never really lost her Zimbabwean accent, she maintained her role as a nurse and worked for the NHS once settled in London. I recall her stories about apartheid and the harrowing impact it had on her and members of our family, and how it served to be a major contributing factor towards her move to the UK for a better life.

See if you can notice how the following short poem affects your breath in any way, or your sensations of feeling grounded – or not – and your own impulse to speak out.

[00:12:38 to 00:13:00] ‘Epilogue’ by Grace Nichols, read by Deelee Dubé

I have crossed an ocean

I have lost my tongue

From the roots of the old

one

a new one has sprung

(Nichols in Sage 1999: 468)

Clips Summary
[00:02:14 to 00:04:40] Extract from We Need New Names (2013), read by Deelee Dubé

[00:08:50 to 00:10:15] Extract from We Need New Names (2013), read by Deelee Dubé

[00:12:38 to 00:13:00] ‘Epilogue’ by Grace Nichols, read by Deelee Dubé

Works Cited
Bulawayo, NoViolet (2014) We Need New Names, London: Vintage, Penguin Random House.

Good Reads summary https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15852479-we-need-new-names.

Nichols, Grace (1983) ‘i is a long memoried woman’, from I Have Crossed an Ocean’, Hexham: Bloodaxe Books.

Nichols, Grace in Sage, Lorna (ed.) (1999) The Cambridge Guide to Women’s Writing in English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Notes

Thanks to Joel Trill for accent coaching on the extracts from NoViolet Bulawayo.

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dube, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 2 – Estranged Voices, Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259320. 

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

[00:00:20] LISTENING EXERCISE ONE
Deelee Dubé: Welcome back to episode Three, ‘Gendered Voices’. A certain childhood memory comes to mind as I listen to Grace Nichols here reciting her short poem titled ‘The Sun’; and it is one that I am quite fond of. I recall one early morning feeling excited to perform with my fellow classmates for an assembly play. I was playing the role of the Sun for a story based on Jack Frost, and as I stepped on to the stage fully clothed in my shiny and sparkly costume attire representing the Sun, I cleared my throat and paused for breath, just for a second, before uttering the following lines: ‘Yes, Jack Frost, the children know, you’ve lost your sting so away you go!’ I received the most rapturous applause from the audience and beamed with joy for the rest of that day.

[00:01:48 to 00:02:48] ‘Sun, You’re a Star’ by Grace Nichols, read by the author

Deelee Dubé: In the following live recording excerpt, you will hear Grace Nichols raise important themes about power and gender. In her second poem, these themes are relevant for our reflections on sonic identities and race.

In the poem, ‘Picasso, I Want My Face Back’, she invites links to be drawn between the fractured identity of Picasso’s muse, Dora Maar, who is the subject of his painting Weeping Woman, and the entitlement of the male artist who shapes and molds what he sees entirely on his own terms – in both painting and in life.

Nichols makes it her aim in the poem to render Dora Maar her own voice. This has a parallel in the idea of giving a voice to the experience of alienation in emigration and the challenges faced by individuals in the pursuit of a self-defined, self-empowered identity.

[00:04:30 to 00:06:12] ‘Weeping Woman’ by Grace Nichols, read by the author

Jane Boston: We now come to a short reflective exercise:

In free flow, without taking your pen from the page, firstly write down anything that comes into your mind about the ways in which the readings you have heard, as well as the recordings of speech and music, reflect similar or different challenges with regard to your own vocal identity. Enjoy the process of writing random words, putting down colours, or making drawings by way of a response.

When you’ve done that, literally address your thoughts, your colours, your feelings to a specific individual in your past or in the present to whom you would like to engage in a ‘virtual’ dialogue about the discoveries that have surfaced in free flow process. They could be a mentor, family member, close friend or other. How does your voice sound now if you read out loud your own responses to this individual?

[00:07:45] LISTENING EXERCISE TWO
[00:07:45 to 00:12:33] ‘Harvest Moon’ from New Moon Daughter (1995) by Cassandra Wilson

Deelee Dubé: The track you have just listened to is by vocalist Cassandra Wilson, entitled ‘Harvest Moon’, taken from her album New Moon Daughter, released in 1995. Cassandra has a voice that comes from a place of heart-felt understanding. This piece was originally recorded by Neil Young and puts one in a mood of reflection from deep within.

Take a moment to be still and notice your breath – stretch, shake out and give yourself a few minutes to reflect on what you have heard and felt before you go back into your day.

Think of posting any aspect of your responses to an actual chosen colleague, friend or mentor on a social media platform of your choice in order to create a wider dialogue about how this sonic experience has made you feel.

Finally, thank you for joining us for the first three of a seven-part sonic podcast series of interactive workshops. We hope you have enjoyed engaging and participating in the experience, and that the process of listening, combined with writing and reflection, has served to enhance your overall understanding of some of the profound sensations of voice as experienced through a decolonising lens.

Clips Summary
[00:01:48 to 00:02:48] ‘Sun, You’re a Star’ by Grace Nichols, read by the author

[00:04:30 to 00:06:12] ‘Weeping Woman’ by Grace Nichols, read by the author

[00:07:45 to 00:12:33] ‘Harvest Moon’ from New Moon Daughter (1995) by Cassandra Wilson

Works Cited
Nichols, Grace (2009) ‘Weeping Woman’ from Picasso, I Want My Face Back, Hexham: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Nichols, Grace (no date) ‘Sun, You’re a Star’, https://vimeo.com/336221448.

