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Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)

MorwenEdhelwen1 24 Jun 11 - 10:34 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 25 Jun 11 - 03:00 AM
GUEST,leeneia 25 Jun 11 - 08:25 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 25 Jun 11 - 08:35 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 25 Jun 11 - 08:41 AM
Rob Naylor 25 Jun 11 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,leeneia 25 Jun 11 - 11:36 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 25 Jun 11 - 05:39 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Jun 11 - 01:11 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Jun 11 - 06:41 AM
GUEST,leeneia 26 Jun 11 - 09:41 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Jun 11 - 09:50 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Jun 11 - 09:52 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 27 Jun 11 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Ewan McVicar 28 Jun 11 - 02:43 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 28 Jun 11 - 03:02 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 29 Jun 11 - 03:26 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 04 Jul 11 - 01:23 AM
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MorwenEdhelwen1 11 Jul 11 - 10:46 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 12 Jul 11 - 09:43 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Jul 11 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,leeneia 19 Jul 11 - 10:07 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Jul 11 - 10:34 PM
goatfell 20 Jul 11 - 08:29 AM
Crowhugger 20 Jul 11 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,leeneia 20 Jul 11 - 09:57 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Jul 11 - 05:39 PM
Crowhugger 20 Jul 11 - 10:47 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Jul 11 - 11:05 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Jul 11 - 11:16 PM
GUEST,leeneia 21 Jul 11 - 09:24 AM
Crowhugger 26 Jul 11 - 02:44 AM
Darowyn 26 Jul 11 - 03:22 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 10 Aug 11 - 02:37 AM
GUEST,James Fryer 10 Aug 11 - 02:44 AM
Gibb Sahib 10 Aug 11 - 04:31 AM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Aug 11 - 10:09 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Aug 11 - 05:01 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Aug 11 - 05:12 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Aug 11 - 05:18 PM
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Darowyn 14 Aug 11 - 03:32 AM
GUEST,Eliza 14 Aug 11 - 03:58 AM
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Crowhugger 11 Sep 11 - 02:58 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 12 Sep 11 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,jrinc 04 Oct 11 - 12:40 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 04 Oct 11 - 05:10 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 07 Oct 11 - 01:08 AM
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Subject: ADD: Mattie Rag
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Jun 11 - 10:34 PM

MATTIE RAG (Jamaican Mento)

1.
Mumma, mumma, dem ketch puppa,
Dem ketch 'im dung a mango walk.
If a neva run dem woulda ketch mi tu,
So mi sing sweet song an' play guitar.

(chorus)
Wai oh, Mattie rag,
Wai oh, Mattie rag.

2. Puppa go down a mango walk
Cause 'im ear wan hog a chaw a piece a rag.
Wen 'im ax 'im a chaw fa rag,
'Im tell 'im sey a Mattie rag.
(Chorus)
3. Pickney hear whe yu mumma sey,
Yu betta 'tap go mango walk.
If yu neva run dem woulda ketch yu tu,
So sing sweet song an' play guitar.
(Chorus)

My actual question is, does anyone know what this song may mean? I know it is dialect, but would it mean anything or is it just a nonsense song? The best thing I can think of is that the singer sees their father in a mango orchard talking about a woman named Mattiem and the father was caught in the mango orchard.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meaning
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 03:00 AM

BTW, the above version of "Mattie Rag" comes from the song collection "Mango Time: Folk Songs of Jamaica" collected by Noel Dexter and Godfrey Taylor, published by Ian Randle Publishers in 2007.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 08:25 AM

It baffles me, Morwen, but the words 'chaw' and 'rag' make me think it's about chewing tobacco. Maybe there's some illegal substance that resembles chewing tobacco and papa got caught chawing it.

The words stirred a dim memory in me of an announcer on a cigarette ad saying the words 'finest rag tobacco.' I googled 'rag tobacco,' and discovered that 'cut rag tobacco' is a standard phrase in the tobacco business.

Mattie could be a brand name or it could be the seller's name.

In my opinion the editors went overboard with precious spellings. Why tu for too? Sey for say? Fa is probably of. If they really think catch has to have a short e in it, they could spell it cetch, rather than ketch, which is a kind of boat.

