Resistance, protest and configurations of time, space and place in Herbs’ Pacific reggae songs



resistance and protest, social commentary, Pacific reggae, Herbs, Bakhtin, chronotope


This paper begins by exploring the notions of resistance and protest in popular music. Although the terms have been used in Anglophone discussions of popular music for some hundred years, there is a tendency to treat them as synonymous. The paper draws on the work of David Laing (2003), who considers the distinction between protest songs and resistance songs, and also extends Barbara Harlow’s (1987) conceptualisation of resistance poetry to the similarly compressed discourse structures of popular songs. Framed by this exploration and by Mikhail Bakhtin’s theorisation of popular culture as “the privileged bearer of democratic and progressive values” (Hirschkop, 1987, p. 92), the paper presents an interpretive discourse analysis of the construction of social commentary, resistance and protest in the music of the band Herbs in Aotearoa New Zealand’s first Pacific reggae album, released in 1981. This investigation includes consideration of configurations of time/space and place relationships and the implications of these for meaning in three of Herbs’ songs, through the lens of Bakhtin’s (1981b) notion of the chronotope.


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