Wilson, Cassandra (1995) ‘Harvest Moon’ from New Moon Daughter, Blue Note Records.

Notes

Originally written by Canadian musician Neil Young, ‘Harvest Moon’ is the 19th studio album released on November 2, 1992.

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dube, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 3 – Gendered Voices, Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,

https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259383 

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

[00:00:20] WRITING EXERCISE
Jane Boston: Episode Four, ‘Historical Vocalities’. Welcome back to Decolonising the Voice.

This is an opportunity to think more deeply about the voices in your everyday life that have had an impact on your own vocal expression, in terms of how it feels and sounds. We invite you to think about some of the ways in which the presence of certain key voices has impacted on you and allowed you to feel that your own vocal contribution in the world is more alive and active.

What do I mean by this?

The material voice (that is the tone, pitch, rhythm, pace, volume, accent, inflection and so on) is all part of an individual’s expressive voice and it falls under the influence of a range of personal and social factors, including those that are part of disposition, family background, friendship groups, national civic groups, the media, and so on.

Awareness about the ways in which we hear and receive the voices in our world with their sonic imprints can be vital in providing information about how those influences make our own vocal transformations possible.

As a white, lesbian, cis voice practitioner, this awareness has been important to my own understanding of my voice in the world. Many individuals who struggle to find their voice, due to the exclusions, dispossessions, and oppressions of the dominant culture, find it helpful, like me, to identify various intersectional social and personal elements in the formation of their voice.

Deelee Dubé: Tsitsi Dangarembga, in her novel Nervous Conditions, is a Zimbabwean woman who has lived both in the UK and Zimbabwe. She gives particular attention to the ways in which the trauma of the war for liberation from British colonialism impacts on her experience of growing up in the UK. She identifies how her experience has been compounded by a gendered position which has led her to feel less than prepared to express herself. We can hear this in the following quote where she makes intersectional links between race, gender, and colonialism in the formation of her voice:

It became evident to me that differences between how my brother and I had been brought up had impacted on our coping strategies. Standing up for oneself, knowing what one wanted and asking for it were not part of my daughterly repertoire. I thought young women looking to take advantage of the opportunities an independent Zimbabwe offered had to be warned about this.’ (Dangarembga 2021)

Jane Boston: We would like you to consider whether the individuals that come to your mind are politicians, musicians, actors, celebrities, TV presenters, news broadcasters, researchers, writers, historians, activists or other? Are they factual or fictional, archetypal or real? Are they from national or international mainstream settings or from localised community places, or from a combination of locations?

You may find that you recognise an attitude or tonal presence, rather than an actual distinct sound in the first instance. Pause for a moment, and after you have identified what it is about them that is significant, see if you can call up their actual voice in your head.

Deelee Dubé: Take a few moments to write down a few of the key individual voices and describe each one in any combination of words, colours drawings and doodles so that you begin to engage in a dialogue with their presence and their sonics. This provides you with the beginnings of an individualised ‘intersectional’ public and private sonic text.

[00:05:19] LISTENING EXERCISE
Deelee Dubé: What follows is a reflective listening exercise. For example, here are a few of the names of individuals that have made a difference to my life:

Michael Jackson: A controversial figure in the contemporary music scene, but someone who nevertheless greatly influenced my formative years. From a very young age not only had I enjoyed listening to Michael Jackson’s music, but also his voice as a vocalist, humanitarian, and philanthropist. His soft-spoken timbre, and rounded falsetto was what made his voice instantly recognisable to the world, but for me it had provided a source of comfort and joy that equally represented his gentle nature by heart as well as his youthful spirit.

Sarah Vaughan: Although I came to really know and understand Sassy later in my life, I felt an instant connection through her voice and vocal timbre. I also felt a certain kind of resonance, and experienced a blending of cultural identity, recognition, and resemblance in her vocal tone to my own voice quality and timbre as a vocalist. I feel that much of this could perhaps pertain to the same typical shared cultural aspects, that being of African descent. However, the honey-like, soulful and golden texture of her mid-range and spoken voice do feel familiar to me. The lower cello tones of her vocal quality and timbre were elements that I discovered in my journey to finding my own voice. This brings to mind a quote from DownBeat Magazine which reads:

‘[Dube] exploring the cello tones that informed her bottom register (and were reminiscent of The Divine One herself)’.

Miriam Makeba: Makeba’s voice transports me to a place of comfort in that it reminds me of my mother’s vocal tone, timbre and spoken voice. I’m reminded of white cotton linen, an innate feeling of gentle warmth.

Moira Stewart: I recall feeling rather intrigued by the sound of Moira Stewart’s spoken voice, which I often heard during the 9 o’clock BBC News broadcast before bedtime. As a child I often wondered where she’d gotten her voice from, because she looked similar to me in appearance, but sounded rather distinctive and unique. Her voice sounded eloquently English, but was quite dark in timbre and texture, which created a picture of velvet opulence personified through her voice. If I had to assign a colour to her voice I would describe is a luxurious purple. Her vocal texture feels like stroking my hand against the rich woven fabric of a velvety surface (only in the opposite direction).

