The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #40845 Message #4127705
Posted By: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
01-Dec-21 - 06:16 AM
Thread Name: ADD: jamaican folk music
Subject: RE: ADD: jamaican folk music
Just beneath the irony… more irony. The calypso craze Day-O revival was actually a British Government patois conspiracy that backfired in a rather spectacular fashion. No joke.
Couple of long posts but the lady is worth it: Louise Bennett-Coverley
Hugh Paget's (British Council Representative, Kingston) foreword to the 1952 Murray songbook is also the liner notes, verbatim, to the 1954 Edric Connor release on Argo. (More to follow on that.)
by Hugh Paget
The Jamaican people have some three hundred years of continuous history. In the course of these centuries they have developed into an increasingly homogeneous community until the pattern of their life has become so local and individual in character that its origins have become obscured. On a closer view, however, the fabric is found to be woven of many threads the sources of which must be sought in places far distant from the Caribbean sea and from one another. The woof and warp, so to speak, come from the British Isles and from the west coast of Africa but other threads have also been woven into the pattern.
The music of Jamaica epitomizes the life and culture of the people of the Island. In the opinion of such students of folk-music as Miss Lucy Broadwood and C.S. Meyers, the tunes of most of the Jamaican songs derive ultimately from Europe and mainly from the British Isles; the rhythm, however, is African in origin, while the blend is essentially Jamaican. The African rhythm provides a common denominator to the music of all the West Indian islands. The history of each is reflected in its music, so that, whereas the music of the British islands is, broadly speaking, a British-African compound, elsewhere it is French-African or Spanish-African. Nor indeed is the African element altogether uniform, for the population of the Spanish and French colonies came predominately from African races different from from those which peopled the British islands. The newcomer to the West Indies tends to overlook these differences of history and character and, at first at any rate, to be insensitive to these variations on the West Indian theme. To him (and to many who never been to the Caribbean and for whom there is therefore more excuse) any West Indian song is a Calypso whereas this term is only properly applied to a certain type of ballad sung in Trinidad and is quite inapplicable, for example, to the folk-songs of Jamaica.
The African element in Jamaican culture can be traced almost entirely to the Akan group of peoples in the Gold Coast and the term 'Kromanti', derived from Koromantin in that country, is still applied by the Jamaican Maroons to certain of their old songs.
Jamaicans have 'good ears for music', as the historian, Long, noted as long ago as 1774, and music is a necessary and integral part of the life of the country people. They work and play to music: it is the spontaneous expression, in their own idiom, of their joys and sorrows, their wit, their religion and their philosophy of life. Songs of all these kinds are to be found in this collection. Perhaps the most characteristic if them all is 'Linstead Market', which tells the sad little story of a woman who went to market with a basket -load of ackees but failed to sell even a 'quattie wut.' How clearly it reflects the life of so many Jamaican country folk!—the early rising in the morning freshness of the mountains; the picking of the ackees and the long journey down the mountain-side to the little town of Linstead; the long day in the hot sun in the market and then, at night, the weary miles of climbing up the mountain and the sad return to the children clamouring for the food which she has not been able to buy for them. The song evokes the courageous and enduring spirit of the Jamaican country people as, by contrast, 'Missa Ramgoat', for example, expresses their gaiety and lively sense of humour.
As Cecil Sharp has written, “The careful preservation of its folk-music is to a nation a matter of the highest import'. This has a special relevance for Jamaica today, where a rising sense of Jamaican national consciousness is being transcended by an awareness of the common West Indian cultural heritage which is one of the conditions of the successful federation of the West Indian Colonies into a new nation.
The Calypso of Trinidad has, in recent years, become largely commercialized as a result of the development of the tourist industry and has thus lost much of its original character. This has not yet been the fate of the Jamaican songs, although it is not unreasonable to fear that the demand of the tourist may engender a spurious supply. Another force inimical to the survival of Jamaican folk-music in recent years has been the rapid development of wireless and the overwhelming dominance of American radio in the Caribbean area. In fact, extinction rather than vulgarization appears to be the fate in store for Jamaican music if nothing is done to check the process. Now, however, young educated Jamaicans are beginning to turn to their own music: many of them know something of the old songs but when an attempt to sing them is made at any gathering it is nearly always found that only a few know the words of any particular song and that each knows a different version of it, while the accompaniment is usually, at best, a gallant approximation. It has, in fact, long been clear that there is an urgent need for the publication of an authentic collection of Jamaican folk-songs based upon careful research into the original words and music. This has been done by Mr. Tom Murray, with the aid of Miss Louise Bennett: all West Indians and indeed all who believe music to be a vital part of the culture of a people, or who value it for its own sake, owe them a lasting debt of gratitude.”
[Murray, Tom, ed., Folk Songs of Jamaica, (Oxford U. Press: London, New York, Toronto, 1951]