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Gregory Rabess: Receives Meritorious Service Award

Gregory Rabess: Receives Meritorious Service Award

Gregory Rabess, Dominican creolist, received the Meritorius Service Award for culture on November 3, 2020, on the occasion of official ceremony to mark the 42nd anniversary of Independence of Dominica. The award citation recognizes Rabess as a champion for researching and promoting key aspects of Dominican culture particularly in music, the Kweyol language and Dominican art. It continues “ his dedication to the advancement of Kweyol manifested through his pioneering work with the Konmite pou Etid Kweyol and his literary works and his music album which earned him the endearing nickname of Wochla, all of which earned him several awards including the Dominica Festivals Committee (DFC) Award of Excellence in 1999, the Dominica Festivals Recognition Award in 2003 and the Golden Drum Award in 2010”.  The citation concludes “Rabess continues to support the advancement and promulgation of our culture as part of a team of specialists producing a new Kweyol dictionary and as one of Dominica’s Cultural Ambassadors”.

Gregory Rabess has been involved in the kwéyòl movement from the early 1980s when KEK was formed. He served as KEK president and has contributed to its work in promoting kwéyòl language and culture. He contributed to compilation of Dominica’s first kwéyòl dictionary Diksyonnè Kwéyòl Domnik and co-authored a book of proverbs Pawòl Ka Di and a book of riddles Tim Tim Glo Doubout. He  also contributed to the development and evolution of creole-based events and festivals including Jounen Kweyol, Jounen Eritaj and the World Creole Music Festival. Rabess has worked closely with creolists in Bann Zil Kwéyòl over many years and coordinated an International Symposium to mark the 30th Anniversary of International Creole Day in 2013.

Apart from being a creolist, Rabess is a poet, writer and social commentator. His poetic works have appeared in various anthologies and he has performed in Dominica, the Caribbean and Europe. He has won the national Kweyol Poetry Prize on several occasions. Gregory Rabess is also a top thinker, commentator and writer on Dominican and Caribbean music and has written numerous articles on Creole music, language and culture including a chapter on cadence-lypso in the book “Zouk: World Music in the West Indies” by Jocelyne Guilbault, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1993. He has facilitated workshops and made numerous presentations on creole language, culture and music.

A versatile musician, Gregory Rabess plays several instruments and has produced several albums. He earned the name Wochla after his signature album of the same name released in 1992.  In 1977, Rabess had a brief soujourn in Martinique and was a member of the Martiniquan group Les Playboys led by Fred Desir and which included the late trumpeter and percussionist Paco Charlery, bassist Alick Lowensky and drummer  Max Chamoiseau  among others. His more recent poetic and musical repertoire focuses on bèlè jazz and steel pan jazz fusion.

Rabess professional formation is communication. He served as Communications Manager of SPAT, A LOCAL development NGO for about 15 years. In 2000 when Rosie Douglas became Prime Minster of Dominica, Rabess was appointed head of the Government Information Service. More recently he served as a consultant to the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Dominica with responsibility for projects cooperation and research. He is now retired.

Apart from his work with KEK, Rabess has contributed to the work of several key cultural and development organizations in Dominica including the Small Projects Assistance Team (SPAT), the World Creole Music Festival Coordinating Committee, the National Cultural Council and the Movement for Cultural Awareness. 

In all this Rabess has maintained a strong political engagement in the heart of the progressive left wing movement in Dominica. A firm anti-colonialist, he was a close colleague of the late Prime Ministers Rosie Douglas and Pierre Charles. He was a member of the Popular Independence Committees created by Rosie Douglas which mobilized the Dominican population to support political independence from Britain. He studied politics in Havana Cuba. His political philosophy influences and guides his world view and engagement on culture and creole. For him, creole is at the heart of the Dominican and Caribbean cultural identity. He rejects xenophobia and insularity and considers himself a pan-Caribbeanist and a pan-Creolist in relation to the creole-zone countries. In an interview with radio animator Michel of Radio APAL in 2013, Gregory Rabess affirms  “I am a creole person, I am not in the business of xenophobia or insularity. We are all Caribbean, we are creole. I have no time for things like this, for me all humans are humans (

Rabess remains a staunch antI-colonialist and independentist. In 2008 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of independence of Dominica he recorded a song tribute to independence DA Birthday Song.  No doubt Gregory Rabess has made an enormous contribution to culture in Dominica and within the creole zone creole networks in the region and continues to do so. Whenever he is asked to describe his involvement in culture, it can get so extensive that he simply rounds it up by declaring “mwen an tout sòs”.  One commentator, a UK based film maker of Dominican roots, Richard Etienne aptly sums it up thus “At times it may appear the preservation of Dominica’s entire Creole culture sits firm on the shoulders of this man, but you know what, Gregory will probably tell you to add more weight on! Being a man that is all about Creole and what it stands for, Gregory is a wonderful man with awesome intelligence and an incredible sense of humor to boot”. 

Felisitasyon Gregory!


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