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Table of Contents
O'NDI I1) I879
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PUBLISHED BY TH INSTITUTE OF.JAMAIC/
"The Crossing" Editor Interviews Rex Nettleford .............. 2
African Roots of Music in the Americas
An African View ................ J .H. Kwabena Nketia 12
Jonkonnu Pitchy Patchy .................. Sheila Barnett 18
The Formative Years (National Gallery Exhibition)--
"The Last Negro" ........................ George Campbell 33
The Cudjoe Minstrels A Perspective Augustus Brathwaite 36
Music in the Jamaican Labour Movement ....... Lileth Sewell 42
Transcriptions & Notations ................ Marjorie Whylie 48
St. William Wellington Grant
A Fighter for Black Dignity ................ Noel White 56
Four Jamaican Poets
(James Berry, Dennis Scott, Tony McNeill, Mervyn Morris)...... 64
Edvard Munch The Major Graphic ......................... 66
Norwegian Petroleum Policy
& Third World Countries ............ Jargen Randers 69
Oil & Gas Exploration in Small
Developing Countries ............ Raymond M. Wright 77
Transfer of Norwegian Petroleum
Technology ....................... Jan-Olaf Willums 84
Publications Received ....................................... 89
Spanish & Portuguese Jews of Jamaica,
mid 16 mid 17c............ Rosemarie DePass Scott 90
The Counterstamped Four Spanish Maravedis -
Used in J amaica 1564-1655 ............. Robert Barker 101
Spanish Stones from New Seville Jamaica ..................... 104
ront Covr: 'Crop Time' by Albert Huie (Courtesy of the National Gallery)
This painting focuses on a sugar factory and the workers who
were critical to the formation of the labour movement in the
1930's, featured in this issue.
Back Cove: Details from carvings on the Spanish stones found at New Seville,
Jamaica, in 1937.
FOR SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION PLEASE SEE PAGE 107
the editor o r Netr4d
choreographer, on NDTC's
Hon. Rex Nettleford, O.M., Professor of Extra Mural Studies at
the University of the West Indies, also heads the Trade Union
Education Institute. Born in Jamaica, he graduated from the
University of the West Indies History (Hons.) and Oxford
University post graduate studies in politics as a Rhodes
Scholar. He is founder, Artistic Director, Chief Choreographer
and Principal Dancer of the National Dance Theatre Company
which he has led on several successful tours overseas. Inter alia,
he is cultural adviser to the Prime Minister, member of the
Inter-American Committee on Culture, founding governor of the
Canada-based International Development Research Centre, and
has acted as Expert/Consultant to the Government of Ghana,
FESTAC, CARIFESTA & UNESCO. Prof. Nettleford is a Radio
& Television Commentator and has lectured in many countries
including India, the Phillipines and Israel. He has published
widely, his latest book is Caribbean Cultural Identity, the Case of
Question: First I would like to explore the concept of
"The Crossing", with its duality of meaning not
only an historical and a physical crossing, but a
cross-fertilisation of cultures.
Answer: Well, titles are an integral part of any
creative work. In fact, we gre particularly fussy
about this in the National Dance Theatre Company.
This is not intended to be didactic, really. Rather, I
think it is an urge to be honest and to ensure the
overall integrity of the work. So the title of The
Crossing came, as so many titles usually come -
after much search and then out of the blue as it were.
Some people thought at first of "Middle Passage"
but others felt that that was too overworked as a
title and, in any case, it was a less accurate
representation of what the dance-work was trying to
do. For the dance has to do not only with the middle
passage in the sense of what happened on the
journey from one side of the Atlantic to the other but
also with what happened almost from the beginning
when Africa met Europe on African soil, across the
middle passage, and then in Plantation America (the
Caribbean and all the rest of the Americas.) The
two sets of civilisations had to interact in human
terms as in fact many Africans from different tribes
or nations also had to inter-react. If you like, it is not
only a crossing it is a criss-crossing, and all that
that implies. I think that the title of the dance is in
this sense accurate, none-the-less.
In terms of sheer visual impact, my own impressions
are strongest of the crowded slave-ship, the writhing
unfolding movements of the packed slaves the
melding of cultures really beginning on the slave-
ship itself and the confrontations.
Of course we are here' concerned with the whole
matter of the cross-fertilisation process some
people call it 'creolisation' or 'indigenisation'. I think
it is very important at this time of our history to
pinpoint the positive developments, or the positive
features of Jamaican and Caribbean life. We need to
emphasise the fact that notions about our people
being "totally uprooted" are old-fashioned and, in
any case, just not true; that despite the attempts at
having people totally uprooted, those people
survived. So while there was a severing and while
there was suffering, there was survival. The whole
process therefore has its very positive attributes.
And if one recognizes this, then one can recall the
past without a soul-destroying rancour though by no
means forgetting the sins of that past. I think The
Crossing is just another of the works in the, NDTC
repertoire with this very strong underlying theme,
where the emphasis is on self-assertion rather than
The concept of self-assertion surely is not only a
theme for creative and artistic expression;
self-assertion must surely be established as a result
of articulated research, in the sense of there being
recognisable definitive records of a people; that they
should know themselves, not only in the abstract
sense of having a 'feeling' of achievement but in the
very real sense of having a recorded history of their
culture and their actual achievement.
You are of course right. My own training in
Caribbean history and subsequent study of politics
and culture as well as my continuing academic work
PRotor Maria LaYacon
in the University of the West Indies, have helped the survivals, the elements which go deep into the
tremendously in giving a particular authority to my roots. This dates back long enough for many to be
creative work. Happily there are a number of the beneficiaries of the exercise today. In the sixties
scholars who are in fat paying more attention to the there was a serious thrust into this with the
internal dynamics of Caribbea and the wider society establishment of the Folk Music Research Unit in
of Plantation America especially when it was the Jamaica School of Music following on the work
consolidating and forming itself that is, during done by Leslie Clerk, Philip Sherlock, Eddie Seaga,
the second half of the eighteenth century and the Louise Bennett and others. Then there was in
early nineteenth century. The names of Elea Goveia, 1961/62 the beginnings of the National Dance
Eric Williams, M.G. Smith and more recently Eddie Theatre Company determined to deepen and extend
Brathwaite and Orlando Patterson, are names to some of the work started in the Ivy Baxter Creative
which we owe a lasting debt. We have long been Dance Group and two or three other dance studios.
placing greater emphasis on serious in-depth study There followed the work of the Festival Commission
of our folk (the traditional) culture the retentions, which pulled together the experience over half a
century of parish and county festivals in the people's
art expressions. While there is, understandably,
some anxiety about the possible bastardisationn' of
our traditional culture or the exploitation of it, I
think we have to be careful that we do not get too
solemn and hypocritical about this. Certain scholars
and researchers who become new converts to
folk-culture are famous for such solemnity and
sentimentalism on the matter. They do more harm
than good in the long run.
Those of us and I am speaking here very
subjectively and very personally those of us who
have actually been brought up in traditional culture
as I have been, know the tremendous possibilities
and intrinsic vibrancy of that culture. While a
number of things are indeed held sacred, people from
traditional culture relate realistically very
realistically to everyday life. There is in fact
cosmic harmony between what is ritualised and how
people actually live. This gives the traditional
culture tremendous elasticity precisely because it
has its own internal integrity, its own intrinsic sense
I am therefore concerned really with essences. In
fact, Caribbean dance-theatre (of which Jamaican
dance-theatre is a part) can only be legitimate if it
draws on the traditional sources. And this does not
mean a literal transposition of, say, the ritual
decapitation of a rooster on stage, however
satisfying it may be to a blood-thirsty audience
crying for authenticity; but rather a distillation and
portentously symbolic presentation of such an act of
sacrifice. A dance-work like The Crossing, if
examined closely, receives the response it has gotten
both here and in Cuba because it is rooted very much
not only in traditional movements (for dance and
dance-theatre are more than movement) but also in a
totality of our collective experience. It has to do with
essences. It has to do with the symbols which carry a
thousand and one private meanings and deep
meanings of a way of life, of a point of view a
world-view. And I think this work catches the
essences in very much the same way as NDTC's
"Kumina" catches not just the kumina as literally
found in that particular Afro-Jamaican ceremony,
but the whole complex of African retentions in the
society and their manifestations in a totality of
movement, colour, sound pictures and belief system.
So I see The Crossing, though not an obvious
traditional work like "Kumina" or "Myal" in the
NDTC repertoire, as very much in that vein drawing
on the sources we have, on things which are 'older
than revolution itself' as Derek Walcott once
described the NDTC's "Kumina" and "Pocomania".
He is right, for such works represent elements which
are time out of mind in the long past and time out of
mind in the distant future. They live because they
are rooted in the organic realities of a people s
This leads us to the question: why use Black
American music rather than Afro-Caribbean, as a
theme. Bearing in mind the sort of media-bombard-
ment to which we are subjected from North America,
is there any danger of the culture being absorbed
into the larger Black American ethos?
That is a very good point. Well, increasingly over
the years, with study, experience and quite close
observation, and with my own knowledge of the
history of Plantation America, I am convinced that
our immediate universe the universe of Jamaica
and the Caribbean has got to be part of the
African Diaspora. For we are all caught up in this
tremendous, awesome, complex process of findg
self of rejecting/building, of decolonising/indi-
genising. This contradictory process is the dynamic
of Plantation American life and it is what engages
and challenges the Antillean soul. I have often put it
another way in essays I have written that where
the civilisations of Europe have met with the civilisa-
tions of Africa on foreign soil, a whole new process is
set in train, and new types of people and new
sensibilities are honed. If one studies this, if one lives
and understands this, one does find oneself in a new
total universe second to none; a universe which is
richly textured and full of lessons about human
beings how they behave, how they inter-relate,
what kinds of decisions they are likely to take in
different circumstances, what social artifacts they
are likely to produce, what else are likely to come out
of their creative intellect and creative imagination,
and as I said second to no other civilisation. I do not
mean superior but certainly second to none. A full
study and understanding of this is bound to create a
total human being who can stand tall in any part of
the world. And this is as good a basis for
understanding oneself, knowing and being oneself
rather than blindly imitating others or conversely
assuming pretentious postures and making
exaggerated claims about one's attributes.
In reply to the question about the danger of our
culture being absorbed, I can only re-iterate that
when a culture has its own intrinsic sense of purpose
and certitude it is never afraid of what comes from
outside, because it will resist anything which is
organically alien to it. Cross-fertilisation is most
often effective where colliding cultures exchange
common factors a constant problem for scholars
who like to make claims for this or that element in a
given culture that has had exposure to other
cultures. What is sure is that whatever is
incompatible will not take the transplant a fact of
post-colonial life in all the parts of the world where
people now feel free to liberate themselves from the
cultural impositions of the past colonial power. In all
these places it was the traditional folk who actively
reject the incompatible impositions. This is the
very reason why earnest scholars need to be very
careful that they do not 'buy out the quarrel', so to
speak, of the traditional people and set themselves
up as 'protectors' of the folk. And far from
committing cultural murder, the much maligned
Festival movement in Jamaica has helped
considerably to get many people (including the very
bad-mouthing critics) to be much more aware of, and
to have greater access to the gifts, wealth and real
source of energy that lie in our traditional culture.
The folk culture is not exactly dying. It is very much
alive in its maturing and regeneration.
On the matter of the use of Afro-Caribbean music,
what I have said already should answer that query.
But the question raises the point of the need for
NDTC to find more and more collaboration with
Jamaican and Caribbean composers to create special
music for some of its works. This has of course been
done many times and will no doubt continue. But my
argument about our being part of the Diaspora
naturally leads me to lay some claim, on grounds of
historical identity and psychological empathy, to the
music of Black America as I hope mainland
Americans will feel free to lay claim to the music of
the Caribbean, whether it be our reggae or mento,
our calypso, or our cadence (which is now coming out
of places like Dominica and St. Lucia). In another
sphere we might wish to recall the inevitable links
between the Caribbean specifically, and the
elemental struggles of all Plantation America with
names like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X (of
Grenadian ancestry), Frantz Fanon (the Martini-
quan who inspired a decade of auspicious events in
North America) and George Lisle and Moses Baker
who brought to our people Native Baptism from the
mainland American South. The long-held sense of
superiority which West Indians have indulged in
their relationship with American Blacks is the
function of a mistaken identity .... The newly
independent Africans in Africa on whom we used to
pull rank are very clever at putting us in our place ....
We need, then, to rethink a great deal about
ourselves we West Indians!
And so the use of Black American music for The
Crossing has a rhyme and reason to it. It is based on
the conviction that (1) we are part and parcel of that
Black Diaspora and (2) we do live in a world that is
textured, richly textured, and which has its own
dynamic, its own inner consistency; and we can in
fact serve, if given the opportunity, to rehumanise a
whole civilisation or generations of people who have
long been deprived and wronged.
So, then, Quincy Jones' ROOTS would be
symbolically as well as musically, the theme that you
would choose from this ....
Strange things happen. You will recall that the
showing of the television series "Roots" here in
Jamaica was greeted in some quarters with that
snooty Black West Indian disdain of which I spoke
earlier on. Compared with the BBC's "Fight Against
Slavery", scripted by the Jamaican writer Evan
Jones, the "Roots" series had faults, to be sure, but
to condemn the entire effort through some mistaken
sense of place and history was to yet again miss the
point of what this much revered and racist Western
world is all about. I decided to get the music. I didn't
like it at first because I hadn't been able to go
beyond the first cut on the record. And that cut was
clearly intended for the prologue or credits of a
television series. It has, to me, all the mellifluous
superficialities usually ordered for the incidental
music to a Hollywood saga. But later I listened to
the record more carefully and when it got to the
'African' cuts, I found an excellent piece on it called
"Oluwa" The song goes "Ishe Oluwa, Koleba
Jeo The work of God cannot be destroyed". Mr.