Reading it aloud helps, but I think local knowledge is also needed.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 08:35 AM

Finally, an answer! Leeneia, I think Mattie is a person rather than a brand of tobacco.
Maybe the editors were trying to represent Jamaican dialect, spelling the words in their own way. There are various ways of spelling the same words, depending on the editor's choice. "Ketch' - I thought I'd read that word in a different context, thanks for reminding me that it is a type of boat. Your theory about tobacco is a good one.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 08:41 AM

"If I never run they woulda catch me too"- literal translation, "If I don't run they will catch me too", perhaps the narrator is stealing mangoes?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 09:13 AM

That phrase sounds to me as if it ought to be in the past tense:

"If I hadn't run, they would have caught me too". Jamaicans I worked with years ago would often use a present tense phrasing with just the addition of a modal verb with an "a" appended ("coulda", "woulda", "shoulda") to indicate past tense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 11:36 AM

This is getting to be fun.

I searched for the definition of 'pickney,' and it's Jamaican for child.

I guess a mango walk is place where mangoes grow. Here's the first verse of another song:

My brother did-a tell me that you go mango walk,
You go mango walk, you go mango walk,
My brother did-a tell me that you go mango walk
And steal all the number 'leven.

(I bet the number 11's are the best kind.)

Here's my translation thus far:

Mumma, mumma, dem ketch puppa,
Dem ketch 'im dung a mango walk.
If a neva run dem woulda ketch mi tu,
So mi sing sweet song an' play guitar.

Mama, Mama, they caught Papa,
caught him down at the mango orchard.
If I hadn't run, they would have caught me too.
So I'll sing a sweet song and play guitar.
(chorus)
Wai oh, Mattie rag,
Wai oh, Mattie rag.

2. Puppa go down a mango walk
Cause 'im ear wan hog a chaw a piece a rag.
Wen 'im ax 'im a chaw fa rag,
'Im tell 'im sey a Mattie rag.


Papa went down to the mango walk
because ? chew a piece of rag (is rag chewing tobacco?)
When he (Papa) asked him (another male) for a chew of rag
he told him Papa, "Say a Mattie rag."
(Chorus)


[Now the speaker is the singer's mother:]

3. Pickney hear whe yu mumma sey,
Yu betta 'tap go mango walk.
If yu neva run dem woulda ketch yu tu,
So sing sweet song an' play guitar

Child, hear what your mother says.
You better stop going to the mango walk.
If you hadn't run, they would have caught you.
So sing a sweet song and play guitar.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 05:39 PM

Thanks, Rob for the correction! BTW "Mattie" is a common female name which often turns up in Jamaican folk/mento songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 01:11 AM

According to the glossary at the back of the book, "who fa" actually means "whose".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 06:41 AM

Refresh.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 09:41 PM

who fa = whose

Interesting and unusual! Thanks for the info.

I wish this song were better known, because I consider the advice to 'sing a sweet song and play the guitar' when trouble comes to be an excellent thing.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 09:50 PM

Yeah- or the piano, or any instrument really. Or read a book.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 09:52 PM

Louise Bennett's version of "Mattie Rag"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 27 Jun 11 - 07:28 AM

It differs slightly from the version found in "Mango Time".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 28 Jun 11 - 02:43 AM

Didn't the Spinners record a version vaguely like the following?

Go down the road one Monday mornin
See de young gal chew de rag
One gal say 'Now, what's your name'
Ah say me name is Matty Rag

Ah ay, Mattie Rag x3
Ah sing sweet song and play guitar


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 28 Jun 11 - 03:02 AM

The Spinners? Which ones? (I checked this site's threads on The Spinners, and there are apparently two groups called that; an American one and a British one.) Interesting version, Ewan.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 29 Jun 11 - 03:26 AM

Refresh.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 01:23 AM

Refresh. Anyone want to discuss this?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 07:13 AM

Anyone still interested in this thread? I thought over it and here is my interpretation of the lyrics: The narrator goes down the mango walk and sees their father getting caught by the guards for chewing on 'rag". He (the narrator, somehow I think it's a boy) hears the father being asked whose rag it is, and the father (possibly due to a suggestion from another man) says it's Mattie's rag.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Jul 11 - 04:20 AM

Refresh. Anyone want to share their thoughts on "Mattie Rag"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 05:33 AM

As an interesting note, "Mattie Rag" seems to be considered Jamaican folk as well as mento. Does anyone know when the earliest recording was and who made it?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 11 Jul 11 - 10:46 PM

refresh. Anyone still interested in this thread? I'm still curious about what it could actually be referring to.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 09:43 PM

Correction of lyrics. "Wen 'im ax 'im a chaw fa rag" should be "Wen 'im ax 'im a who fa rag".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 07:44 AM

Just a note: "Mattie Rag" is part of an orchestral (?) arrangement called "Two Jamaican Street Songs".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 10:07 PM

Hi, Morwen. I looked at four sites that purport to be dictionaries of Jamaican words, and none had 'Mattie' or 'rag.'