Trever McDonald: Watching the ITV News bulletin, I remember news Broadcaster, Trevor MacDonald being another key figure in my childhood years. His vocal quality had a distinctive, roundedness to it, and a highly recognizable vocal texture. He spoke eloquently with stern inflections, and his professional spoken voice stood out and sounded relatively familiar as a prominent Black British male figure within the mainstream media.

As a seven-year-old, I remember feeling quite drawn to a number of female vocalists such as Whitney Houston, Sade Adu, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Madonna, amongst others. All these key popular figures, besides being female, did represent something to me. The aforementioned singing voices bear significant contrasts in style, sound, register and tone with Whitney Houston’s powerful, gospel driven singing voice, to Sade’s aspirate, earthy, and dark nuanced tone and register. It is perhaps these various unique qualities and contrasts in vocal sounds that drew me in and influenced my younger self in an impactful way, particularly where my singing voice and vocal expression was concerned, and of course that appeal was coupled with their music.

I should highlight my tendency to cross-use between the terms tone and timbre interchangeably. Through a vocalist’s lens, they somewhat seem to be seen as one and the same.

I invite you to listen to the following voices of individuals involved in the historical struggle for recognition of their place, rights and identity in the UK, the USA and Africa.

Please listen to the ways in which the tone, the pace, the rhythm of their voices, as well as the content of their message, has an impact on you and is described.

For example, in my case, I visualise Nelson Mandela’s vocal colour as Brown. His diction/ phrasing/ vernacular/ dialect as South African/ Colonial RP/ English, eloquent, authoritative, direct, confident, assertive and bold. His quality of tone as rounded, lower register, grounded, resonant, moderately slow, but clear gradual and collected in spoken rhythmic pace.

In the following recording you will hear Winnie Mandela make a remark, where she states that ‘he has the type of voice you can’t say no to, when he asks you for a favour, he is in fact giving you a command in a very polite way’.

When I listen to Nelson Mandela speak, I often find it quite reminiscent of the sound of my grandmother’s voice. That may be for several reasons pertaining to the fact that they shared the same homeland in Southern Africa, where there is a certain way of speaking that kind of reflects authoritativeness.

[00:14:47 to 00:15:55] Winnie Mandela quote from documentary Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation (1996)

[00:15:55 to 00:17:09] Extract from Stina Dabrowski’s 1994 interview with Nelson Mandela

[00:17:10 to 00:18:31] Extract from Nelson Mandela’s ‘I am prepared to die’ speech

Deelee Dubé: Now you know more about the ways in which you listen to voice, particularly to identify any habits in your responses, please take time to listen and note your feelings about the speakers coming up in the following episode Five.

Episode Five will continue with US author and poet James Baldwin. Following that is the American poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, followed by UK rapper and activist AKALA and finally Zambian native and chief executive of Christian Aid, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi.

Clips Summary
[00:14:47 to 00:15:55] Winnie Mandela quote from documentary Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation (1996)

[00:15:55 to 00:17:09] Extract from Stina Dabrowski’s 1994 interview with Nelson Mandela

[00:17:10 to 00:18:31] Extract from Nelson Mandela’s ‘I am prepared to die’ speech

Works Cited
Barris, Michael (2016) ‘Deelee Dubé Wins Sarah Vaughan Jazz Vocal Competition’, Downbeat Magazine, https://downbeat.com/news/detail/deelee-dube-wins-sarah-vaughan-jazz-vocal-competition.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi (2021) ‘I wrote it as a fugitive from what my life had become’, The Guardian, 27 March 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/mar/27/i-wrote-it-as-a-fugitive-from-what-my-life-had-become-tsitsi-dangarembga-on-nervous-conditions.

Dabrowski, Stina (1994) Interview with Nelson Mandela,

Mandela, Nelson ‘I am prepared to die’ speech in ‘7 Famous Nelson Mandela’s Speeches That Changed the World’ collage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDS_BBVfuYQ&t=32s.

Menell, Jo & Gibson, Angus (1996) Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_eYnCrh6gU.

Notes

The term ‘intersectional’ was used by Kimberle Crenshaw to problematise the differentiation between gender and race in the lived experience of women of colour. See Kimberle Crenshaw, ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence again Women of Colour’, Stanford Law Review 46 (3): 1241-1299 as quoted on p20 Act as a Feminist Towards a Critical Acting Pedagogy by Lisa Peck: London: Routledge, 2021: 20).

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dube, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 4 – Historical Vocalities (part 1), Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,

https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259458.

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

[00:00:20] INTRODUCTION
Deelee Dubé: Welcome back to episode five ‘Historical Vocalities’.

You are now going to hear four creatives and activists from across the 20th and 21st centuries in the US and the UK. Please note that the forthcoming recordings include language of a very sensitive nature which may be of some offence to listeners.

[00:01:53] JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987)
Deelee Dubé: Cambridge, 1965. James Baldwin, the renowned African American social critic, meets William Buckley, a leading Conservative whose silver tongue and social class had for years masked the vile racism at the core of his philosophy. It was a seminal debate. This in itself is a reliving of the occasion, when Baldwin dismantled his racist opponent through cool reason and unimpeachable sincerity, earning an unprecedented ovation from the practically all-white audience at the Cambridge Union in the process.