Jones' inspired treatment of this tonal gem from
Yorubaland, struck a responsive chord in the
Antillean psyche. This fantastic recall of the
ancestral authenticity of Africa gave the entire work
tremendous authority for me. The lyrics are done in a
particular African language Yoruba which
helps no end, and it is sung by a full blooded African
Letta Mbulu. That has also helped. Further the
genius of Jones meeting in creative collision with the
organic power and beauty of Black spirituals,
convinced me that something had to be done to it.
The metropolitan gloss of the first cut soon fell into
place not as an intrusion but as a vital necessity in
the world of contradictions that people like ourselves
inhabit. There are reprises of that 'gloss' in the score
as there are in our lives and they serve as useful foil
(being music for the plantation mistresses and their
faithful/treacherous house nigger) to the earthy
robustness of the people of the field. I am of course
referring to the choreographic interpretation and not
necessarily what the music composer intended. Then
there is the last piece of music which is the same
African Theme Ishe Oluwa, only now it is fully
repeated in English. At first it sounds quite
different, the dynamics are different (or seem
different). One has to get used to the new kinetic
quality which altogether demonstrates the power of
language and how important it is in human
There are points in this version of the African
Theme where as though out of frustration, out of a
sense of desperateness, the composer is not able to
say what he really wants to say in the received
tongue of the dominant metropolitan masters. So he
reverts to the primordial African tongue and how
things suddenly fall into place only to fall out again
in the struggle to 'be' in a new and real setting. This
is absolutely beautiful in effect and is apt. There is a
I 1_1 _
certain tension in that piece of music this last
version of "Oluwa". In the first version (the African
version) there is little or no tension. That first "Ishe
Oluwa" has a quality of solitude. And here we may
all be accused (both choreographer and composer) of
being a trifle romantic, of harking back to what we
think Africa was or might have been before the Fall.
It is true, I guess, that when people hark back to
their ancestral sources and their classical antiquities
they tend to become romantic. All peoples are guilty
This is more than compensated for by a stoic
realism in that last version of "Oluwa" aptly entitled
"Goodbye Motherland". To me it is saying 'look,
this is home (this New World of ours); there may be
no going back but one's existence here will and can
never lose its point of reference of the ancestral
home, Africa, especially when everything seems to
conspire to deprive us of that point of reference'.
This creates in our perceptions a certain tension, a
kind of 'hope-in-despair' which the Jamaicans call
'dread' and which I have been discovering in the
work of many a reggae artist. Jimmy Cliff, for me,
expresses this more than anyone else. His 'Many
Rivers To Cross' is a kind of hope-in-despair. In
other words, we cannot for one moment ignore the
harsh realities of a past which has been none too
good, of a present which is a struggling one at best
and of a future which is yet uncertain. Nevertheless
one has to have hope or there is no point in life and
existence itself. We may very well be saying
something far more universal than the Black
preoccupation with identity suggests. For all New
World peoples, to make something of their
inheritance, the New World, will have tobe prepared
to sing (along with the Blacks) "Goodbye
Motherland". Isn't part of the trouble that many
North and Latin Americans (with political and
economic power) continue to see themselves as
Europeans overseas rather than as new American
peoples? Perhaps the Blacks are again leading the
way in realistically facing a problem which is more
universal in these Americas than we like to think.
The final dance in The Crossing to the final piece of
music on the Quincy Jones score embraces everyone
in the unfolding drama dancing in unison, whether
they be plantation mistresses, Klansmen, lynched
field hand imperceptibly restored to life, Minstrel,
Uncle Tom or the hordes of struggling denigrated
Blacks. They all end in a final tableau with arms
stretched to the audience beckoning universal
understanding of and involvement in a process and
condition that is ongoing, human, and inescapable.
You mention some of the characters in the
dance-work. I would now like to turn to the
prototypes that are seen in The Crossing. Let's take
Uncle Tom' for example. Uncle Tom as a
recognisable trait is surely not as dangerous as Uncle
Tom as a recessive trait. Is Uncle Tom's mask useful
to use and useful to drop when no longer needed?
Yes. You will notice in the dance that just after he
asserts his superiority as a fully assimilated being
into Massa's life and culture, he is seen dancing with
the field slaves in celebration of a new-found identity
to the song 'Hush, Somebody's Calling My Name'
which I will discuss in a little while.
The Uncle Tom Figure clearly has been
assimilated into the master's household, into the
Western household; and, as he says, he is not going
to let any Guinea-man (newly arrived African that is)
come and deprive him of what he has struggled to
enjoy. He has taken some time and effort, after all, to
become socialised, why should he be picked on for it?
This new-found security has got to be protected at all
cost. He finds a natural alliance with the Minstrel
figure with whom he dances a hoe-down which
corresponds to our campstyle Quadrille both
products of that cross-fertilising process which
people of African descent in the Americas know so
The Minstrel figure is indeed another prototype
in the process. He is Anancy or Sambo par
excellence. He is the mask; he is like the Fool in
Shakespearian drama he takes liberties with the
King, he 'plays fool to catch wise'. In the
dance-work, although he is Black he blackens his
face and whitens his lips as the Whites did to imitate
him. He is an imitation of an imitation of himself.
This is deliciously complex. He is irony, he is
metaphor. In the dance-work it is he who does the
teaching, identifies the objects, gets on top of the
lexicon of the master's world and acts as one of the
bridges between the cultures. He is the Clown -
with the capital C. Underneath all the ribaldry and
sense of fun there is pathos and a certain tension. In
movement terms he oscillates between ludicrous
spasticity and gentle lyricism.
Are you saying that what is fictionally a stage
tradition in Europe is a way of life in Plantation
America? The self-mimicry, the lampooning, the
laughing-instead-of-crying or as they say in local
parlance 'you haffe tek bad ting mek laugh'
Yes, precisely. This of course gives the young
dancer who dances the part tremendous scope in
what is really a small part. But he is remembered for
it because it requires tremendous tenderness and
compassion as well as cynicism.
I note here the sympathetic involvement of the
planter's daughter, another prototype. But surely as
depicted here this is not Little Nell; surely this
implies the ever-present sexuality and the sexual
fears that underlie the practice of racism.
Photos Mmari LaYacoi-
Hence the advent in the drama of the Klu Klux
Klan the post-slavery self-appointed repairers of
the sexual breach. Incidentally have you noticed that
there is more admission in the records of white males
bedding black women and little or nothing of white
women seducing black males? There is a certain
tradition that decrees that the latter is a
psychological impossibility hence such strange
iventions as statutory rape if a poor black fellow as
much as returns a glance to an admiring Caucasian
female at one point of Plantation American history.
In such a situation the presence of the Klu Klux Klan
has a certain logic. The dance explores this situation
in its development. The costumes of the Klansmen
make very strong visual impact. But the
goose-stepping movement given them in the final
exit is indicative of the universality of bigotry and
racism. The Klu Klux Klan is introduced as a symbol
of all that is ultra-reactionary fascist if you ike -
and terrible. It could have been some other symbol
but within the context of the dance narrative it is
most appropriate and accurate.
Admittedly one gets a little gory in it, in that one
of the Klansmen is made to return with a hangman's
noose. Some people object to this on grounds that it
is either too literal or melodramatic and yet other
members of the audience felt that just the
introduction of that little gory detail made it all the
more pointed. Someone admitted to being seriously
disturbed by the reminder which she found too
eloquent for comfort. It may all be a matter of taste.
Frankly I do not feel strongly about it on aesthetic
I was more concerned with getting across the role
of that force represented by those hooded hoodlums
and the question about the 'ever-present sexuality'
problem is a fair one. For the Klan vindicates the
white woman's honour in the face of barbaric and
threatening Black lust all stereotype images but
no less real for that in the experience of the Americas
and our still racist Western World.
The whole story of miscegenation brings us back
to cross-fertilisation, but I would like to explore this
in a different sense, say, the influence of climate and
scenery and environment upon human characteris-
tics. Island people are different; not only from the
differences in our history. Is it not a fact that our
dance movements are very different from the
American Black dance movements. Could we spell
out a bit more clearly the differences between the
culture of the Black USA and the Afro-Caribbean
idiom of Jamaica.
I would like to deal with the differences from the
point of view of our history. They add up more to
degree rather than kind in many instances. However,
oui earlier Emancipation from slavery brought
certain advantages to Caribbean society and its
populations of ex-slaves. In Jamaica for example
there was access to land and though this meant small
holdings of sometimes miniscule dimensions such
access did give to large numbers of freedmen a sense
of plot (if not of plantation) and later a sense of
territory. Though marginality to the Established
society remained a fact there was something to fall
back on in a community of peasants.
What effect was there from the inverse ratio of
Black to White USA majority White, Jamaica
Naturally this was crucial in Jamaica. There was
strength in numbers and although that was thwarted
for nearly 100 years that strength did make its
presence felt at some levels of the society. By the
1940's it was definitive in its effect on Jamaican life.
That is why the Bustas, Shearers and the Manleys,
all of known and acknowledged African ancestry, can
be Prime Ministers of an independent Jamaica while
their American counterparts have no chance, as yet,
of becoming Presidents of an independent USA. The
marginality of the Black man to the US ethos has
been perpetuated far longer than that of the
Jamaican counterpart in the Jamaican ethos.
Yet both sets of people have had to make
compromises to a Eurocentric cultural complex in
the act of survival. Of course, there has been a
corresponding rebellion which is in large measure the
dynamics of much that stands out as distinctly New
World cultural expression. But old forces die hard.
Even today jazz which is the classic contribution of
the United States takes second place, among the
cultural Establishment of that great country, to
what goes on at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Never mind that the United States is yet to produce
a musical composer of any great authority in the
strictly classical European tradition. Rather it is
jazz, the product of the American musical genius,
that now influences serious music everywhere in the
Western world and beyond, sailing across the
Atlantic to fertilise the contemporary music of both
Europe and Africa. And who can deny the
monumental contribution by the Blacks to the
creation of this now classic form of musical
You speak feelingly, I sense, about the music of
Black America. I noticed that Quincy Jones used in
his ROOTS traditional spirituals and blues tunes in I
part. I remember in particular the music 'Hush,
Somebody's Calling My Name'.
And so one should for it is one of the most
beautifully arranged and sung pieces in the score.
The voices are exquisite instruments. The song, for
me, recalls the state of namelessness of those
millions who crossed the Middle Passage. Many an
artist in the Diaspora has at some time or other
I addressed the problem of the powerlessness that
inheres in having no name or in having a name which
nobody knows. And how we have sought to meet this
agonyl How we have sought status in the longest,
most picturesque and sonorous of designations!
Most civilisations do have a thing (if not a fetish)
about names and naming. The West Africans are no
exception. I would imagine that the acquisition of a
name by each of the slaves (not the branded initials
of their masters but their own personal names) would
have been cause for celebration of their humanity
which was constantly threatened in a socioeconomic
system that reduced them to mere statistical units.
Not long ago the African-Caribbean Institute, a
division of the Institute of Jamaica, was flooded with
requests by Jamaicans for African names for
cdren and adults. Many American Blacks have
adopted Arabic or Arabic-sounding names as our
Rastafarians in Jamaica have assumed Ethiopian
titles. Malcolm dropped his surname and added X
and to this day the proselytising zeal of our
missionary 'civilisers' has left us with a yearning for
names from the Holy Book, especially the Old
In choreoaphing that particular section of The
Crossing such psycho-historical elements no doubt
came into play. The intensity of the first movement
with arm outstretched as if to touch the image of self
in a mirror (with the audience as the mirror) was a
splendid point of departure for me. I remember
trying to get the idea across in the very first
rehearsals. The female dancers were quick to
respond. Not so with the male dancers. And I
wondered whether women as mothers who usually
worry about finding names for their children or as
wives who are called upon to change their own
names, were better equipped to comprehend what I
was trying to do.
I remember the proprietary claims that as
youngsters we all made to our names which were all
we had. No one dared to take a name in vain. 'Mi
name a fe mi' (My name is my own) was a common
schoolyard declaration of self-worth and personal
independence. I also recall vividly the Jamaican legal
practice of not putting the name of the father on the
birth certificate of an illegitimate child in Jamaica.
To be illegitimate would therefore mean not having a
surnamee the name that really mattered. This has
recently changed, I know, but the majority of
Jamaicans have lived for nearly three hundred years
under that particular "curse". So "Hush,
Somebody's Calling My Name" takes on tremendous
meaning; and it was for the dancers and the
choreographer to get it across to the audience .... in
movement, design, floor pattern, performing skill
To come back to the difference in movement: there
was something you said earlier about the hidden
meanings in certain movements. This struck me that
there is for example one characteristic movement in
the NDTC, a sort of writhing movement. One almost
feels as though chains were being sloughed off ....
I don't think it is that self-conscious. It is the way
we move. And you are quite right about that rippling
movement. As I have often said we do not dart in or
through space. Our environment does not supply us
with that kind of kinetic thrust either. Our trees do
not shoot up into the air, and despite attempts at a
skyl ine Kingston we do not really have a grid of
skyscrapers to speak of. The tensile strength of a
sky-scraper or o a leafless tree in winter, does not
reflect itself naturally in the dancing. We have had to
find the technical eloquence in the languorous gait,
and the insouciant grace of Caribbean motion. Our
hills roll after all, and our rivers flow. When our hills
are strong and rugged there is still a gentle almost
tender outline. The tenderness is deceptive to be sure
for there is a contained inner strength and this is
much reflected in the inner restraint of much of
Caribbean (and Jamaican) dance theatre art. Many
people abroad (including those who write criticisms
or newspapers) have noticed this important feature
of our style of dancing.
There is a sort of wrenching mental dichotomy in
the struggle to retain the African identity within the
context of our Western acculturation. We are laying
claim to our non-Europeanisation in, say, the
European language as a means of communication.
The Afro-Latins did come to terms with this fact
much more comfortably ....
That is a very good point. But as I said before,
there has been a crossing and a whole new dimension
is upon us. That is why I would not want to make
exaggerated claims for African this or African that.
But Africa has been denigrated and part of the
recognition of the new dimension is to bring the
African Presence back to the centre of our cosmos.