I guess until a Jamaican comes along and tells us what mattie (or Mattie) rag is, we'll remain perplexed.

Several years ago I visited St Croix in the Virgin Islands, and on that trip I learned that the native speech there combines English, French, and African words. I suppose Jamaican speech does too.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 10:34 PM

Thanks, leeneia! I'm sorry for the excessive posts! BTW, I posted a correction to the lyrics, and this is one of the songs that if you change one word when you're singing it, it changes the meaning. I think that Mattie is a person. "Mattie" is a common nickname for Matilda (more common in the 21st century) or Martha (not so common except among older people).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: goatfell
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 08:29 AM

Yes the Spinners (UK) sang a version of this song


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: Crowhugger
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 09:56 AM

According to this site, 'chaw the rag' = 'chewing the fat', i.e. passing the time of day talking. In context of the song it looks like they've used the expression as a euphemism for passing the time of day in a more physical way, i.e. having a tumble in the proverbial hay.
According to this site, mango walk is a mango orchard. (Scroll down to notes at end of lyrics.)
..Mattie is a woman's name, diminutive of Martha or Matilda.
..'tap is 'stop' in dialect.

Taken all together, the meaning I find is basically: Kids don't you go for a tumble in the orchard like daddy did, though it's unclear to me whether the singer means one should enjoy those tumbles where one won't get caught like daddy did, or don't tumble at all (but I'd bet it means the former for boys and the latter for girls).

That's my viewpoint on it anyway, and keep in mind that I have no idea how credible the cited sites are.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 09:57 AM

I agree. Mattie is probably a person.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 05:39 PM

Crowhugger, so it seems that you and Leeneia have different views of what this song means. I wouldn't be surprised if it did turn out to be the second scenario! Mento songs often deal with stuff like this!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: Crowhugger
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 10:47 PM

Morwen, what means 'mento' songs?

Leeneia and I may both be off track. Or both right: Sometimes a song is meant to be ambiguous, to be heard one way before the 'chillun' are in bed and another way afterwards. (Lots of Afro-originating songs had ambiguous lyrics to keep slave-owners from knowing what was really said.

Again, I'm just indulging in speculation. If I remember to put the lyrics out in the car (too hot to do it now even at this hour, un-freakin-believable weather) I'll ask about it at my local roti shack next time I have a craving for curried goat or aloo pie; even though they're Trini they might know some Jamaican patois or know whom I might ask.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 11:05 PM

Well, Crowhugger, mento is a Jamaican music tradition, sort of the predecessor to reggae. It's very similar to calypso, but with different rhythms, and the repertoire is based on folk songs and original songs, often with bawdy lyrics and lots of double-entendre, which makes some of very fun to sing for a 17-year-old Australian Chinese girl with ambitions towards becoming a calypsonian (professional singer and musician who performs calypso in "tents" at Carnival and other similar celebrations, often improvising insult and topical songs) and ethnomusicologist, collecting and studying calypso and English-speaking Caribbean folk music (although I am interested in both Trinidadian *and* Jamaican music) as then I can sing rude songs without being called out on it by my parents and teachers, because of all the symbolism. Lots of teenagers sing stuff that's really explicit.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 11:16 PM

And I would love it if you asked at your roti shack.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 09:24 AM

Yes, Crowhugger, please do.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 02:44 AM

I haven't forgotten; they were closed today unexpectedly :-(


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: Darowyn
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 03:22 PM

"Cause 'im ear wan hog a chaw a piece a rag."
That seems to me to mean:-
Because he heard one hog had chewed a piece of rag.
Maybe a hog is a literal pig, or maybe a metaphorical one!
There doesn't seem to be any discussion of this line so far.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 02:37 AM