[00:01:50 to 00:05:02] Extract from James Baldwin’s ‘Pin Drop Speech’

[00:05:07] GWENDOLYN BROOKS (1917-2000)
Deelee Dubé: In this recording, Brooks’ confident musical voice emphasises the rhythmical patterns of her poetry. On performing the poem ‘We Real Cool’, Brooks has said:

The ‘We’ – you’re supposed to stop after the ‘We’ and think about their validity, and of course there’s no way for you to tell whether it should be said softly or not, I suppose, but I say it rather softly because I want to represent their basic uncertainty, which they don’t bother to question every day, of course.

The recording was made on 19th January 1961, at the Recording Laboratory, Library of Congress, Washington DC, and is used with permission of the Library of Congress.

[00:06:14 to 00:06:36] ‘We Real Cool’ by Gwendolyn Brooks, read by the author

Next up, you may hear how each phrase melts, lands, and settles into the next in this second short poem by Brookes as she mellifluously recites and melodically speaks each line with effortless rhythm, this poem is titled ‘A Song in the Front Yard’.

[00:07:10 to 00:08:06] ‘A Song in the Front Yard’ by Gwendolyn Brooks, read by the author

[00:08:10] AKALA (1983-)
Deelee Dubé: In this next recording Akala gives a full address and Q&A at the Oxford Union.

This event took place in 2015 and the opening passages from his address give a strong sense of his position about the Black voice in the UK and the deep distortions of colonialism and his clear, open, and direct ability to make vibrant contact with his audience.

[00:08:43 to 00:12:27] Extract from Akala’s ‘The Lost Pages of History’ speech

[00:12:30] AMANDA KHOZI MUKWASHI (1969-)
Deelee Dubé: Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, Chief Executive of Christian Aid, shares the eight tracks, book, and luxury she would take with her if cast away to a desert island. With BBC Radio broadcaster, Lauren Laverne, here she speaks about the injustices and inequities Black women and girls face in the world at large and in employment, and how she has allowed her faith to be a saving grace throughout the adversities that she has endured throughout her journey.

[00:13:11 to 00:16:10] Extract from the BBC Desert Island Disks with Amanda Khozi Mukwashi

[00:16:12] WRITING EXERCISE
Deelee Dubé: Thank you for listening to four key Black creatives and activists, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brookes, Akala, and Amanda Khozi Mukwashi.

Please give yourself a few moments to think about the ways in which their vocal sound, and intention in its public expression, impacts on your own vocal positionality in a public or private context.

Now we’re about to proceed with a reflective instruction:

Please reflect on the ways in which the voices that have made a difference to you have been heard over your lifetime. Allow any feelings about their presence or absence, their dominance or lack of dominance to come to the surface. The feelings that arise may be difficult and complex.

Take a breath and give yourself permission to notice what is going on. Keep your feet on the ground and allow the exchange of breath to keep you rooted in the here and now so that any of the feelings this reflective work gives rise to are acknowledged and given shape in your reflective notebook.

Can you remember how the voices that have meant the most to you have reached you? Did you hear them on: a) public media platforms, b) private audio exchange c) familial gatherings, d) friendship groups, e) live performance contexts, f) spiritual contexts, g) other?

Write down the ways in which their influence has made a difference to your:

Vocal use in public and private – volume and pace

Spoken word confidence in groups – type of words

One-to-one conversational tone – musicality, tone, pitch, inflection

Any distinctive features in your vocal sound-pitch range.

[00:19:15 to 00:21:25] ‘Lakushn’ Ilanga’ by Miriam Makeba

Deelee Dubé: Relax and notice the breath. Stretch and shake out, and give yourself a few minutes to notice your feelings and sensations in the body before you go back into your day.

Thank you for engaging in the Historical Vocalities podcast workshop.

Clips Summary
[00:01:50 to 00:05:02] Extract from James Baldwin’s ‘Pin Drop Speech’

[00:06:14 to 00:06:36] ‘We Real Cool’ by Gwendolyn Brooks, read by the author

[00:07:10 to 00:08:06] ‘A Song in the Front Yard’ by Gwendolyn Brooks, read by the author

[00:08:43 to 00:12:27] Extract from Akala’s ‘The Lost Pages of History’ speech

[00:13:11 to 00:16:10] Extract from the BBC Desert Island Disks with Amanda Khozi Mukwashi

[00:19:15 to 00:21:25] ‘Lakushn’ Ilanga’ by Miriam Makeba

Works Cited
Akala (2015) ‘The Lost Pages of History’ – Full Address and Q&A, Oxford Union, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUtAxUQjwB4.

Baldwin, James (1965) ‘Pin Drop Speech’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUBh9GqFU3A.

Brooks, Gwendolyn (1961) ‘We Real Cool’, The Poetry Archive, https://poetryarchive.org/poet/gwendolyn-brooks/.

Brooks, Gwendolyn (1961) ‘A Song in the Front Yard’, The Poetry Archive, https://poetryarchive.org/poet/gwendolyn-brooks/.

McGinley, Paula (2021) BBC Desert Island Disks: Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000wjdr.