Interestingly enough, for many people at the
so-called sub-culture level of existence this Presence
has been very much preserved at their centre. But
power structures in a racist world have denied them
the recognition and many have virtually had to live
two lives. This is why the traditional culture is so
important at this time. Our ordinary folk have long
developed a strong and lasting framework within
which the country's cultural certitude can be
established. It is the denial that this exists which has
given us a lop-sided worldview and view of self. We
fnd ourselves in serious trouble, then, because there
is no cosmic harmony between what we have been
taught by the dictates of a colonial existence and
what we are called upon to do by the harsh realities
of other important aspects of Caribbean experience.
It is in large areas of traditional life that we find
some of the best clues to the process of
cross-fertilisation and indigenisation. And the
process goes on. .... As source for discoveries such
areas of traditional life are indispensable therefore
and whatever drives one back to that source were
best examined with some care. .... The Crossing
drove me back to that source. ....
Our relation to the European acculturation was
either one in which one clasped it jealously to one's
bosom despising the African background, or one in
which we mimicked it because we had been
compelled to accept it. ....
For the most part yes. And this is no healthy state
in which to be and the only effective antidote to this
is for us to look seriously at what we have created
and to understand the process that gives rise to the
stuff that we create and then evaluate it rationally.
You see, my conviction is that the kind of life we live
and have lived, the kind of universe we inhabit,
supplies us with ample opportunity and source for us
to make sense of our achievements in respect of the
social and artistic artifacts which we have created
over the past three centuries.
And that we all have a legitimate right to all of
these sources and are not really subject to the
inequalities of a 'culture' and a 'sub-culture'. ....
Undoubtedly! The much vaunted dichotomy
between a 'little tradition' and a 'great tradition' is a
luxury which a society, serious about decolonising
itself, cannot afford. Dance and music as expressive
art forms must draw from and relate to the organic
sources of the country in order to gain and retain
legitimacy. In this sense both NDTC and reggae
artists are faced with the same challenges. Growing
up in Jamaica has not produced for me personally
any trauma in the inevitable mix between my strong
folk antecedents and a subsequent so-called good
Western education. It is significant that
sophisticated Western technology has encouraged
rather than hindered the development and spread of
the indigenous reggae and calypso. In fact our people
have responded positively to the age-long challenges
of such "crossings".
For myself, it did not take me long to discover that
the poetry and plays that I wrote were pretty
ordinary, and that dance and dancettheatre allowed
me opportunities to bring many things together
probably because it depended less on the use of that
scribal tongue which was a received and
inorganically acquired device. All art, they say, is
subversive. Dance can be very much so without
appearing to be .... subversive of Establishment and,
of the romantic sentimentalism of folklore converts.
I certainly do not hold our traditional culture with
the kind of awe which transforms it into a
museum-piece instead of a vibrant dynamic
contributor to the enrichment of contemporary life.
My view of it is clearly stated in my recent book. I
feel that the whole thing of the cultural process has
to do with drawing from the roots from which
springs something like a tree growing. This in turn
bears fruits which ripen, fall and multiply. There is
constant motion. If the traditional thing stays static
it dies; and traditional things by nature don't stay
static. Traditional life is constantly pulling in things
to itself, assimilating, transforming or rejecting and
passing on. Take Miss Queenie of Kumina fame and
whom Jamaica Journal has featured in a recent
article by Dr. Eddie Brathwaite. It is one of the
inevitable paradoxes that while people drew on her
knowledge Miss Queenie herself has benefitted and
has come to public attention. This no doubt makes
her much more aware of her own importance, as the
keeper of and witness to something that is very
important and elemental in the cultural life of a
Jamaica in which she might have been otherwise
regarded as marginal. She, like the informants in
Seaforth, St. Thomas who have influenced the
NDTC's own work in the area of Kumina, is part of a
dynamic process from which all have benefitted -
including the kumina worshippers who no longer can
be taken lightly by any sensitive Jamaicans, as well
as the ethnomusicologists, social anthropologists
ethnographers and cultural analysts who have
interviewed informants and have written treatises
and theses. The Jamaica Festival and the NDTC
have sensitised Jamaica to the richness of this
particular aspect of the heritage despite the cries of
protest from those who otherwise would have
remained ignorant of its existence, but for such
There is another metaphor that I have often used
to describe the cycle that is the cultural process. You
pipe water through a narrow channel and it builds up
force and pressure the sort of pressure that will
allow it to sprinkle back to the soil over a much wider
area. And there is constant recycling. Like life, it
becomes self-regenerating. Maturation takes place
simultaneously with disintegration and regnera-
tion. The creative artist is responsible for building up
the force and pressure I have just described. Unless
one understands this cyclical process (or believes in
it) one gets into all sorts of problems taking up
postures which have absolutely nothing to do with
the reality of the cultural situation in a country like
And without the cycle it will shrivel up and die?
I think so. That is why I sympathise up to a point
with the young people's cry about going back to the
roots. However, if you stay at the roots, you rot.
Even peanuts and yam have to be dug up and
regerminated. Let the stuff get air and sunlight,
wind and rain. Let it even live through storms and
face droughts and pestilence above ground. The
NDTC's work in the dance would be the poorer had it
not subjected itself to such tests, including the
plague and pestilence of Jamaican 'mout-a-massi'
malice and envy.
And if it becomes too stylised and not draw back
on its roots it will surely die?
Definitely. There is a point beyond which you
cannot distil any further. Otherwise you end up with
vapours, and how quickly vapours disappear into
thin air! The vitality of the distinctly 'American'
style of the New York City Ballet has had to do with
some organic relationship between the classical
ballet forms of Imperial Russia and the no-nonsense
urban sensibilities of modern technological America.
The thing lives as a result and the genius of its
creator, George Balanchine, has to be assessed in
this light. Ballet generally is guaranteeing its own
survival by an increasing willingness to explore new
modes. The Alonso Ballet of Cuba seemingly
understands this well enough. American Modern
Dance in its many varied versions is least effective
when it fails to find organic roots and is presented as
the self-indulgent outpourings of a wide variety of
individual choreographers who range from brilliant
to pretentious and arcane.
We here in Jamaica who love to follow the latest
trends in the metropolitan centres have to be careful
that we do not ignore the fertile soil at our feet and
fly elsewhere for readymade cut-flowers. Cut-flowers
have a very limited life! NDTC, I like to think, has
made sense because it is drawing primarily on the
source of energy in our midst without being
chauvinistic and without ignoring the gifts that
fertilisers from the discoveries of other dance-theatre
traditions may have to offer us. This, happily,
informs the systems) of training being developed m
the national school of dance which the NDTC
founded and inspired.
Is this yet another contradiction of our crossing?
I am afraid so. Yet we in fact cannot escape the
responsibility of shunning indolence. We cannot
simply imitate other people's styles and techniques
by rote as some Eurocentric critics would have us
do. The challenge summons us to serious exploration
and innovation on our terms and especially when we
are cross-fertilising. One thing the dance movement
with NDTC's leadership has done since
Independence is to discourage a superficial, cavalier
and strictly class-status approach to the dance as
art. The approach requires hard work, discipline,
dedication and artistic integrity, as well as deep
knowledge of our life and history.
The rest of the world is not anxious to applaud
regurgitations or imitations of what the New
Yorkers and Londoners and Muscovites have worked
so hard to achieve in their own yard. The rest df the
world is likely to be more interested in the genuine
things we have to offer from our own perspective
and experience. Our Jamaican and Caribbean
experience is marked b many identifiable
influences from all over but the resulting organic mix
throws up new forms, shapes and hues.
But wouldn't you concede that the problems
attendant on this phenomenon are enormous?
Mighty big but not insurmountable! Though we in
NDTC do have our hassles. Some people would have
us "folksy" and "rootsy". Others would have us look
like the Royal Ballet or Martha Graham. But I still
contend that both sets ignore the dynamism of our
own rich experience and the complex process of
'becoming' a fact that the most rootsy of our
creative artists soon discover and must learn to cope
with or else face extinction.
Are you then saying that your The Crossing is one
of the artistic outputs that tries to meet this
awesome challenge of which you speak?
I am saying just that. And I wish to thank
Jamaica Journal for providing me with the
opportunity to say it and to throw light on the
nature of the work we in the Jamaica National Dance
Theatre Company are all trying to do. Again, my
Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia is Director of the Institute of
African Studies of the University of Ghana at Legon. He first
visited Jamaica in 1974 to conduct a workshop in musical
education at the Creative Arts Centre, and later returned as a
consultant to the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, and
was again present for the CARIFESTA celebrations in 1976, and
the African Studies Workshop conducted by the A.C.I.J. at the
Cultural Training Centre in 1977.
Professor Nketia has previously published in JAMAICA
JOURNAL Tradition and Innovation in African Music (Vol. 11
Nos. 3 & 4), and has also published extensively: African Music in
Ghana (Evanston 1962), Drumming in Akan Communities of
Ghana (Edinburgh 1963), Folk Songs of Ghana (Legon 1963),
Funeral Dirges of the Akan People (Achimota, 1955), Music
Dance & Drama (Accra 1965), Our Drums & Drummers (Ghana
1968), he has authored many studies appearing in Essays on
Music and History in Africa, Journal of the International Folk
Music Council, Current Trends in Linguistics, Insight & Opinion,
Black Orpheus, Ethnomusicology.
It is now generally recognized that African music
can be viewed from two angles: (a) from the
perspective of those aspects of music that are shared
by African societies on a continental or regional
basis, or by a number of societies in disparate areas,
and (b) from the viewpoint of the specialisations
which set individual ethnic groups apart musically.
This is because experience has shown that whereas
the particular musical piece, the repertoire and
particular instruments belong to individual societies
who make them, the principles of music making,
structural organisation and certain idiomatic usages
are common. Moreover the sound sources that are
drawn upon often overlap considerably as one moves
from one African society to another, while the modes
of musical expression in melody and rhythm are
similar. The term 'African music therefore refers to
any music whether it is made by the Yoruba in
Nigeria or a religious cult group in Bahia, Cuba or
Jamaica, or by the Nyamwezi, the Akan or the Fon
- which utilises African sound sources, structural
principles and procedures common to traditional
When functional substitutes replace traditional
sound sources while everything else remains, the
music may still sound African to African ears in
spite of the novelty of its source. Alterations in the
structural principles and procedures applied to
melody and rhythm, or texture and form may affect
the authenticity of the style even where the sound
sources are African. They can make the music sound
less African or totally un-African according to the
extent to which it stays largely within African
aesthetics or moves in the direction of western
aesthetics. It follows, therefore, that the evolution of
music that initially bears close stylistic relationship
to traditional African music can become so refined in
the direction of western aesthetics that it loses much
of its strong stylistic connection with Africa except
in, somewhat tenuous or residual forms.
Examination of current forms of music practised
in the Americas shows that where such a residual
strain forms an essential part of the identifying
characteristics of a musical type, it can provide not
only an enduring African base, but also function -
like other elements derived from African sources -
as a formative element in the creative process. It is*
such formative elements that constitute the African
roots of music. There are at least four categories of
musical expression in which they can be identified:
i) Musical expressions which are wholly or
largely in the style of traditional African
music generally music associated with
cults, rituals and ceremonies of African
.origin or inspiration.
(ii) Musical expressions that make limited use of
African resources as the constituents of their
structure, but which make use of either
African creative models or other models in
building up their forms. This category
includes African-derived popular music and
sectarian religious music.
- AN AFRICAN
BY: J. H. KWABENA NKETIA
iii) Musical expressions which create and
develop their primary tonal materials along
the lines of western music, but which utilise
African rhythmic materials for the purpose
of articulating their basic beat or defining
their basic rhythmic motion. Some of the
so-called national music of the Americas
belong to this category.
iv) Musical expressions which develop their
materials in the idiom and techniques of
western art music, but which use African
materials principally for characterisation or
as motivic elements.
The study of African roots of music
Because most of these African and Africa-related
categories of music are developed and utilised in
contexts that have been evolving from the days of
colonisation and slavery, their study has been
vitiated by cultural assertiveness. Who borrows
what and from whom, or who is influenced and by
whom are not always established simply as matters
of fact, but as claims to a superior musical culture.
The historical and ethnological perspectives have
also been given a great deal of attention in the study
of African roots of music, partly because the
theoretical framework and techniques of investiga-
tion are more readily available through the work of
scholars in these disciplines as well as the related
disciplines of cultural anthropology and linguistics.
The music historian interested in African roots
follows the trail of the economic and social historian
and examines records of slave ships and slave dealers
as well as other documents and oral tradition, where
available, for clues to the ethnic composition of
carriers of African musical traditions and the nature
of their musical practice as he studies the effect of
the economic, social and political conditions on the
evolution of their musical cultures.
The ethnomusicologist similarly follows the
ethnologist, the cultural anthropologist and the
linguist for information that helps in ethnic
identification, in the mapping out of distribution
patterns, and in the observation and analysis of
musical acculturation in respect of the processes of
retention, rejection, adoption, adaptation and
reinterpretation, or in the tabulation of a scale of
intensity of acculturation in music.
The pursuit of studies along these lines has been
fruitful in some cases, while in others it has led to a
dead end because of the paucity of detailed
information on both sides of the Atlantic, and more
especially on the side of Africa. Sometimes they have
even led to frustration because of the confused
nature of some types of evidence that have to be
considered. Hence it has become clear that
abstracting crystals of ethnic musical identity from a
melting pot requires extremely refined techniques
and certainly detailed knowledge of individual
African societies and their music as well as a lot of
insight and patience. Thus the study of African roots
must go side by side with the study of the music of
Africa. Both of these could be unified and developed
as area studies of one large stylistic family.
Secondly it has become evident that in the light of
our present knowledge of acculturation, what we
need are studies of African roots of music that do not
merely identify them as survivals, but enhance the
dimension of our understanding of the mechanisms
for their preservation and transmission in contact
situations, as well as the mechanisms for the control
of change, the integration of innovation based on
African roots into the musical cultures of the
Americas, and the diffusion of such innovation.