Yep, that could be it about *that* line.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings
From: GUEST,James Fryer
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 02:44 AM

There is another song "Charlie's Cow" which has the same tune and some of the same lyrics. In that song (from memory) the singer's papa is accused of stealing the cow but it turns out to have strayed.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 04:31 AM

Papa went down by the mango row
'Cause he heard a hog was chewing on a piece of rag
When he asked him (the hog) whose rag it was
He (the hog) told him it's Mattie's rag.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 10:09 AM

Thanks, James. The version about the cow is more fun because it makes more sense. This is from mentomusic.com

Mama, Mama dem ketch Papa
Dem ketch him down a mango walk
And if I didn't run they would catch me too
so sing sweet song and play guitar

Wai, Oi, Papa gone
Wai, Oh, Papa gone

If I didn't run they would catch me too,
So sing sweet song and play guitar

You should a seen how policeman run him down
And jump on him and hold him down
Dem say he steal Mas Charley cow
And dem gone wid him to prison now

Wai, Oi, Papa gone
Wai, Oh, Papa gone

Dem say he steal Mas Charley cow
And dem gone wid him to prison now

Him say to tell you not to cry
For Mas Charlie did tell a lie
The cow was loose and he took it to pound
An' de beast got away and can' be found

Wai, Oi, Papa gone
Wai, Oh, Papa gone

He say to tell you not to cry
For Mas Charlie did tell a lie

One day one day I will find a way
To make that lying Charley pay
Me send to Papa gone a jail
But I remain an' I will not fail

Wai, Oi, Papa gone
Wai, Oh, Papa gone

One day one day I will find a way
To make that lying Charley pay

Mama, Mama, the dog barking hard
At someting in de next door yard
Someting in dere, I betta see
What pushing down that coffee tree

Oooh, Ooooh, now I know
Look Mama, its Charley's Cow

De cow din't really stray too far
so sing sweet song and play guitar


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 05:01 PM

Hubert Porter, a great mento singer, was the vocalist of the version posted by Leeneia.
It is called "Charley's Cow" in Porter's version.
Mattie Rag
Matty Rag


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 05:12 PM

Louise Bennett and "Mattie Rag on you tube. Seems to be a Charley Cow version. Poor reproduction.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ4bFl8vEyg


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Aug 11 - 05:18 PM

Seem to be several versions. Mattie Rag by Lord Tanamo, a ska, also titled "Ol' Matilda." On youtube.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 02:50 AM

So, has anyone got an idea where "Mattie Rag" came from? Or did "Charley's Cow" come first?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: Darowyn
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 03:32 AM

I wonder if it was an advertising jingle for Mattie Rag tobacco, based on an existing song, possibly Charlie's Cow.
It's not an ususual thing to do, as anyone who watches commercial TV for more than hlaf an hour will know.
Was Mattie Rag ever a commercial brand?
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 03:58 AM

Reminds me of a Peter Tosh song:-

Ma, oh Ma, dem hold Papa,
Say dey charge him fe' smoke ganja.
If me never jump de fence, dem hold me too,
So tell me Ma, what we gonna do?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 04:38 AM

Darowyn, I think Mattie is a person. After all, Lord Tanamo's version is called "Ol' Matilda".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: Crowhugger
Date: 11 Sep 11 - 02:58 PM

Further to my post from 20 Jul 11 - 10:47 PM:
The woman at the roti shack didn't know for sure. I still keep the words handy in case I come across someone to ask.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 12 Sep 11 - 08:28 AM

Thanks for that, Crowhugger!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,jrinc
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 12:40 AM

Mattie Rag is the woman a married man has on the side.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 05:10 AM

jrinc, are you from Jamaica? Or do you know Jamaican patois?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Oct 11 - 01:08 AM

Refresh.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Oct 11 - 05:53 PM

has anyone got some definite information?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: James Fryer
Date: 08 Oct 11 - 04:46 AM

I think to pursue this further you will need to look further afield. For example, the Limers yahoo group or (better as Limers is mostly Trini I think) a Jamaican discussion forum. Please report back if you find anything new! HTH


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 13 Nov 11 - 05:56 PM

Incidentally, I always thought that "Mattie Rag" was slang for a ragged woman; rag= ragged/tattered clothes, Mattie= Martha, Matilda.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 13 Nov 11 - 07:52 PM