Makeba, Miriam (1960) ‘Lakushn’ Ilanga’, Miriam Makeba First Album: Rarity Music, Pop, Vol. 175, https://open.spotify.com/track/02SEKrSG9VbISUtW0Ytbjp?si=653291c0fd5a47b7.

Notes

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dube, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 5 – Historical Vocalities (part 2), Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,

https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259503. 

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

[00:00:20] INTRODUCTION
Jane Boston: Welcome back to ‘Decolonising the Voice’.

Please find yourself a comfortable, settled place as you take part in a brief writing exercise in response to the questions that will follow about the sonic materiality of your voice.

First though, a brief introduction. Podcasts one to five touched on subtle variations of the same idea – that the voice is comprised of a profound mix of personal, physiological, social, and cultural factors – and that it is never one thing. We have found it very helpful to consider that the voice is always in a state of being formed: no sooner sounded than it shifts again due to the influence of another set of variables. There is never just one fixed moment we can call the voice, but a series of ever-changing vocal signals that spring from different intentions and receive different responses.

This podcast asks that you reflect in detail on the tonality of the voice and the tunes or melodies it gives rise to.

It is important to clarify what the term ‘tone’ refers to, as it has arisen more than once in the previous podcasts. Gillyanne Kayes (and Jeremy Fisher) in their book This is a Voice, defines tone as being the same as the term ‘timbre’ which she defines as: ‘The quality and tone of voice used when we sing and speak, denoting mood and emotion’ (Fisher and Kayes 2016: 188).

With this in mind we can consider that the tone of the voice conveys not just the emotions and mood of the speaker but also the social, cultural, and physiological memory.

This broadcast is interested in exploring the ways in which tonal qualities in the voices we hear have an impact on the voices we express. We suggest it is important to challenge and resist dominant cultural vibrations, particularly in relation to the marginalised voice.

As US Scholar Nina Eidsheim says in her article about the pitch of the voice: it is subject to ‘literal’ social restrictions (Eidsheim 2012). By means of the exertion of social pressures that can reach into the physical fleshly and skeletal arrangements of the body, the tone of the voice gets subject to social constructions. They literally shape us.

Poet Selina Nwulu writes about the importance of better understanding how society imposes its dominant values on our own vocal shape and how resistance to those values, where they damage our individual capacity, is critical. She writes – and I quote – ‘to understand the sweet spot between the personal and the political, how to talk about something difficult in a way that is engaging.’ She goes on: ‘My motivation is to talk about politics, race, climate change, the social injustices that surround us, but in a way that is beautiful and personal (Nwulu in Flood and Cain 2021).

In the hard work to decolonise the voice, Nwulu’s words are important to hold on to.

Deelee Dubé: The recording you are about to hear is a poem titled ‘A Strange Kind of Beauty’ written and spoken by the Young Poet Laureate, Selina Nwulu in 2015.

[00:04:03 to 00:06:33] ‘A Strange Kind of Beauty’ by Selina Nwulu, read by the author

Deelee Dubé: ‘A Strange Kind of Beauty’ by Selina Nwulu, Young Poet Laureate for London 2015/16 is a poem commissioned by A New Direction, London’s flagship cultural education agency, as a response to the challenges young Londoners face in engaging and contributing to the creative and cultural life of their city.

In this poem, we can hear in her fantastical words the significance of a ‘helix of hybrid noises, words, neon colours and shapes’ in the lives of young Global Majority Londoners. We hear in Nwulu’s personal and direct tone, how a re-positioned perspective, more relevant to a white de-centred view of the world, gives new ‘shape’ to young Londoners’ lives so that ‘wherever they go, they will not live less’. The fusion of personal tonality and imaginative content offers heartfelt resistance in the wider interests of decolonising the voice.

[00:08:00] WRITING EXERCISE – Tonalities
Deelee Dubé: Next up I have 3 questions for you to think about.

1. How would you describe the tonal quality of the voices around you that have given you the most emotional support in your life journey?

For example, I tend to respond to warm, clear, unintimidating, encouraging and inspiring tones – a voice that holds me up and does not silence. Some people struggle to offer the tone of support, voices that don’t oppress us. It is so easy for the voice to shift into the area of making someone feeling downtrodden or oppressed. When I speak to certain people that isn’t always evident/present and I don’t always get the elevation that I need in that given moment. I tend to seek what I need from different sources – certain people, like friends – and believe that the impact on us is created by what we hear, who we speak to and who we listen to. The sonics have an impact and if I happen to not be feeling on top of it, I know who not to go to. After all, we are what we hear and receive.

2. How would you describe the quality of the voices around you that have given you the most courage?

3. How would you describe the voices around you that have given you the most inspiration?

Take few moments to write down your thoughts about the questions I’ve just proposed to you.

[00:10:10] LISTENING EXERCISE – Tonalities
Deelee Dubé: Please listen to the following examples of a range of tonal vocal qualities drawn from a variety of cultural backgrounds, pick out your top three and write down some of the reasons why you have chosen them.

Please use any terms that help you to define your choices about the tone of voice and, if it helps to use terms drawn from the field of voice, that is great.

Think about noticing any tonal features in the type of voice that impacts on you in a positive way and those patterns and characteristics that sit more negatively. We might, for example, use terms that refer to features that are perceived to be warmer, or harsher, sharper, or softer.