Thirdly since the major role and function of
African roots lie in the creative field in both Africa
and the Americas, it seems that ,much more
emphasis ought to be given to these so that the
examination of the social processes which contribute
to their persistence and stimulate their cultivation in
music that serves as vehicles for the expression of
identity and social action can be correlated with the
creative processes which keep them alive. When
musical types or the items of a given repertoire are
lost through social upheavals or loss of interest, new
ones are created in the style of the tradition, using its
vocabulary and idiom, or in an alternative style
which combines African and non-African resources
that have become an integral part of the musical
experience of peoples of African descent and those
who share in their traditions.
The creative role of African roots in the music of,
the Americas is most evident in musical expressions
whose social and functional orientation is similar to
those associated with traditional African music on
the African content. That is, music to which a large
body of people are able to relate, whether performed
by solo artists, small bands of professional,
semi-professional or non-professional groups -
music that provides a basis for the sharing of artistic
and social values, whether performed in the village
square, the streets, night clubs or ball room, during
Carnival or a traditional African type of festival or
during ceremonies and rituals music which allows
for performer-audience interaction.
It is the problems of stylistic continuity and
creativity in the African idiom of music evident in
such music that this paper attempts to identify,
i) The nature of the materials that function as
formative elements, or the constituents of
ii) The modalities of fusion of African and non-
African constituents of structure.
iii) The creative role of models in music making,
particularly in relation to those aspects of
music which are treated as "constants"
because they are basic for establishing
idioms and formal types. Here one may
consider creative models in different areas of
musical activity such as drumming, pattern
formation in mbira (rhumba box), xylophone
music, etc, or models employed in different
categories of structure.
iv) The nature and scope of functional sub-
stitutes a very important aspect of
musical practice in traditional Africa which
has been greatly extended in the Americas -
and the conceptual basis of such substitutes.
v) Modes of communication and interpretation,
including the study of exponents of meaning,
the function and treatment of verbal texts as
channels of communication, movement
expression, and performer-audience interac-
vi) The 'reference system' of values in terms of
which music is made, performed and inter-
Constituents of Structure
Since formative elements assume different form
and function in different contexts of structure, it is
necessary to distinguish between those that function
as units of structure and those that are used as
elements of structure or features of style.
Units of structure are used in building up rhythm
or melody. In concrete terms a bell or wood block
pattern is a specific unit of structure. So are specific
rhythm and sonority patterns employed in
drumming. Similarly call and response are units of
structure which may be combined and re-combined
in a number of ways to form a piece or repeated for
the duration of a phase of a performance. Units of
structure are thus of different types and formation.
Some are indivisible wholes while the internal
structure of others shows that they can be
sub-divided into smaller units.
Elements of structure are single or discrete events
out of which units of structure are formed. Thus
handclapping, single stick beats and similar events
are elements of structure which, when combined in
clearly defined patterns, function as units of
structure. Similarly the individual tones played on a
drum or the pitches that make up a melodic unit of
structure in a song or a tune played on a flute, a
xylophone or a harp lute are elements of structure.
Thus elements of structure can be examined on a
different level in terms of their properties and the
systems into which they can be grouped.
In contrast to these, features refer to those
constituents which are neither units nor elements,
but which are attributes or markers shared by units
or elements involved in melodic or rhythmic
processes. Thus glides and other ornaments, falling
release or rising release, breathiness etc. are features
which define or characterise style in the performance
of both vocal and instrumental music. The result of
organisation processes such ps accentual patterning,
syncopation, cross rhythm and poly-rhythm could be
regarded as features when they characterise the
rhythmic style of a musical culture. On the same
basis buzzers and rattling devices attached to
instruments or the wrists of performers function as
Examination of the music of different African
societies shows that certain units, elements and
features, are assigned specific functions as
accompanying patterns, pulse markers, markers of a
time cycle, signals or cues for certain procedures, or
as formulae for further elaboration, or indicators of
mood or characterisation. Such structural
constituents assume a certain measure of
independence which make it possible to isolate them
for use m different contexts either in their standard
form or in variants of the musician's choice. Thus
specific bell patterns, drum patterns, pitch patterns
played on mbira, accompanying figures in some
types of xylophone music etc. tend to occur in a wide
variety of pieces used in a given culture. Similarly
general stylistic features which mark different
processes are used wherever appropriate.
In addition to selected constituents of structure
with set functions, one comes across a number of
usages that are utilised when organising choruses
and instrumental ensembles. For example the use of
a rhythm section for either vocal or instrumental
music or both is typical of African musical cultures.
So are sectional structures which allow for call and
response in both vocal and instrumental music, or
the interplay of fixed and free forms.
The ordering of musical materials in conjunction
with these set forms seems also to be guided by
common usages, for one comes across recurrences of
patterns of melodic movement, melodic sequences,
rhythm patterns, sonority patterns etc., all of which
seem to constitute as it were, part of the vocabulary
and stock of idiomatic usages out of which musicians
create new pieces or re-arrange knotRwn repertoire of a
It must be noted also that what distinguishes
music in the African tradition from the music of
other cultures is not merely its inventory of
structural constituents but also the way in which it
selects, organises and uses particular materials in
the modes of expression it emphasises. For the
materials of African music include both universal
and non-universal components. For example beat,
accents, certain pulse groups and procedures such as
off-beat, cross rhythm, syncopation and poly-rhythm
occur in other musical traditions. Similarly some of
the rhythm patterns used in African music can be
found elsewhere. The same observation can be made
in respect of some scales such as the hemitonic and
anhemitonic pentatonic, the heptatonic, and the use
of parallel thirds.
When we look at the sound sources of African
music, the same sort of picture emerges. Rattles,
drums, flutes, horns, xylophones are found in other
cultures, It is true of course that some of them have
something distinctive in their design or external
appearance. But this cannot always be said of the
sounds, for there is so much variation in tone quality
and tuning that no single type can be isolated as
more characteristic than the others.
The implication of these observations is that the
musical procedures which are applied in the ordering
of musical materials and the relative emphasis given
to different aspects of music and musical materials
should be given due weight. What matters is not just
the incidence of drumming but the modes of
drumming that are employed. It is not only the
presence of a rhythm section that is important, but
the kind of rhythm section and the form of its
organisation. It is not only the presence of off-beat
phrasing and poly-rhythm, but also the way these
are structured or emphasised. It is not only the
incidence of syncopation, but the patterns of
syncopation that are emphasised.
Modalities of fusion
It will be evident from the foregoing that in the
music of the Americas, affinities with the 'African
idiom in general or with the music of a particular
African society can be expressed on different levels
through the use of a fairly wide range of materials
(a) through the use of specific units, elements
and features to which are assigned particular
functions such as the function of articulating
the beat, defining periodicity, stating a
melodic formula, or characterising perform-
(b) through the use of sectional structures that
allow for specific alternations, or the inter-
play of fixed and free forms
(c) through the use of a rhythm section
(d) through the selection of a vocabulary of
usages or idioms derived from traditional
All these may be combined with materials from
other sources that have become an integral part of
the musical experience, in particular the melodic and
harmonic resources of western music that extend
African usages or provide a further dimension of
structural organisation generally absent or largely
unexplored in African music.
With the exception of varieties of traditional
African music cultivated in the Americas, the
application of all these tend to be limited even in the
use of traditional western resources, for such
limitations are necessary in music oriented towards
popular audiences and which bridges the traditions
of Africa and the west because of the unique
experience of its practitioners. In some cases the
African forms are expressed with different sound
materials or developed along different lines. The
methods and means of articulating or elaborating the
beat are not always identical with those employed in
traditional African usage. Rhythm sections may be
provided by a set of two or three drums as in Africa,
by the jazz percussion set and prototypes of the
drums of western bands.
The range of traditional vocabulary is similarly
limited. There is a tendency to use only the simpler
forms of rhythm, to select and emphasise only
certain syncopated patterns, to lay greater emphasis
on duple rhythms which are simpler rather than the
complex triple rhythms that characterise a lot of
African music. Exceptions to this occur in Latin
Certain alterations in the traditional African idiom
also become inevitable when verbal texts in
non-African languages are used, particularly where
their phonetic structures do not provide the same
kind of syllabic values or orders of syllable
sequences. Even though the general principle of
following speech forms in music may be observed,
differences in the language patterns (both in respect
of rhythm and intonation and ways of making
statements) result in entirely different melodic
It is not only the fusion of the constituents of
African music with other materials that is worked
out by composers and creative performers. The use
of models or the creation of a basic framework that
unifies the musical pieces for a particular dance or
pieces in a particular mode of expression seems to
have continued as a living tradition in the music of
In Africa this framework is often a rhythmic one
and may be defined through the use of a specific unit
of structure with a fixed pattern, or a set of such
patterns. This framework is often developed for the
rhythm section so that one can distinguish one
musical type from another just by listening to this
section. The selection of the framework may be
guided by the kind of dance movements to be
correlated with the music. The melodic section often
takes the form of this section into account. However
now and then one comes across musical types in
which a set framework is also provided for the
The outcome of these arrangements is the
establishment of certain periodicities of structure
and recurrences of selected patterns that
characterise particular musical types.
It appears that in the Americas the use of a fixed
framework or the creation of models for the
repertoire of a musical type has continued to be
exploited particularly in musical types intended for
movement expression, which are often vaguely
described in terms of having different 'beats'. With
the growth of musical literacy in a field served
mainly by oral tradition, this framework of
periodicity is often described in terms of number of
bars etc, but the principle behind it is not unlike
what one finds in traditional African music where
one thinks in terms of units of structure. It appears,
however, that in the Americas the principle tends to
be applied more to melodic materials than to the
definition of rhythm.
Another important area is that of the use of
functional substitutes. In traditional African
musical practice, improvised instruments are often
used which become established as regular
instruments. Sometimes they are used as substitutes
for regular instruments out of necessity or because
the quality of their sounds is preferred for the
particular musical type or for the symbolic meanings
they are intended to convey. Hence there is a wide
variety of non-melodic idiophones ranging from seed
shell rattles to iron bells and substitutes such as
bottles, axe blades, hoes etc. Therefore when we find
graters, spoons, bones etc. in the Americas in the
percussion section based on African models, this
should not come as a surprise.
Similarly substitutes for drums such as a calabash
bowl placed in a basin of water, or large mbira
(sanzas), box drums may have their equivalents in
the form of boxes, buckets, oil drums, rhumba box
The use of instrumental substitutes for the singing
voice involving instruments with tunings different
from those of a given society does occur in
traditional Africa. Here and there one comes across
vocal imitations of instrumental sounds. The
adoption of western melodic instruments on a similar
basis follows a similar trend.
In this connection, the familiar western saying
that the medium is the message must be applied with
caution to Africa, for in Africa the medium is the
message only in a symbolic and representational
sense and not in the sense of western aesthetics.
Where an instrument or instrumental ensemble
performs such a symbolic function in a religious or
political context, functional substitutes may not be
permitted without the sanction of authority.
In the Americas the breakdown of philosophical or
symbolic values of this kind outside religious cults as
well as exposure to other sources of sound and
different aesthetic values have naturally accelerated
the process of substitution and the widening of
sound sources from the use of conventional
instruments to electronic sound sources.
It appears also that the tradition of using
functional substitutes is not applied only to single
instruments. Certain rhythmic structures may be
shifted from the area of percussion to those of
melodic instruments. Not only do the guitar and
double bass, for example, belong to the rhythm
section but also sometimes short ostinato patterns
are assigned to other melodic instruments which
play supportive accompaniment for an instrument
that plays extended melodic lines. This gives one the
impression of a formal organisation closely akin to
usages in African drum music.
On the same basis the articulation of the beat
habitually associated with idiophones and
membranophones in Africa may be simulated by
In drawing attention to all these, I am not
suggesting that musicians in the Americas merely
reproduce or copy from African traditions. Nor am I
excluding the influence of other models and the
responses that musicians of African descent make to
their changing musical environment. What I am
suggesting is that the challenges of the situation in
which they find themselves result in creative
responses m which the African modes of musical
thinking play a dominant role wherever interest in
the articulation of the beat, in the creation of
rhythmic densities or interplay of units in
multilinear structures of the African type persist.
Modes of Communication and 'reference system'
That brings me to the last two problems related to
the creative role of African roots of music in the
Americas: the problem of modes of communication
and interpretation and the 'reference system'. It is
easy to think of African roots only in terms of the
more tangible aspects of music such as musical
instruments, musical pieces and musical form and
structure and forget that Africanisms extend beyond
these to the whole field of music communication,
including exponents of meaning, verbal texts as
channels of communication, performer audience
interaction, movement expression and a variety of
contextual considerations which affect music and
which are similar in their application to those which
operate in Africa. Hence the identification and
evaluation of African roots can be greatly enhanced
if the field of enquiry is not limited to the
constituents of structure but extended to modes of
expression and presentation as well as the values
that govern the selection and use of musical
materials, and music making. In other words, in
looking at formative elements, our frame of reference
must be the musical culture as a whole.
By a musical culture I mean the totality of
traditions cultivated by a society traditions
associated with groups within the society, specific
institutions such as religions, social and recreational
institutions or events such as festivals. They include
also traditions of recent origin as well as older
By tradition in this context I mean any aspect of
music or music making passed on from generation to
generation. It may be a unit of structure such as a
bell pattern, a set rhythm played on a particular
drum. It may be an aspect of vocal music, melodic
formula, cadential forms, the technique of
alternating speech and song, ways of simulating
instrumental sounds, or a conceptual aspect of
In traditional African societies the force of
tradition is, naturally, very strong, although it does
not stifle creativity. The functioning of tradition as a
reservoir of usages and values has of necessity had to
develop along different lines in the Americas in
relation to changing cultural and political
circumstances and socio-economic pressures. For
music has served not only as an avenue for the
assertion of cultural identity but also as a means of
survival. Hence changes in traditional values have
It will be evident from the foregoing review that
viewed from the perspective of Africa, one may see
only a bundle of fragments of old Africa and
inevitable simplifications of African music in the
Americas. From the viewpoint of the Americas,
however, it appears that the primary value of what
exists of Africa is that it provides a basis for the
development of tradition, for exploring new
directions without loss of musical identity. Africa
therefore provides a source of strength. That is why
African roots must be viewed in terms of creative
processes which allow for continuity and change.
