Kaie Kellough, Canadian poet (featured in LDP #6 Canada edition) released an extraordinary album in early September via Howl arts collective.

Kaie Kellough - creole continuum

Kaie Kellough - creole continuum

Drawn from linguistics studies of the 1960s, the title creole continuum refers to the degrees of language shift between speakers from the dominant language to Creole. Kaie explores from this point, the social and racial distinctions brought about through colonialism of person and language. Reaching far back to his African origins, he draws out the drums of voice.

He explains:

“...the continuum also hints at the linguistic divisions between social strata. in places like guyana, where my mother’s family is from, the continuum can identify proximity to or distance from the (former) colonial power and its institutions, and can further hint at cultural and political positions ranging from alignment with the establishment through outright revolt. i am interested in that movement, and in the cultural contest that shapes how languages coexist. i am also interested in linguistic gestures that rupture official grammar and that obtrude upon the rules of order. for a person of distant african origin, these gestures reach through to languages, values, and cosmologies that were suppressed during the slave trade. these elements elude us to this day, and a noisome yearning ventriloquizes through that emptiness.”

The concept behind this album is so deeply thought, from both a conceptual and a musical approach. Musically, Kaie treats language in the same way a jazz musician treats the musical notes. Breaking down the words into sounds, the sounds into notes, and restructuring into music. An attempt, he says, to “break that sound into its smallest units, the phonemes, and to experiment with the cadences and patterns about which they can infinitely form and re-form..” To me it’s taking sound poetry a big step beyond where it’s been, and it might be the jazz approach that can achieve sweetness and the melody, but it’s also I think the influence of the Creole itself – a musical language and re-functioned language in itself.

This is all so exciting to me, given I started studying sociolinguistics this year in particular focusing on Creole variations and code switching. I haven’t yet heard any artist approach this kind of work with such strength and confidence.

“Sound poetry” is often considered – and often reasonably – alienating. I have often found it that way myself, and it’s only through recent exploration that I’ve come to appreciate the origins of much of it. This has got to be the most accessible sound poetry collection ever made, if you’re coming to it from that angle. Think of it as jazz and you’ve got it. Language is the pause as much as the utterance…in other words…

“It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” Miles Davis

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