Try not to be too judgmental about your answers but let them arise so that you can gain a deeper understanding about the ways in which you listen and respond to the voices around you – those close, those near, and those far.

Next up is a selection of five live recordings for you to choose your top three from.

This first recording is of a poem written and narrated by award-winning South African Theatre Practitioner, slam poet and writer Koleka Putuma. In her powerful expression, it is apparent that her theatre context gives rise to a vocal range informed by a wide breadth of tonality, volume, pitch movement and emphasis.

[00:12:08 to 00:14:37] Extract from ‘Voices from within’ TEDx talk by Koleka Putuma

In this next recording by American poet and musician activist Gil Scott Heron, it is notable that the influence of blues musicianship and the specific literary legacy of the Harlem Renaissance informs his rich spoken exchange with a live audience. He sounds tonally vibrant when speaking to the values of US Black literary inheritance and vivid in his claims to its importance to his identity and that of other audience members.

[00:15:19 to 00:17:59] Extract from ‘On blues and poetry’ by Gil Scott Heron

In this third recording we hear the racist tones of the media interview in which it sounds as if Sidney Poitier is being hounded by the one dimensionality of his interviewers rather than being celebrated for his career. It is significant that the media sound attacking in their tone – monotoned; and Poitier sounds on the defensive tonally; not able to express the full range of his vocal capacity when he responds: Why are you guys on hand for bad news?

[00:18:53 to 00:21:17] Extract from ‘Reporters Ask Sidney Poitier His Views on Race (1968)’

In this clip we hear the full richness of Shakespearean content meeting contemporary Black vocality in ways that are reminiscent of the voice we heard earlier by Putema in a South African theatrical context. The theatre context seems to give permission for a fuller spectrum of tonality than that expressed in an ordinary spoken context.

[00:21:45 to 00:23:28] Extract from ‘What determines who we are?’ TEDx talk by Adjoa Andoh

In this final clip of Refilwe Pieterse, we hear the tonal agonies present in the magnitude of racism in her performance of the poem ‘Black Child’. In the range of spoken sounds utilised, Pieterse evokes a vocal resistance that reaches well above the bar of everyday conversation and evokes the realms of opportunity afforded by the mobilisation of theatre actions.

[00:23:59 to 00:26:25] ‘Black Child’ by Selaelo Maredi, performed by Refilwe Pieterse

Think about the tonal quality in the voices that you have just heard as they set up specific kinds of vibrations and seem – as if – to enable different embodied sensations in you as you listen. Write down any standout observations about the following areas:

Settled internal feelings of comfort and ease in the mind

Sensations of physical relaxation and restoration to support you in your day to day

Sensations of excitement on the breath that equate to curiosity and hope about the future.

[00:27:25] WRITING EXERCISE –Tunes
Jane Boston: Now you are experienced in noting down descriptions of the voices around you, we offer one final writing exercise where you can write down in your notebook the pitch movement patterns and emphasis patterns in your own voice.

Think about your own spoken tune as if it were a melody or song and allow yourself to let it go where it wants to go in a free form way at this moment without concerning yourself with communicating to anyone specific. Sing it out and enjoy sustaining it in ways that you wouldn’t normally do in your spoken life.

Draw your connections and links on a visual voice map where colour and lines allow you to make visual comparisons and differences with the vocal patterns of two influential speakers in your life. Who are they in terms of the tune they bring? Can you identify anything about its movement as pitch that has stood out?

Finally, write down any word associations that come to mind as you think about the voices that make you feel most vocally joyful and expansive and reflect whether there is anything about these voices that allows you to feel vocally free.

Deelee Dubé: Relax and notice the breath. Stretch and shake out, and give yourself a few minutes to notice your feelings and sensations in the body before you go back to your day.

Clips Summary
[00:04:03 to 00:06:33] ‘A Strange Kind of Beauty’ by Selina Nwulu, read by the author

[00:12:08 to 00:14:37] Extract from ‘Voices from within’ TEDx talk by Koleka Putuma

[00:15:19 to 00:17:59] Extract from ‘On blues and poetry’ by Gil Scott Heron

[00:18:53 to 00:21:17] Extract from ‘Reporters Ask Sidney Poitier His Views on Race (1968)’

[00:21:45 to 00:23:28] Extract from ‘What determines who we are?’ TEDx talk by Adjoa Andoh

[00:23:59 to 00:26:25] ‘Black Child’ by Selaelo Maredi, performed by Refilwe Pieterse

Works Cited
Andoh, Adjoa (2014) ‘What determines who we are?’ TEDxBermuda talk,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVhPce47DZY.

Eidsheim, Nina (2012) ‘Voice as Action: Towards a Model for Analyzing the Dynamic Construction of Racialized Voice’, Current Musicology No 93, New York: Colombia University, https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/currentmusicology/article/view/5218/2461.

Fisher, Jeremy & Kayes, Gillyanne (2016) This is a Voice, London: Wellcome Collection.

Flood, Alison and Cain, Sian (2021) ‘She showed what poetry can do’: young London laureates feel the Amanda Gorman effect’, The Guardian, 27th March, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/mar/26/she-showed-what-poetry-can-do-young-london-laureates-feel-the-amanda-gorman-effect.

Heron, Gil Scott (no year) ‘On blues and poetry’,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaQ8tSGHaMM.

