An African Song or Chant from Barbados

Documentary heritage submitted by Barbados and the United Kingdom and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2017.

© Gloucestershire Archives, Song of Slaves in Barbados

The song, An African Song or Chant from Barbados, dates from the time of enslavement (mid-seventeenth-century to 1824). This song text is the only known manuscript of an African work song that was chanted in the sugar fields of Barbados (see Appendix I). Written in a minor key, it is quite unlike other Barbadian folk songs which privilege the major key. The song does not have a time signature. The song was first heard by Dr. William Dickson, when he was Secretary to Edward Hay who governed Barbadoes (now spelt Barbados), during the period, 1772-1779. The song was transcribed by Granville Sharpe, a founder of the antislavery movement in Great Britain. The song represents a part of the Barbadian documentary heritage (song) of which there are no other known examples. It is a voice which represents how the enslaved saw their lot and how they commented on their lived experience. It also represents one of the tools that the oppressed used in their resistance and as a strategy for surviving the foul regime of enslavement. 

Back to top