There is growing interest in both aspects of the
creative process. Musicians in the Americas are
beginning to take another look at the resources of old
Africa and to make creative use of them. While the
goal is continuity, this is also bringing about change.
In this connection it must be emphasised that
change is now virtually what makes certain types of
music in the Americas thrive. Musicians create new
pieces and search for distinctive modes of expression
of their own as the music they practise becomes less
and less music for the conscious expression of group
identity on a deep level and more and more the
expression of the personal identity of the musician -
the composer, the performer, the leader of a band
who has a personal style.
It must be noted also that the presence and easy
accessibility of western alternatives in the musical
environment of the Americas alternative sound
sources, alternative modes of expression, alternative
aesthetic traditions and the possibilities of wider
audiences who can be reached through the media and
musical institutions will always be an important
factor in the development of music with African
roots in the Americas. What is clear is that the
dimension of the western contribution will always be
in terms of breadth or elaboration, if the African
roots remain as foundation. It is a dimension that
will increase areas of understanding amongst those
already familiar with western music while providing
innovative interest for Black peoples. What will
continue to give depth (in terms of inner motivation)
to Black people and a source of fascination to others
are the African roots. For this reason, there can be
little doubt that we should recognize two sets of
African stylistic alternatives in music: i) the
traditional African alternative and its varieties, and
ii) the Afro-American alternative and its different
varieties in North and South America and the
Caribbean as well as new varieties being developed in
The study of all these as related expressions
within one stylistic family should stimulate the
development of a common body of theories and
methods that take into account the dynamic
characteristics of their common African roots.
Top Left: itchy Patchy with Top Hat (Gentlemen & Graces)
Photo Alaie Grant
Right: Jonkonnu with Horned Cowhead Gleaner Photo
Bottom Left_ Four-Eye Doctor IDoctor Plays Gleaner Photo
Right: Four Cornered Hat Photo Shella Barnett.
IBY: SHEILA BARNETT
Mrs. Sheila Barnett was born in Jamaica where she received
her early education. She is a graduate of the Chelsea College of
Physical Education, Sussex, England, and obtained her M.A.
from Antioch University, Ohio, U.S.A. She was formerly
attached to the Ministry of Education in Jamaica as teacher,
college tutor and Education Officer.
Mrs. Barnett was once a principal dancer with the National
Dance Theatre Company where she is now a choreographer. She
is now the Director of the Jamaica School of Dance, and received
a bronze Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica in 1977.
Pitchy Patchy, alias Shaggy, the bizarre, popular
Jonkonnu character, plays masquerade from Morant
Point to Negril. Male dancer extraordinary, face
masked in mesh, body and limbs swathed in restless
layers of multi-coloured scraps of cloth he is at
once common yet inconstant. Common in that he is
ubiquitous and predictable in the matter of his rags
but like the chameleon, inconstant in manner and
Oral testimony describes the material of his dress
as having in turn been croton leaves or bush (St.
Catherine, Manchester, St. Elizabeth), rags upon
crocus or flour bags (Hanover, St. James, Trelawny),
scraps from the masters' clothes (St. Ann), or
shredded crepe paper, store bought in St. James.
This same oral tradition states that Pitchy Patchy
for all his fine dancing, is an understated character, a
clown created for fun. Is he not ridden by the jockey?
In skits is he not the bufoon chased and collared by
the policeman? Does he not fail to foil the reckless
mischief of the devil?
Who is he? This player who silently bears witness
by way of the many symbolic head-dresses which he
wears, of incidents past, of a people's involvement,
beliefs, change and necessity.
Item one four-cornered hat (Westmoreland) -
British soldiers, battles and death.
Item one feathered cap adorned with tinsel
and mirrors masquerades and fun.
Item one horned cowhead secret societies,
lineage and power.
- one house-boat symbol of masters and
greathouses and patronage.
- one glorious, exotic actor-boy's crown -
plays mumming tricksters and
wealthy sugar kings.
- spectacles and papered cap the four-
eyed Dr. and Dr. Plays.
- one top hat. (Three Miles, Spanish
Town) of gentlemen and grace.
- the woodpecker mask and feathered
cloth (St. Ann) bush image.
- one cap covered with coloured scraps or
fringes with rags (St. Ann) parish
with strong bush imagery.
- skull cap of rags from which Paul Pry
peeps out camouflaged like a maroon
from head to foot with leaves cunning-
ly in ambush.
Paul Pry (Pride) not Pitchy Patchy, in
the garden parish of St. Ann and Port-
land, the parish of bush imagery.
Another name for our ever present hero.
Some say the English gentry named him
Paul Pride because of his sense of style,
and because he recalled the Jamaican
Jack-in-the-Green, dressed in palm
fronds from head to toe and because he
walked with the princess in the 20th
century as his counterpart once did with
the set girls of the 19th century, as a
Pitchy Patchy, alias Paul Pry (Pride) now emerges
as a figure parallel to Jack-in-the Green of the British
Folk Tradition, a figure possessing analogous
I believed that Jack-in-the-Green was the original
character and that Pitchy Patchy was the later
imitation but in the light of what I have discovered, I
now intend to prove that Pitchy Patchy is the
original the prototype;but that his contact with
Jack-in-the-Green aided his survival by bringing the
said Pitchy Patchy or Paul Pry from the bush to the
lawns and streets. He certainly is not a later
development of Jack-in-the-Green.
The argument develops along the same lines as
those to substantiate the belief that Jack-in-the-
Green was the prototype of Pitchy Patchy; for
within the frame of reference of the Jonkonnu in
Jamaica, Pitchy Patchy
(a) embodies elements in both West African and
(b) on the strength of his ambiguity, is a symbol
of the creolization which took place in
(c) because of his survival from slavery to the
post-independence period can underscore
social changes and attitudes in Jamaica.
He is an "echo in the bone."
The Jamaican People
To see that Pitchy Patchy is a deep seated
memory of beliefs and attitudes, some of which
pre-date slavery, it is necessary to examine the
origins, religion, customs and attitudes of the ethnic
groups which comprise the Jamaican society;, to
study the impact that one group made upon another
and the adjustments that each group had to make in
coming to terms with local situations.
Our concern with Pitchy Patchy does not directly
involve the Arawaks those first Jamaicans who
were mercilessly destroyed by the cruelty of the
Spaniards, and by disease. The fact that some few
escaped to the hills and joined the Maroons might be
of some significance since the Arawaks worshipped
spirits and images called zemies, knew the medicinal
value of herbs, and believed that their dead would
return to a vale of their own Orinoco-Guiana
homeland and finally settle in the bottom of the lake.
The Spaniards, occupying Jamaica from 1509
under Diego Columbus, Governor of the Indies, were
bitterly disappointed at finding no gold and regarded
the island as a burden rather than a benefit to Spain.
They traded in lard and hides and supplied men,
horses, food and arms necessary for the conquest of
Cuba and parts of the mainland of America. In 1655
under the harassment of the English they fled the
island leaving their freed black slaves to wage
skirmishes against the English, under the leaders ip
of Ysasi who also, in time, left the island for Cuba.
These Blacks became the first Maroons and took to
the densely forested hills for protection.
As part of Cromwell's Western Design against
Spain, a fleet sailed into Kingston harbour in May
1665. The expedition was badly organised and poorly
equipped. The majority of the troops were "common
cheats, thieves, cutpurses and such lewd persons."
They were badly armed and carrying inadequate
The voyage to Jamaica was an undertaking
prompted by fear of Cromwell's anger at the failure
of their undertaking in San Domingo. The early
settlers, with little food and constant Maroon
attacks, lived in the hope that they would be
withdrawn and sent back to England. This was a
false hope. The English were here to remain, to
institute a system of masters and slaves.
The first period 1665 1700 was one of disaster
and calamities. They weathered destruction by
earthquake in 1692, devastation by hurricane in
1698, invasion by the French in 1694. Slave uprisings
and scarcity of supplies from North America coupled
with the high cost of living were to drive small
settlers from the island. The attempts of large
property owners to monopolise and to undermine the
official policy of encouraging small settlers and
diversified farming discouraged other small settlers.
Finally, the presence of large estates and the great
number of African slaves to work these estates
succeeded in driving away the remaining small
settlers and in making white labour expensive and
1774 was regarded as the peak of plantation
prosperity. The years between were significant in
that wealthy sugar barons chose to display their
opulance in London, Liverpool and Bristol, to cream
te takings from the Jamaican inherited property
but to remain absent. 1770-1774 has aptly been
named the period of Absenteeism. Absenteeism saw
the upper and much of the middle classes at home in
England. Local authority remained in the hands of
paid attorneys, overseers and book-keepers of
English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish stock. In
addition, the population included an ever changing
sector of itinerants in the persons of soldiers, sailors,
fortune hunting immigrants and convicts.
The consequences of absenteeism were many. The
island lacked good leadership, education was
undermined. Some planters sent their children to be
educated in England, but the majority of the whites
were semni-literate and the blacks, mostly illiterate.
The clergymen of imperfect character were lax in
morals, selfish and mercenary. Men sought quick
fortunes and left. There was no stability.
Mismanagement of economic affairs was common-
place as authority rested in the hands of attorneys
and overseers paid on commission men
dissatisfied and resentful who overworked slaves and
hated themselves. It was the slaves who suffered
most from neglect, cruelty and overwork.
The first African slaves accompanied the
Spaniards on their journeys to the West Indies
during the 15th century, for Spain had before
Columbus' voyages, been introduced to blacks from
Africa on its own shores. When the English in 1665
had forced the occupying Spanish forces in Jamaica
to flee via the north of the island to Cuba, the
Spaniards had freed their slaves, many of who
became the first Maroons, to harass the English.
The early British settlers, during the first 20 years
of their occupation of Jamaica, had come from the
Eastern Caribbean and in particular Barbados.
These early settlers brought with them their slaves,
most of whom had been brought from the Royal
Company and therefore were from the Gold Coast in
The traffic in slaves brought to the West Indies
Blacks of various tribal origins, from Senegambia,
the Windward Coast including Sierra Leone, Grain
Coast, Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, Slave Coast, Benin
and the Delta between the Niger and the Cross
Rivers and South Western Africa from the
Camaroons down to Cape Negro.
Until the end of the 17th century, half of the slave
population came from other West Indian Islands,
especially Barbados, but the rest were brought
directly from Africa. This Creole slave society,
heavily influenced by Barbados was, after 1800,
swamped by an influx of African Negroes. At the
turn of the 18th century, certain preferences for
particular areas along the West African Coast were
displayed by the European nations involved in the
slave trade. The Dutch preferred the Gold Coast,
Nigeria and Congo trade, the French, Senegal, the
Slave Coast, the Camaroons and parts of the Congo.
The Portuguese preferred Angola and parts of the
Congo, the English favoured Gambia, the Windward
Coast, the Gold Coast and the region now known as
Slaves from the Gold Coast brought a higher price
than those from other regions. They were, in the
West Indies, commonly referred to as Kromanti after
the port from which they were shipped, and really
include the Ashanti and Fanti groups. Edward Long
in his "History of Jamaica' described them as
"haughty, ferocious and stubborn." They were
valued for their superior physique, ability to work
and to accept authority. Many of them made
excellent foremen. This Kromanti group never
accepted slavery, and in one way or another fought
for freedom. Many escaped to the hills and joined the
Maroons. Others remained on the plantations and
plotted rebellions. This Kromanti group was to have
the greatest impact on the Jamaican society. The
Yoruba and Ibo tribesmen from Nigeria ranked next
in order. They had the reputation for melancholy and
suicide, and were gentle and somewhat lazy people.
Ibo women made more industrious field workers
than their men and did not need to be flogged. A
popular belief, and one already reflected by the
Arawaks, was that when they died they returned
home to their country and friends.
The Mandingos from the region between the River
Niger and Gambia were also brought to Jamaica in
fairly large numbers. Many had been exposed to the
Moslem religion from childhood and could therefore
read and write Arabic. They were considered to be
less industrious than the Ibo, but more peaceful than
the Kromanti. They were reputed to have been
expert thieves. As foremen and personal servants,
they were usually faithful and were often used as
plantation coopers and blacksmiths.
The Jamaican slave population therefore was
mainly constituted of the Ashanti Fanti, Yoruba
- Ibo and Mandingo groups, but also included by
the 18th century, Ewe and Adangme Dahomias,
Efik branch of Ibibio and blacks from the Congo.
In 1794 when Santo Domingo was in the throes of
a rebellion, many respectable families fled from its
horrors to the shores of Jamaica, accompanied by
their faithful slaves, numbering some 1,500 or 2,000.
These slaves on becoming residents, formed
themselves into three bands Royalists, Mabiales
and Americans, and were to make an impact on the
Set Girls in the Jonkonnu parade.
In 1845 the first East Indian indentured servants
came to Jamaica, their arrival being recorded at Vere
in Clarendon. They would in time, operating at a
peasant level instigate certain new developments in
the Jonkonnu of which Pitchy Patchy is a part.
Divisions Among the Slaves
The horrors of capture and enslavement and the
subsequent traumatic conditions endured during the
Middle Passage, the sale by scramble, were climaxed
by a long period of seasoning. Two types of
seasoning are recorded by Beckford under the
first, the slaves were supervised by an old seasoned
slave of their own country with the master assuming
prime responsibility. This system often led to
tyranny on the part of the supervising slave. The
second type led to discontent among the slaves as
they were forced to work on Sundays on their own
ground under the supervision of a driver. At the end
of his seasoning, there were other difficulties to be
Creoles held Africans in contempt. Edward Long
observed that the Creoles referred to the Africans as
"salt-water Negroes and Guiney birds." The African
slaves were awed into subjection by the greater
number of Creole blacks; but the divisions between
the African tribes were as great as those between the
Africans and Creoles.