Maredi, Salelo (no year) ‘Black Child’, performed by Refilwe Pieterse,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g802qvllRPo.

Nwulu, Selina (2016) ‘A Strange Kind of Beauty’,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd4LeD6tQX4.

Putuma, Koleka (2015) ‘Voices from within – poems for her’, TEDxCapeTownSalon,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5LRPY_lmmw.

‘Reporters Ask Sidney Poitier His Views on Race’ (1968)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDZAZWOyQAA.

Notes

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dube, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 6 – Tonalities and Tunes, Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,

https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259533 

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

[00:00:20] INTRODUCTION
Jane Boston: Welcome to the last podcast in the series ‘Decolonising the Voice’ – ‘Re-positioned Voices and Affirmations’.

Find a comfortable space in which to listen to the following examples of highly rhythmic spoken vocality. What do I mean by this? The recurrence of pattern is a part of all speech – but some artists heighten the dynamic forms in their compositions so that they reach the ear with greater intensity, create more impact for the listener, and thereby remain more memorable.

Think about the specific ways in which the following examples draw you into their atmospherics because of the patterns in their rhymes, phrase timings, volume dynamics and emphasis. Do you hear the repetitions as jagged or soft – punctuated or smooth, for example? What do they feel like in your ear? How do you specifically respond to repetition and pace, the energy of the sound waves, the consistent pace of the message content, the fusion of sound and thought that reaches beyond the ordinary messaging of speech?

Have a brief written or drawn improvisational response to anything that you hear in the sonic examples that follow and sound them out through the mouthpiece of your own voice in the space that you’re in.

[00:01:55] FINDING ONE’S VOICE
Deelee Dubé: In my own lived experience as a vocal jazz artist and songwriter, I have been on a journey to discover my roots and lineage. My voice, passion and purpose in music has served as a grounding force towards engaging with core themes in discovering my patrilineal and cultural heritage. I feel that the jazz artform has a cellular embedding within my DNA and is therefore expressed in my performative delivery and artistic expression. In finding my voice I have unearthed a stronger connection to my artistic and cultural belonging and the jazz artform became an integral element in my voice.

This sonic association is an experience of deep revelations through the jazz idiom which allows me to recover and understand my ancestral past whilst embracing my own emerging vocality. It has opened a pathway to make a deeper connection with my father and to gain a stronger sense of his presence.

As a highly gifted rapper and hip-hop artist, my twin brother Sipo Dubé, otherwise known as EMCEE Flava, would often freestyle to convey and tell stories about his own lived experience. Freestyle or spitting, as it is colloquially termed is a way to describe an impromptu and spontaneous rap or word-based vocal performance which is primarily focused on an individual’s experience within the moment. It is therefore often improvised and unrehearsed, and serves as a stream of consciousness through spoken word, vocabulary, timbre, rhythmic expression, and rhyme. It is a language. Most of the time, his flow, which is another colloquial term for style of performance or delivery, was based on his personal account of lived experiences, and it is an artform that requires a great deal of skill, technical proficiency, and quick-witted musicality. The professional name for these types of rappers or hip-hop artists is known as MC short for ‘master of ceremonies’. During performance, an MC can freestyle on any given topic that rests on their conscience within a given moment and the experience through listening can be extremely profound, heartfelt, humorous, or even melancholy, and this is an artform which bears significant resemblance to poetry itself.

In the following recording, George the Poet invites us in to view life through his lens and his own lived experience as a rapper-turned-poet and Cambridge alum. Here we can hear his sample based on being an artist within the music industry as a celebrated rapper, and how this clashed with his positionality as an MC and the argument based on rap being a commodity of life and survival within the community.

In listening to this recording, I am instantly drawn to George’s voice as a representative of the community who continues to excel within his path. In hearing his voice, I am reminded of my late twin brother’s voice, who was on a very similar trajectory as an MC and rapper. Although emotional, I somehow feel uplifted in knowing that his dreams and goals were very real, valid, and achievable, as we hear and see beautifully demonstrated by George the Poet in his ongoing accomplishments.

[00:06:36 to 00:09:17] Extract from ‘George the Poet Empowerment Session’ (2018)

Deelee Dubé: And now, please listen to the work of Akala to hear more about the profound connections between hip hop and rap cultures and other privileged cultures represented by Shakespeare in some circles, but in new ways through new voices becoming more connected to the lived experience of Black British positionality. Not only does this appeal to a more diverse audience but it brings in diverse-aged audiences.

[00:09:54 to 00:13:02] Extract from ‘Hip-Hop & Shakespeare? Akala at TEDx Aldeburgh’ (2011)

Deelee Dubé: So, as you now may well understand, jazz, hip hop, rap, spoken word and poetry are all significant cultural idioms which aim to convey and communicate a certain kind of discourse that pertains to one coherent and common theme – life. In this next short recording, the legendary American jazz pianist, Bill Evans eloquently describes the improvisatory process through his own creative lens.

[00:13:46 to 00:15:45] Extract from ‘1970- Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez, Martin Morrel – Interview & Concert’

Deelee Dubé: Now you have listened to a few examples, see if you can draw a link between any of the sounds you have just identified and the patterns and characteristics of at least two other key influential voices in your life.

