'Good job Doctor Myrna'

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 01, 2015

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A doyenne of the Jamaican jazz scene, chanteuse Myrna Hague Bradshaw has added one more title to her list of accolades.

She is now Dr Myrna Hague Bradshaw. On Friday, she received her Doctorate in Cultural Studies from the University of the West Indies with a thesis which examined Jazz in the Caribbean.

Hague-Bradshaw is also one of this year's recipients of the Musgrave Silver Medal for her work in jazz.

"It is extraordinary... I am so overwhelmed at this moment but at the same time extremely grateful... As I walked across the stage at graduation my knees buckled as I thought to myself, 'I am actually here. I am here and I am going up to someone who is going to say to me congratulations'," she told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, just hours ahead of a performance at the Jamaica Pegasus' Jazz in the Gardens series.

Hague Bradshaw, a cancer survivor, said the support during her illness, and her drive to prove that she had more to her than music, motivated her to pursue doctoral studies.

"There were two scriptures that kept me going during my illness -- Isaiah 43 and Jeremiah 29 which states: 'For I know the plans that I have for you...plans to give you a future and a hope'. It was that promise of a future that gave me strength and courage. When I completed my first degree, Professor Rex Nettleford said to me: 'You are only as good as your last performance'. That told me that I had to do more."

Hague Bradshaw's doctoral work explored the history, politics and socialisation of jazz in the Caribbean. She states that one major revelation of her research is something she had long suspected, but never had the supporting data.

"I had long suspected that the Caribbean was a serious connecting link in the history of Jazz. Therefore, my research shows that jazz is not a product of the United States but rather originated right here in the Caribbean,"she said.

"Everyone speaks of New Orleans but research shows that the enslaved Africans who were taken from the Caribbean to Louisiana arrived with the music in their heads. One must also realise that prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, that state was a French Caribbean territory."

She plans to share her work with a wider audience and disclosed that the first of two books should be released next year.

"This is really seminal work. The more I researched the more the work opened up to me and I just could not stop as I was just digging up gold nuggets. Right now, I am editing... shifting from the academic writing and making the information much more reader-friendly. The first book should be ready in a few months. Plus, there is another idea for a book that must get done immediately afterwards."

Hague Bradshaw was on tour in the United Kingdom and could not get back to Jamaica for the Musgrave ceremony at the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston on October 28.

As for what her late husband, bandleader Sonny Bradshaw, would say to her at this time, she replied, "Good job girl."

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