Among the Africans there was rivalry and dislike
one for the other. This followed through into their
festivities when they formed groups that competed
against each other. This was particularly true of the
19th century but African groups of a much earlier
date had more in common with each other in their
confrontations with the Creoles by merely being
African. The Akan group as has already been stated,
were in the majority and kept to themselves. This
pattern indicates that "Gold Coast Negroes
managed to preserve more of their culture partly
because they kept to themselves and were generally
disliked by the other slaves." Leslie bears out the
fact that different tribal groups hated each other and
that they would rather die than join with others to
rid themselves of slavery.
In 1831 Kelly wrote that "The Mongolas, the
Iboes, the Congoes etc. formed into exclusive
groups, and strove to be loudest in the music and
songs peculiar to their country .... (these) African
groups took up sides and corners of the hall" while
"the Creoles occupied the centre of the hall and
piazzas ...." Whatever the divisions were among
them, it must never be forgotten that they had many
things in common. They shared a brutal life style
and demanding work situation. They were, in spite of
their differences, from the same cultural area West
Africa, and shared basic ideas in myth, ritual,
religion and customs. Consequently, the most feared
and respected Negro on every estate was the
obeahman, an African in the majority of cases.
Among the estate slaves, in addition to tribal
groupings, social groupings existed and were
determined by place of birth as well as by colour.
Other influences included, the previous rank or
occupation which the slave had held in Africa and
the nature of his employment on the estate house
slave, field slave, artisan. Like the whites, new
Africans were constantly being added and between
1,840 and 1,846 free Africans along with indentured
servants were brought to Trinidad, Guyana and
The white population were not simply masters,
they also had their social divisions. The resident
owner and the attorney were top of the ladder. The
overseer lorded it over the book-keeper and both
despised white tradesmen and other white estate
employees. The white indentured servant, during
his period of tenure, was treated as badly, and often
worse than a slave since he was not property. He did,
however, have an advantage in that at the end of his
service he could purchase land and was free.
The whites who had the most direct contact with
the slaves were immigrants of humble origin, of
English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh stock,
book-keepers and white servants, the lower ranks of
soldiers and sailors, many of whom kept concubines
among the blacks.
Survival in the new environment demanded
certain adjustments politically, socially, culturally
and personally from both the whites and the blacks.
Power was doubtless in the hands of the British and
permitted them, though numerically inferior, to
declare their culture and organizations superior to
those of the blacks who were numerically superior
but socially inferior. By law the whites could enforce
and prevent much. But by this same law, much was
also driven underground. Despite the fact that slaves
were forbidden to meet and beat drums, they did
meet and they did beat drums, and events like
funerals were of more significance than met the eye.
The lives of the majority of the slaves were spent in
continual hard labour enforced by the whip and
occasionally broken by some festive occasion like
crop-over, the return of the master's child or the
Normally, the labour routine was broken only by
the visits to the Sunday Market where the slaves
engaged in social activities and the sale of ground
provisions. The law made escape punishable by
death. The law made legal freedom practically
impossible. Slave owners, fearing open rebellion from
discontented, brutalised blacks, sought to intimidate
and the blacks acting in revolt sought to retaliate.
On the estate the owner or manager was given
complete authority, and in most instances was
corrupted by absolute power.
The British transplanted their administrative
institutions, their army, their traditions and cultural
expressions to the Jamaican colony. Most whites
looked to the mother country for leadership and
patterns. The affluent returned 'home' to England to
spend their West Indian earnings. None totally
escaped the erosion of the tropical heat, the vicious
brutality of slavery, the loneliness, the
self-condemnation and debauchery; but the class
system forced many poor whites who had no hope of
return to England and little contact with white
women, but who maintained the human need for
companionship, into inevitable contact with the
black population. It was unavoidable in such a
situation for fusion and transformation of the British
and West African cultures to take place. The African
population though they came from many parts of
Africa, all came from West Africa, an area with
common and inter-related cultural attitudes. Among
the shared beliefs were:
1. Ancestor worship.
2. Possession of the worshipper by his gods.
3. The concept of the earth as a vital universal
force the base of the community or the
source of life.
4. The existence of secret societies.
5. The yam festivals.
6. The impersonation of ancestral spirits by
masked dancers at festivals often connected
with agricultural activities.
7. The connection of the mask with rhythm, the
universal life force.
- Myth & Ritual in Dance Game & Rhyme
British Mummers: Doctor administers the golden frosty drop.
- Myth & Ritual in Dance Game & Rhyme
Maroon woman at 1976 Celebrations at
Nanny Town -Illustration Janet Harold
Fita Kankurang from Senegal -
A tall figure with a giant broom fastened
to his head, and covered with raffia
- from sketch by Diana Battle
8. The use of songs, drums and dancing' in
9. The belief in Witchcraft and magic.
The British in the position of power, brought
openly and visibly their manner of dress, their
speech, their long heritage of European traditions.
The African is always portrayed as having been
brought naked and empty handed; but up to 1846
new Africans both slaves and free blacks were
continuously brought to Jamaica and it is unlikely
that they came with nothing. Even the naked man
brings his attitudes, memories and beliefs, his rank,
his craft and his customs. It is the legacy which
caused the African to adapt readily to the conditions
of slavery and to survive them.
In his bid for survival, the slave did many things.
His performance in the presence of his master was
not all that he did. He had to come to terms in his
own fashion with his new environment. Witness the
personality deception in the Quashie traits
recognized not only in Jamaica but ail over the New
The inherent sense of falsehood, the fool. "The
most clever and intelligent Negro is usually the most
deceitful." The laziness and gay happy-go-lucky,
frivolous and cheerful disposition. "A temper
extremely irascible; a disposition indolent, selfish
and deceitful; fond of joyous society; riotous mirth
and extravagant show," the complete lack of
judgement are comparable to those of Annancy the
folk-hero, replica of the trickster hero of Akan folk
tales. Beckford describes him as a spider-man who
lives by his wits, one of superior cunning and skill.
Selfish and lazy but strong and efficient when
necessary. The slaves used the Quashie-Annancy
traits for his own satisfaction to reinforce the
masters' need to have him stupid and frivolous -
and to retaliate through incompetency.
Without the assistance of religious institutions for
the greater part of the period of slavery, the slave
relied upon scheduled festivities to sustain and to
relieve him. He gave African meanings to local festi-
vities such as Christmas, Easter and crop-over and
continued his African beliefs in relation to his own
provision grounds and the burial of the dead.
Spirit belief was evidenced in Myalism and Obeah.
The former used for good and the latter for evil
purposes. Ancestral worship was evidenced during
slavery in the funeral rites. Long claimed that "every
funeral is a kind of festival." He mentioned as
Patterson quotes, the rites after burial of scratching
up some earth and with their backs turned to the
graves, throwing it behind them between their legs
so as to prevent the deceased following them home.
Evidence of spirit belief continues into the 20th
century with the Convince ritual of the Maroons, the
Kumina cultists in St. Thomas, the Gumbay ritual of
St. Elizabeth and the Pocomania and also the 20th
century Afro-Christian cult. In all these religious
expressions, spirit possession is 'key'.
In connection with spirit belief, more prevalent in
the Jamaican society than ancestral cults, the
Duppy and Shadow are important considerations.
The former captured and impaled by the Obeah man
brought harm to the victim. By releasing the shadow
the Myal man cured his followers. Patterson draws
clearly the connection between the Shadow and the
Susuma of the Ga people. He states that "among the
Ga people, the essential aspect of the human
personality was the Susuma. The same word Susuma
was also used for shadow among these people.
Closely related to the Susuma or shadow is the Kla
concept which designates the life blood of a person.
When the Kla leaves the individual dies. "We are
told further that for a fee a bad medicine-man, will
call upon a victim's Kla or Susuma and either tie it
up with a string or gaze at it in a bowl of water and
on seeing it, stab through the heart." Almost the
same practice is found among Jamaican obeah-men;
and the opposite art of releasing these tied up
shadows among the Myal-men.
The Duppies are vindictive and troublesome
spirits that haunt the community where they lived
when alive. Common belief describes them as being
seen by four-eyed people people having special
sight for ghosts. In 1920 Beckwith describes the
duppies as living in "the roots of cotton wood trees
and bamboo thickets" and as feeding upon bamboo
roots, 'fig' leaves and the gourd like fruit of a vine
called duppy pumpkin, all very vegetal." We learn
from Long and Lewis, both writing during the
slavery period, that the slaves believed in ghosts and
spirits and that the spirits could be both malicious
These spirits during the slavery period and the
rest of the 19th century were believed to haunt the
forests and burial grounds. Today the spirit belief
finds an echo in the rolling-calf, the calf-ghost that
roams about at night with a chain dangling, and in
the three-foot horse, another ghost of terror
mirrored in the horse-head figure of the Jonkonnu
character with a stick forming the third leg to the
front. (All these beliefs link with the West African
beliefs in imps and forest monsters and can be
paralleled in other plantation areas of the
September was the time of the yams. It was linked
in the minds of the slaves with secret societies and
masked dancers and with West African agricultural
activity and their yam festivals in particular. These
yam festivals were of the greatest significance to the
Ashanti people who as we have seen came to Jamaica
in great numbers and whose language and customs
were to form the cornerstone of Jamaican folk
customs. The local festivals were held in relation to
the harvesting of provision grounds. A Spring
Garden Overseer was quoted by Patterson as having
said that: "It has been customary for the Negroes to
have a merry making at yam time on one estate at
one time, and on another at another, in common. If
one asks it, there is a general play at night." No
detailed descriptions are given but we further learn
that they ate yams together and danced. "The
Guinea Negroes played goombah too and danced."
- It is reasonable to surmise that they celebrated
after the fashion which they had known. Of
significance to this case is the fact that it was
suggested that Jonkonnu dancers were an important
adjunct to the festivities, "one witness claiming that
they were generally the worst characters." Curtin
comments that 'The John Canoe dance was in fact
closely associated with survival of African religion
and magic. The figures represented in the houseboat
head-dress, the phraseology of the songs, the
instruments, all were very similar to those of African
cult groups that were otherwise driven
underground." It is credible that thelYam Festivals
in Jamaica did reflect West African traditions, for
any slave, performer or craftsmen or withdoctor or
medicine men would have brought with him his craft
and skill and employed them for his expression on
Relevant West African Patterns
At this point it becomes necessary to look at some
specific West African patterns which have direct
bearing on the Masquerade or Jonkonnu and
consequently on Pitchy Patchy, the character which
is our subject of discussion in this paper.
The patterns for consideration are:
(i) Secret Societies
(iii) Forest Gods and Forest Matter
(iv) Sorcerers and Witchdoctors
There are, in many parts of West Africa, closed
associations commonly referred to as Secret
Societies. Usually, they are all male societies, but
some few for older women and others like the Sande
Society for the initiation of girls, do exist. Secret
societies have religious, social and recreational
functions. Members of the secret societies are
involved in rites of passage such as initiation, and in
the representation of dead ancestors.
The masquerades of their official 'masked spirits'
incarnate the spirits of the dead and are employed to
judge the world, to extend the authority of the elders
to infinity, to represent wisdom beyond all human
understanding and to entertain. They are
accompanied by hired bands of entertainers
including musicians and tumblers. Creatures of two
worlds, they perpetuate ancestral customs and fit
youth to take their places in the adult society. Power
is controlled by elders and the group is arranged in a
hierarchy which differs from village to village. It has
previously been shown that the Africans who came
to Jamaica were from West Africa, and more
specifically from the Upper Guinea Coast, the Gold
Coast and the region now known as Nigeria. The
following helps to substantiate the fact that secret
soceities were a common feature of West Africa and
to discuss more fully the activities of such societies
which might more directly have affected Jamaican
The Epa Yoruba believing in survival
after death and establishing links
between the past and the future,
and between death and life.
The Ekpo East Nigeria indulging in an-
central worship and the encourage-
ment of fertility.
The Simo Guinea Baga Secret Society -
The Goddess of Maternity, protec-
tor of mothers is worshipped by the
Simo society. The mask consists of
a carved head carried on a man's
head and the dancer looks through
holes in the wooden chestpiece. His
body is completely covered by a
The Ekpo Western Nigeria a secret society
of the Bini people celebrates youth
and health. The masked dance
ritually purifies the village. The
masks of the Ekpo cult represent
the sacred animals of the Bini
religious rites, the important
historic characters, the great chiefs,
the male and female warriors. This
cult seeks to combat illness and to
assure the fertility of the village.
The Poro Mende people of Sierra Leone -
Poro signifies 'no end' and can be
traced back several hundred years.
It is related to many other West
African societies in neighboring
countries and to those in Guinea.
Details of the mythology of secret
societies are not easily available
since they are secret to all non-
initiates. Some practical state-
ments of origin however claim that:
(a) groups of people hiding in the forests were
bound by mutual loyalty.
(b) chiefs held meetings in the bush to avoid
being overheard by women.
(c) sick people were isolated in the bush and after
death their voices were copied by instruments
made to frighten women and children into
(d) one story says that the elders acquired all of a
man's property and when his children grew up
they were introduced to their father, im-
personated by a member of the society. The
young men were taken one by one to a 'spirit',
a masked, robed figure sitting on a tree trunk
with a Poro horn, the pipe of office.
The members of the Por- Society found in
Guinea, meet in the sacred bush outside the
village where a particular founder was buried.
Patterson in his 'Sociology of Slavery' named
three groups of recrr itional festivities in West Africa
as having contributed to the activities of slaves in
(a) The Yam Festival of the Mmo. Secret Society
of the Ibo peoples (Coco-head of the Jonkonnu
is believed to have links with African legends
(b) The Homowo Harvest Festival of the Ga
peoples included yam feasts and drinking and
dancing in remembrance of the dead. Follow-
ing the feasts, well organised processions were
led by novices wearing masks.