If there are none that is fine. Just allow your breath to let you be present, and let your mind wander freely about the possibilities of this thought.

Take your time to think if you feel any closer overall to being able to name what it is about the quality of the spoken sounds you have identified that allows you to better understand how you listen. Do the voices you respond to best allow you to feel differently about your own voice? Do you feel that your capacity for participation in public sonic life benefits from being matched up with any of the specific kinds of resonance, volume, pace, tone, and emphasis you have identified throughout the broadcasts?

[00:17:09] LISTENING EXERCISE – Re-positioned Voices
Jane Boston: Please listen to the following examples of current spoken word artists in the UK. Reflect on how your listening responses are impacted when the expression of the voice is drawn from a contemporary spoken word field as opposed to one that is from another historical era. Think too about all the formalities that certain kinds of public speaking has placed on the voice in the past as well as some of the demands that the published literary field has placed on the live voice.

Deelee Dubé: Malika Booker is a Black British writer, poet, theatre-maker and educator. In this next recording she personifies Mars in a poem about planetary siblings.

[00:18:03 to 00:20:00] ‘Destined to Grow Apart’ (2019) by Malika Booker, BBC Earth

Deelee Dubé: Next up we have Vanessa Kisuule, who is a Bristol city poet, writer, and performer. In this upcoming recording, Vanessa speaks of her sense and lived experience of belonging and unbelonging as a Black Bristolian in the English countryside.

[00:20:23 to 00:21:47] Extract from ‘Belonging & Un-belonging in the English Countryside (4): Vanessa Kisuule’ (2019)

Deelee Dubé: Lastly, here is a poem of my own titled ‘My Violet Sky’, which was selected as part of a poetry prize and published in the Book of Dreams by the United Press in 2010.

[00:22:07 to 00:23:30] ‘My Violet Sky’ by Deelee Dubé, read by the author

[00:23:33] INTERSECTIONAL AFFIRMATIONS
Deelee Dubé: As we near the end of the decolonising broadcast, please take the time to reflect about your connective bridges or where pathways from the previous broadcasts can lead you.

Do you have any thoughts or feelings about the alliances, collaborations, and sonic worlds beyond you that will enable you to put your own voice more effectively into action?

Write seven lines of affirmation to your own voice that will serve as your mantra in going forward. But before I go into sharing my seven affirmations, I would like to quote the late, great Dr Maya Angelou, who said: ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’.

Affirmations:

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning ‘humanity’. It is sometimes translated as ‘I am because we are’, or ‘humanity towards others’ (in Zulu it’s pronounced umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu).

‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’ – Nelson Mandela

‘Learn the rules like a pro, and break them like an artist.’ – Pablo Picasso

‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’ ― Maya Angelou

‘What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it.’ – Maya Angelou

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ – Maya Angelou

[00:26:48 to 00:31:00] ‘Still We Try’ (2020), spoken word tone poem by Deelee Dubé

Deelee Dubé: Thank you for taking the time to travel with us on this decolonising vocal journey.

We hope that it has provided you with some helpful space in which to consider and reflect on your voice and the voice of others, and the ways in which the voice makes a difference to your identity in a white-dominated sonic landscape.

We very much hope that the journey taken has provided you with inspiration, dreams, and passions that you can take forward in the ongoing challenge to de-centre the whiteness of sonic UK public life.

We hope that the listening and reflection on the broadcast will provide you with the tools of creative resistance in which to move forwards to ensure that the Global Majority voice is placed – rightly – at the centre of public life in the UK and beyond.

Clips Summary
[00:06:36 to 00:09:17] Extract from ‘George the Poet Empowerment Session’ (2018)

[00:09:54 to 00:13:02] Extract from ‘Hip-Hop & Shakespeare? Akala at TEDx Aldeburgh’ (2011)

[00:13:46 to 00:15:45] Extract from ‘1970- Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez, Martin Morrel –Interview & Concert’

[00:18:03 to 00:20:00] ‘Destined to Grow Apart’ (2019) by Malika Booker, BBC Earth

[00:20:23 to 00:21:47] Extract from ‘Belonging & Un-belonging in the English Countryside (4): Vanessa Kisuule’ (2019)

[00:22:07 to 00:23:30] ‘My Violet Sky’ by Deelee Dubé, read by the author

[00:26:48 to 00:31:00] ‘Still We Try’ (2020), spoken word tone poem by Deelee Dubé

Works Cited
Akala (2011) ‘Hip-Hop & Shakespeare? Akala at TEDx Aldeburgh’,

Booker, Malika (2019) ‘Destined to Grow Apart’, BBC Earth

Dubé, Deelee (2020) ‘Still We Try’, from Trying Times, Concord Jazz Label

George the Poet (2018) ‘Empowerment Session’,

Kisuule, Vanessa (2019) ‘Belonging & Un-belonging in the English Countryside (4)’

‘1970- Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez, Martin Morrel- Interview & Concert’,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSmKGuuODKk

Notes

To cite this material:

Boston, Jane; Dube, Sitandile (2022) LMYE Studio: Decolonising the Voice 7 – Re-positioned Voices and Affirmations, Auralia.Space, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,

https://doi.org/10.25389/rcssd.17259581  

creative commons licence
attribution – non-commercial – no derivs

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