That has no basis in fact; just what I thought. I have also posted on a Jamaican discussion forum, following James F's advice (thanks, James) and a poster there had the same suggestion as Leeneia earlier on this thread- it refers to something illegal or out of bounds.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Nov 11 - 07:53 PM

If anyone is still interested- another suggestion is that it refers to the narrator and his/her father stealing mangoes, or that it refers to "rag" as in "ragtime"- influenced by music from America.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 15 Nov 11 - 11:10 PM

Just found out that the rag refers to a headscarf in a custom (possibly among escaped/freed slaves) at a time when young men were sometimes kidnapped and taken to plantations by slave masters, where an older female relative or grandmother in a house would take a piece of cloth and tie it on her head as a scarf during the night to keep away the duppies. She would pray over the scarf, then give it to her son or son-in-law to keep in his pocket when he went to the farm in the hope that he wouldn't be captured. The boy in the song is talking to his mother about his father who was captured, and Mattie, or Miss Mattie, is his grandmother.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 15 Nov 11 - 11:10 PM

Is anyone still interested?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 16 Nov 11 - 03:15 AM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 16 Nov 11 - 06:08 PM

Refresh again


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 16 Nov 11 - 11:23 PM

Anyone still interested in this song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 17 Nov 11 - 03:47 PM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 17 Nov 11 - 03:47 PM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 17 Nov 11 - 03:52 PM

Can someone please delete the double posts?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: James Fryer
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 04:08 AM

"Anyone still interested in this song?" Yes. I still don't see a definitive interpretation. But useful input there. Are you talking to people who know the song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 05:31 AM

Yep. One poster says "Miss Mattie" or "Mattie" is the narrator's grandmother, the rag being her headscarf-- it was a custom during the days of slavery that the oldest female relative in a house (often a grandmother) would take a piece of cloth and tie it on her head to ward away duppies. She would pray over the scarf, then give it to her son or son-in-law. This was intended to be a sort of protection against capture by slave catchers kidnapping young men for the plantations. The narrator, a young boy, is telling his mother about his narrow escape, while his father was caught.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 08:32 AM

I don't believe that interpretation at all. Would a woman whose husband has just been dragged into slavery tell her child:

'If yu neva run dem woulda ketch yu tu,
So sing sweet song an' play guitar.

No, she wouldn't. The ending is too happy for that.

Also, the recording that we can listen to on YouTube has a very happy tone, far too happy to be about slavery.

Clearly whatever trouble Papa got into wasn't very serious.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 07:38 PM

Well... thinking.. Leeneia, you could say that, but ... I remember a quote from I think Frederick Douglass-- that's America, but still-- which said that "slaves sing most when they are unhappy". Now I know that's a different cultural and national context, but there's something else. I also remember reading an extract from a book- "Rock it come over" written by Olive Lewin on Google Books, in which she said that an old funeral custom in parts of rural Jamaica was to perform songs and dances called Dinki, which have upbeat-sounding melodies. This was meant to deal with the grief over death. One of the songs sometimes played at those funerals was "Linstead Market", the lament of a woman who can't feed her children.


BTW Leeneia, do you mean "tone" or "tune"? There are lots of sad songs set to upbeat melodies-- Stone Cold Dead In The Market, for example, which is about domestic violence and what is now called "battered woman syndrome" (plagiarised from a 19th century murder ballad, Murder In The Market), the guitar playing meant to cope with the father's loss, to hide the family's sorrow.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 07:52 PM

BTW, Leeneia, do you mind if I quote your post on the other forum (a Jamaican discussion forum) where I have a thread on this song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 09:05 PM

No, I don't mind at all.

I've heard upbeat songs in the context of sadness, for example at funerals in the Catholic church. But I don't think a song about someone being dragged into forced labor would be as upbeat as this one.

""slaves sing most when they are unhappy" sounds like quite a generalization, don't you think? Surely some might sing, others might not want to sing at all.

When I was in high school and did badly on a math test, I went into the darkened living room and listened to the saddest music I could find. Stravinsky, I think.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 09:17 PM

Thanks for that, leeneia!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Nov 11 - 11:00 AM

You're welcome.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mattie Rag meanings (Jamaican Mento)
From: GUEST,Pedro
Date: 21 Mar 18 - 07:04 PM

Quoti means money in Jamaica


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