(c) The recreational activities of the Egungun
secret societies of the Yorubas. The Egungun
wear varied head dresses, some animal, some
cloth, some horned.
The senior Egungun come as ancestors to hear
disputes, enforce tradition and uphold moral
standards. To defy their will or decision is to
court death. Even today an elder may kneel
before one of these visitors from another
world. After the elders have appeared, junior
and less important figures follow. These are
"miracle workers, displayers of cloth and
tumblers .... they can hold their hands and run
and chase after people." Distortion and
exaggeration are the essence of the cult,
suggesting origins in another world the
elder wears a mask of clay into which skulls,
horns and medicines are embedded. The
children of Egungun conceal and distort their
bodies in panels of gleaming cloth. (Judith
Bettelheim states that leaves and rags con-
stitute substitutes for cloth in smaller, poorer
villages. The trickster Egungun deliberately
astonishes people with his rapid transforma-
tion from human to snake, from beast to man
.... in demonstration of the African taste for
Forest Gods and Forest Matter
Consideration must be given in our case for Pitchy
Patchy to forest gods and such figures that combine
vegetal and animal components in the mask and to
West African circumcision figures since evidence of
their counterparts and of substitutions appear in the
masquerade or local Jonkonnu. The Atlantic side of
West Africa, and in particular Gambia and Senegal
are noted for the use of vegetal matter.
In Senegal there is Cacylambe, the rain god. When
the crops are planted, this god is invoked to bring
rain to bless the land and everyone participates in
the ritual of life-giving and fertility. In legend, the
god comes to the village and asks for a virgin. If the
virgin is not pure, the god is angry and will not bless
the village. The god requests a virgin, beautiful and
pure in return for the rain which must bless the
crops. The masked figure, dresses in a high, carved
mask of wood with raffia surrounding the head. The
dancer's person is totally covered in raffia and he
moves in order to swing the raffia, bending and
turning so that the raffia hides his feet and disguises
him from top to bottom. The colours linked with
African prints are reds, yellows and blues. The ritual
takes place during the planting season at sun-up and
recalls the fore day preparations of the local
Jonkonnu dancers. Also in Senegal is the Fita
Kankurang, a tall figure with a giant broom fastened
to his head, raffia covering him from head to waist,
from waist to hip and from hip down.
Connected with Cacylambe of Guinea and Senegal
is the Casamance preharvest, sacrificial dance
done around a Baobab tree.
Among the Yoruba speaking peoples of the slave
coast of West Africa there are two examples of forest
(i) Aroni, with a knowledge of medicine, although the
cure of disease is not his special function. The name
means one with a withered limb, and he is
represented as human in shape but having only one
leg, the head of a dog and a dog's tail. Aroni is
alleged to seize and devour those who meet him in
the forest or those who attempt to run away when
they see him. However, if a man faces him boldly and
shows no signs of fear, he leads him to his dwelling in
the fastness of the forest and keeps him there for two
or three months, teaching him the secrets of the
plants and their medicinal properties. When the
pupil has no more to learn, Aroni dismisses him,
giving him a hair from his tail to prove for the
incredulous that he has really been initiated. An
eddy of wind rushing through the forest and swirling
up the dead leaves is considered a manifestation of
(ii) Aja whose name appears to mean wild vine, is
a diety somewhat similar to Aroni and like Aroni she
carries off persons who meet her in the depths of the
forest and teaches them the medicinal properties of
plants. She never harms anyone. Her shape is human
but diminutive one to two feet high. The Aja vine
is used by women to cure inflamed breasts.
The Ekpo cult of Western Nigeria is characterized
by its use of wooden masks depicting important
personages like native doctors and chiefs, animals
used in the Bini religious rituals and many of the
Ihen and deities of the Bini pantheon including the
creator god Osa. On the day of preparation "the floor
of the Ugborlo is scattered with pieces of chalk, the
traditional symbol of luck, and palm fronds, the
odour of which is believed to repell diseases and
those who spread them. Garlands of palm fronds
which distinguish the sacred from the profane, are
found in all Bini shrines and are worn by
masquerades as a form of protection."
The Bete are an agricultural people in the forested
south west quadrant of the Ivory Coast. Their staple
products are bananas, yams, coffee and cocoa. The
traditional focus and primary instrument of their
socio-religious activities is the dance mask. Their
artistic tradition reflects a strong influence from the
Mande and Akan peoples who border the Bete on the
North and East. Their old Bete songs are freely
embellished with Senufo bells and cloths. Bete art
bridges the gap between the super tribal secret
societies of Liberia and the Akan Kingship traditions
coming from Ghana. The mask includes a raffia
skirt, woven and about three feet wide and
measuring over thirty feet in length. It is rolled into
a cylindrical tube with a central opening the size of a
man's trunk. It is bound at the top by a cord of palm
material and two narrow shoulder straps adjusted to
the proper length. It is completed with a woven blue
and white cloth forming a hood, completely covering
the head and shoulders and upper arm of the wearer.
The people of Evwreni on the western side of the
Niger River Delta perform preliminary rites and two
days of masquerade dancing to honour the spirits
responsible for the well-being of the community.
"Works of art in wood and raffia" become visible
enactments of deep-seated beliefs in water and forest
based spiritual forces. Ohworu is a spirit of the deep
water and the deep bush. To the people, Edijo
signifies the powers in the forest and in rivers which
are potentially harmful to man. Their effect is
controlled by the community. Specific spirits with
special powers are housed in specific trees, plants,
parcels of land and bodies of water.
Sorcerers, Witchcraft and Medicine
Linked with the bush-tradition are witches
sorcerers and medicine-men. Throughout West
Africa, there is belief in witchcraft. The basic belief is
that certain people, particularly women, had the
power to change their forms when they pry up the
bodies or souls of relatives, friends and enemies. It is
the withchdoctor who treats the bewitched.
A sharp distinction is drawn by Africans between
magic and sorcery. The former is concerned with the
making of charms to help or to harm people. The
good magician is therefore a respected citizen,
whereas the bad magician is disliked and must work
in secret. Compare this with what has already been
said about Myalism and Obeah in Jamaica.
The forest, the bush, the plain and all lonely
places, are believed to be the haunts of dangerous
spirits and of dangerous animals who may change
their forms and become human for a while. Ghosts,
and particularly those of people who have not
received proper burial are believed to live in the
bush. Animals andtrees are also believed to have
Medicine in the West African context as Patterson
points out, means "anything which possesses a
'power' or 'breath-of-life' and is the abode of a
spiritual being or won." A
The Basinjom cult, one of the two most important
of the traditional secret societies of the Upper Cross
River has as its main purpose the detection and
exposure of witchcraft. The forces of the Basinjom
lies within the eyes which must be able to see
pictures of the places of witchcraft. The initiate, eyes
prepared by specially administered drops, is taken to
the Basinjom grove where he is given the lore of the
Symbolism as evidenced in West Africa is
important to our consideration of Pitchy Patchy of
the Jamaican Masquerade.
Take the case of symbolism relating to the
paraphernalia of the Basinjom. (From African Art in
option pgs. 211 and 212). The chains of braided
vegetable material are the legs of the bird, the owl
representing all the medicines of the forest. The
water in the vessel is a power. The raffia fronds are a
sign of danger. The blue feathers mean war bird. The
red feathers also danger anything which comes
from a bad, hot thing is symbolized by these
feathers. The porcupine quills stand for prevention
against the whole of the work of thunder and
lightening. The roots (inserted within the feathered
head-dress) symbolise members entitled to wear this
gown. The eyes of Basinjom are mirrors. Mirrors are
a sign of seeing into other worlds, to the place of
witchcraft. The mirror eyes move in the night to
predict. The mirrors are also examples of the work of
the medicine which is put in the eyes .... the initiate
can now see anything. The raffia hair and hem are
taken from the forest and they mean danger,
something to be avoided by men who are not strong.
Symbolism in the Mask The Entire Covering of
the Masked Person.
1. The Sande society of Sierra Leone and Liberia
dedicates women to the learning of beauty, social
usefulness and moral self-realisation. One mask
illustrates in shaping what girls are taught in words,
i.e. to maintain youthful gracefulness tempered by
seriousness and embodiment of ancient spirit
attributes. Fleshly cheeks and luminous rising brows
fuse with serious mouth and closed spiritualised
2. In possession the other worldiness must be
transferred to the sculptural representation. So the
freezing of the face and closing of the eyes which
occur in Ofe forms of Akan possession in Ghana can
be compared to closed eyes and cold features of the
3. The curve of the horns of the horned Mandingo
masks communicates great energy and the old
adversary the bush-cow familiar of the witch,
becomes one of Allah's victories over evil. The horns
also signify power.
4. The ears of Benin leopard are made like sensitive
leaves set above the head. Strong iron studs
embedded within the warmly patinated ivory
suggest the spots of the animal as well as allude to
fire and the making of iron. Wide open eyes relate to
5. In the Upper Volta the horned masked dancer
carries two sticks to simulate front legs. (Our own
horse-head carries one stick which gives a
three-legged effect. It is comparable to the three
footed horse, an animal ghost of terror).
6. Extraordinary persons in Africa are associated
with horns. In Senegambia, there are bovine themes
to the mask horned masks in Ivory Coast,
7. Horizontal masks animalistic and associated at
times with devouring Ivory Coast, Ghana,
Guinea, Camaroons, Mali.
8. The Egungun cloths have power in themselves.
The cloths make and bring back the spirit, and
attack withcraft and diseases. Red is the colour of
triumphant wealth. The cloth also heals.
9. Bells and noise makers frighten away evil
10. Colours of Masks have significance. This is
particularly true of white which is the colour of the
world of spirits the colour people paint themselves
with if hit by disease or in mourning. Blue, green and
yellow signify foreign influence. Black is indicative
of the doctor (as repeated in the black fdce of the
Morris dancers). The mask as the head is the focus of
the dance expressing the faith of the people in, for
Distortions are confined to fundamental
associations which are familiar to everyone. To
decorate is to give something which is part of
ordinary life, a visual association in the world of the
spirit, thus linking body and spirit. Its use is to
conceal the identity of the dancer from gatherings
and the decoration is to represent the spirit evoked
The common type of mask takes form from
Sylvian Diety human, animal or quasi-human,
sometimes it is the human face with horns of the
buffalo or the antelope which appears. Totems are
often incorporated in masks (totems are family
symbols) as in Bambara, Dan, Banle, Fon and
In a society where life is conditioned by a myriad
spirits both the making and the correct use of the
masks are involved with ritual. Spirits are consulted
at every juncture so that the correct thing is done.
The forest in which the wood grows is the domain of
the venerated spirits so the tree is cut with
ceremony. The priest is consulted and special tools
are used: paraphernalia is significant.
The Whip signifies power, vigour, suffering,
bravery in the Yoruba and Ekpo cults.
The Fan is a sign of office.
The Left Side is the sinister side tuft falls from the
left side of the scalp.
A Bird with spreading wings is thought to have
Herbalists often wore cloth as seen in the panels of
Horns indicate leadership and power.
Horn of Medicine sign of herbal doctor as used by
Avakpa Ejagham a horn of medicine set across a
staff over which is set a crooked line, and which the
doctor-herbalist of the Yoruba wields as he dances in
The Egunguns have various head-dresses, as
discussed in 'Festivals' above.
The British Influence
Consideration must be given to two aspects of
British cultural expression which influenced the
Jonkonnu tradition namely the presence of an
established theatre in evidence from 1682, twelve
years after the island ceded to the English, and the
British Mumming Tradition which in the late
eighteenth century and during the nineteenth
century fused with the Jonkonnu of the slave class.
The consolidation of a new society and the fact that
sugar was king, combined to give plantation owners
the time and the means to bend their ideas and
patronage to a peasant festival.
Like the numerous balls routs and festivities, the
theatre constituted an integral part of the
entertainment of the "thin upper crust" of white
Europeans, white creoles and the near-whites.
Complete with masters and mistresses of the revels
the most notorious of whom was Constantia
Phillips the Jamaican Theatre was a thriving
concern. As early as 1682, mention was made of the
Plays of Pirates and Spaniards at Port Royal. There
was theatre in Montego Bay. Spanish Town boasted
of routs, dances and plays at King's House. Harbour
Street housed the first theatre in Kingston in 1710,
and this home of plays was later relocated at the
Jamaica was a part of the same colonial family as
Boston and New Haven, and formed (for actor and
actresses) a halt on a triangular roadway that linked
London to Jamaica and Broadway, New York.
The American revolution drove performers of the
American theatre to Jamaica for refuge, and with the
advent of peace in 1783, they quietly returned home.
In 1775, many actors journeyed back and forth from
England to Jamaica. Numbered among them was
Hallman's Troupe which journeyed not only to
Jamaica but to New York.
Eye witnesses of the day described the situation in
Jamaica in detail. Francis Hanson's account of 1682
quoted in Richard Wright's 'Revels in Jamaica'
"The manner of living there for Galantry, Good
housekeeping and Recreation (as Horse Races,
Bowls, Dancing and Musick, Plays at a Public
Theatre, etc.) sufficiently demonstrate the
flourishing condition of the island."
Ladies and gallants walked home resplendent in the
light of bonfires and to the sound of merry laughter.
Edward Long in the 1760's observed activities in
Spanish Town -
"the conflux of people who resort hither from
the country parts on business, particularly
during the sittings of the supreme or grand
court of law, near four months in the year and
the session of the assembly which generally
lasts from October till Christmas holidays. At
these times, universal gaiety prevails; balls,
concerts and routs alternately hold their reign.
The occasion of the governor's ball is brilliant
the ladies vying with one another in the richness
of their dress (shades of Set Girls) and everyone
makes a point of exhibiting a new suit or
It seemed popular to link the low ebb of morals
with the fact that marriageable English girls were
few. Males .... "found their pleasure in the arms of
Negro and mulatto slaves that is 'housekeepers.'
Book-keepers customarily selected a "sable venus"
for domestic work and other services -
"sleek-skinned brown girls, desirous of finery and
attention, happily served as mistresses." Quadroons
and mestees gave gay and expensive parties to which
white men were invited. Open house tradition in
town and country houses was the order of the day; so
were lavish Sunday dinners, Christmas and New
Year Festivities. Consequently, slaves in one way or
another observed, or participated in the happenings.
Both creole and European whites were given to
"lavish extravagance and excessive pomp" and the
theatre provided a wonderful place for display both
on and off the stage. "The creole ladies in brocaded
silks and satins piled their hair high and were dainty
powdered", reminiscent of the London Theatre. "The
men were resplendent in gold-laced coats." There
was many an olive tinted mestee among them. In the
pit sat the shopkeepers, book-keepers, soldiers and
sailors on leave. All the rest who could afford a seat
sat at the rear.
A varied programme was presented not only by
American and British performers but by French
emigrants fleeing from the Haitian Revolution and
included French fare as well as, Romeo and Juliet -
Shakespeare, Irish Widow Garrick, King Lear -
Shakespeare, She Stoops to Conquer Goldsmith,
Beggar's Opera Gay. Whites sent Blacks to the
theatre early to hold their seats and often arrived
late, or not at all. This gave the Blacks many
opportunities to see plays or parts of plays.
We have already seen that the majority of Whites
who had direct contact with the Blacks were of
humble origin. This, combined with patronage which
sugar barons gave in time to Easter, Christmas and
New Year Festivities served to bend the British
Mumming Tradition with elements of the African
Masquerade, an established feature of slave
festivities. Mumming was the name given to the
British masquerades of Shrovetide and New Year's
Day. The British masquerade proceeded by the Mask
and Disguise, was exceedingly popular in Britain in
the 18th and 19th centuries and were performed by
rustic amateur players and concluded with a
Relevant to our case is that fact that English
ritual makers wore shredded newspaper overall
coverings probably at one time animal skins -
similar to the shaggy wild men of the medieval
carnival. Their battle mime was similar to the New
Year Vegetation ceremony (a symbolic battle of the
seasons). The disguise concealed the identity of the
individual and released him of his inhibitions.
Familiar components of the 19th century Jonkonnu
were also typical of Mumming. The processional
dance, mimetic game complete with dialogue,
comparable with the local Dr. plays and the African
"Appearing with the Sets and House John Canoe
in the 19th century, was Jack-in-the-Green who
guards the sets and Koo Koo or Actor Boy a remnant
of the self-styled companies of actors."
This Jack-in-the-Green, the principal mask of the
English Chimney Sweepers, is the subject significant
to our case. The Sweepers Companies complete with
Jack and the May Day or Straw Boys celebrated the
first of May. Some companies were completely
covered with gilt papers (a natural progression from
vegetation to straw), fancy buttons and sprigs of
flowers. The groups danced to the rhythms supplied
by shovels and brushes. Sometimes a Lord and Lady
May processed in company with the dancing
Jack-in-the-Green. The latter's mask was similar in
structure to some African figures and to our current
Mada Lundy. It consisted of a hollow frame of wood
larger at the bottom and able to receive a man. It
was covered with green leaves and interwoven
bunches of flowers (a parallel of Paul Pride the local
Jack-in-the-Green) described by Belisario in 1837 as
having a base of hoops, covered in coconut leaves,
diminishing at the top and topped by a bow. The
English Jack-in-the-Green has been described as part
of a most ancient tradition found over many parts of
the world the "Green Man" of living nature and a
positive reminder of the Ekpo Circumcision and
other vegetal figures of West Africa.
Mummers borrowed the most popular subject
matter of their plays and many of the groups carried
a play which contained a King and/or Queen; a fool,
doctor or magician and sword dancers.
It is credible that seen through the eyes of English
writers with this particular frame of reference, that
the local Paul Pride covered in coconut fronds
became to them, their familiar Jack-in-the-Green. It
was not for them to see the African parallels. These
masters remained ignorant of many slave
expressions which because of their own attitudes,
were hidden and kept in the bush tradition, and it is
very likely that a figure In shredded cloth or bush or
paper would conjure visions of Jack-in-the-Green and
the Chimney Sweepers. The Blacks too with their
defensive quashie traits, would play safe and sure in
the arms of pretence in order to receive the patronage
of the masters and to make the most of an
opportunity for ridicule.
Martha Beckwith in 1923, quotes Bodwich as
having remarked upon similar ceremonial displays
on the African Gold Coast at his reception in
Coomassie in 1817, and we know that blacks
complete with their culture armour, were constantly
arriving on Jamaican shores from the 17th to the
19th century thus refreshing the deep seated
religious African bush tradition.
Beckwith said that,
"the whole carnival season represented an
elaborate folk festival in which features of old
English seasonal festivities were mingled with
observances perhaps derived from royal military
parades from the African Gold Coast whence
most of the Jamaica negroes were delivered."
De Mille in her Book of the Dance, observed
"many spirits of England and Germany,
masked in Green leaves like the pagan priests -
still beg gifts."
This, it is suggested, dates back to that time when
men believed that gods and spirits inhabited trees
and the woods so that wood was powerful -
"Knock on wood." Our examination of African
beliefs and the frequent African usage of vegetal
matter and forest figures, places his off-spring, the
Jamaican Black, a man steeped in bush tradition,
among the "men who believed." The men who
shelter what they cherish and protect their sacred
The African Continuum
The proceeding sections have shown that African
influences have ever been a predominant factor in the
social development of the black masses. These same
influences are evident in the evolution of the
Jonkonnu experience, the dance-drama of the
Before 1720 the masquerader is called a fancy
dress character. The significance of the cow-tail and
other additions are misunderstood. "At times (the
blacks) assumed a fancy dress character. No
appendage was too preposterous, but the most
correct style of thing was to affix the tail of a cow to
that part of the human frame where, in tailed
animals, that appendage invariably grows," is
Gardner's description in 1690.
By 1700, Sloane observed that "they (the negroes)
very often tie cows tails to their rumps and add such
other odd things to their bodies, in several places, as
gives them a very extraordinary appearance."
Later on, sometime between 1730 and 1769, a
recognized Jonkonnu character, complete with cow's
horns, horrid mask and with boar tusks, appeared in
the company of excited male and female followers
and an African Band. At the height of plantation
glory, the sets and other elements of the British
Mumming Tradition run parallel with the regional
Jonkonnu. An anonymous writer observes from his
particular frame of reference "an insignificant or
ugly mask, a close waistcoat and trousers, chequered
like a Harlequine's coat, or hung with shreds of
various coloured cloth, dangling like a loose shag."
Red, Blue and French Sets, the Houseboat
Jonkonnu and Jack-in-the-Green are popular figures
of the 1830's. Some strong European influences
indeed, but strong African parallels too, if the truth
were known. In addition to circumcision and forest
figures "from the ritual play of the Egungun ....
traditional Yoruba theatre developed into a Court
Masque" which by the middle of the 18th century
professional artists had organised into a travelling
theatre. In 1826, one of these touring companies
entertained the English explorer Hugh Clapperton
and his party in the Yoruba metropolis."
The decline in the extravagances of the Jonkonnu
due to economic, political and religious factors in the
19th century, lessened the visual impact, but
revealed along with British type characters, such
figures as horsehead and the bull-device animal
masks borrowed equally in terms of African and
Phillip in 1843 described each group as having "its
King and Queen .... distinguished by a mask of the
most hideous appearance and attired from head to
foot in gaudy harlequine like apparel."
The post-emancipation period threw up such
characters as cow-head, the doctor and Pitchy
Patchy, often described as a post-emancipation
figure of whom Jack-in-the-Green is the prototype.
The contention here is that it is Pitchy Patchy who is
the original. He has always existed but has not
always been an idea made totally visible. The
intention is in the final section of this paper to
present the case in support of this contention.
1. Our first consideration is the Maroons
who were mainly comprised of Akan and Fanti
groups. They are a group of people who have been
isolated and bush-oriented from the beginning of
slavery. They lived, and still live in communities
which have retained the cultural indices of West
Africa. The Maroons present for all the world to
see, a continuum of African practices and folk
customs. Central to all folk customs are religious
beliefs and these beliefs link man and his world to
his God. African religious belief was entrenched
in the forest, its components and attendant
spirits. When religious sanctions exist, it is un-
likely, as our examination of West African religi-
ous customs has already indicated, that believers
will expose their symbols to the enemy who see
them as "goods and chattels." The first Maroons
covered themselves in leaves, performed war
dances and participated in guerilla warfare
against British troops. Today the leaves are still
part of the paraphernalia worn for some Maroon
dances. In the summer of 1976, Maroons in
leaves danced in the Carifesta Grand Market and
eye-witnesses testify to their wearing leaves in
present day ceremonies held in their compounds.
2. African religions were a binding force in
slave rebellions. The retention of strong Africani
beliefs which have withstood the Christian
doctrine, education and political development
remain with us to this day, in urban and rural
areas. Middle class Jamaicans, in times of crisis,
consult the obeah man, take bush baths, drink
bush medicines or submit to the ritualistic powers
of Kumina, Pukkumina and Gumbay. The Rasta-
farian with his dread locks, his ital food (organic),
declares that the weed gives wisdom when it is
smoked, that it heals when its ashes are rubbed
on the skin or when it is prepared as a drink.
The balm-yard offers healing herbal
medicines and baths. One hundred years of heal-
ing with herbs is evidenced in Rozanne Forbes,
1871-1929, and her daughter Rita in the area of
Manchester, bordered to the west by Burnt
Savanna mountain, east by Plowden mountain
and south by the sea. Beckwith who attempted to
expose religion and particularly Myal traits in the
10th century Jonkonnu interviewed Rozanne.
In the Kumina ritual the one possessed
is restrained from rushing to the dangerous bush
and is gently brushed on different parts of the
body by two supporters tightly clasping handfuls
of bush. The seal at the centre of the Buru booth
topped with coconut leaves is circled with the
3. An upsurge of Myalism occurred only
four years after Emancipation. There was a great
religious revival all over the island and the
missionaries thought that their efforts were bear-
ing fruit. The spirit was at work among the
converted Blacks. Their enthusiasm was to be
short lived and their joy dampened. Africa once
more reared its head. "Myalism", declared a
missionary, "has lately appeared to prevent the
blessed work of revival which God gave his
4. Creoles held Africans in contempt and at
holidays and festivals both groups had separate
recreations. It was the difference which plagued
the society that would help to keep African ele-
ments intact for a long time and to entrench them
in the society. The fear and mistrust of the
masters made them deny African expression, and
drove the African rituals underground. This
denial of African expression ensured its protec-
tion by deception, quashie behaviour and outright
recklessness at festivities. The blacks who lived
without the assistance of religious instruction and
education for the greater part of slavery, relied
upon their own beliefs and rituals as well as upon
scheduled' festivities for relief from pain and
5. Sugar dictated periods of work and
periods of play, the holidays such as Easter and
Christmas were not theirs, but they brought to
them such customs and practices as were theirs.
They celebrated feasts in connection with their
own provision grounds, abundant in yams and
stirring memories of their own celebrated yam
festivals and recreational activities of the secret
societies of such people as the Ebo, Ga and
Yoruba. The animal mask which Sloane saw
"might well have been designed to increase the
fertility of the earth and to pay ritual respect."
What did he not see? Quite likely the forest
reverence to the ancestors in an early representa-
tion of Pitchy Patchy.
6. "The most feared and respected negro
on every estate was the Negro Obeah man, an
African in the majority of cases." Obeah and
Myalism are still part of the Jamaican way of
employing supernatural forces. It has been
suggested that because Myalism is strongest in
areas near the Cockpit country Maroon terri-
tory that Myalism owes its origins to the
Maroons who did hide and shelter runaway
slaves and visited estates secretly if only to
plunder supplies and to destroy the master's
Myalism was a ritual that bound slaves together
and for that reason was driven underground in 1774
by the white masters. Patterson gives some details
concerning Myalism in his "Sociology of Slavery."
"Myalism .... was from the beginning 'a kind of
society' or cult" .... A report in 1788 stated that myal
men were those who ".... by means of narcotic
potions made with the juice of an herb, said to be
Calalue, a specie of Solorium which occasions a
trance .... endeavour to convince the deluded
spectators of the power to reincarnate dead bodies
...." The dance was meant to exhibit the magical
powers of the leader, called the Doctor. The initiate
was sprinkled with powder and wheeled until he fell
into a trance. Upon his dramatic recovery, the
Doctor would rush shrieking loudly to the woods and
upon his return would carry different kinds of herbs.
He squeezed some of the juice into the mouth of the
entranced initiate and the remainder was rubbed on
the initiate's finger tips.
That Myalism was driven underground does not
indicate that its practice ceased but rather that it
remained concealed from the master's eyes or that
the masters as they did with so much else -
simply did not see what they wished to be elsewhere.
All Jamaicans are familiar with this habit of seeing
-and yet not seeing. We know that the slaves did hold
on to their traditions. Convince, Kumina, Jonkonnu
and the revival of Myalism in the early years
following Emancipation, testify to this. Pitchy
Patchy is the bush-link in all these the symbol of
hidden bush meetings.
From the North American Sea Islands to Brazil in
South America, African beliefs and customs colour
the indigenous cultures and parallels to Pitchy
Patchy appears even where the British colonial
settlers had no influence.
Parallels in the Caribbean
In Haiti, the Yoruban Edshu trickster deity of the
cross roads, is characterized by a hat of several
colours (one for each direction). He is beautiful on
one side and tattered on the other. Paul Prye has
been described by Ranny Williams, well known
folklorist, as a cross between Actor Boy and Pitchy
Patchy. The front of the costume representing Actor
Boy and the back Pitchy Patchy. Haiti also boasts
Ghede-King and Clown who also wears glasses he
is represented as a little man in a multi-coloured cap
and like Edshu is another trickster in a motley cap.
Both the Haitian and Jamaican Parallels recall the
African habit of role switching.
The Twelfth Day Celebrations of Cuba or Day of
Kings as it is also called, provide us with ".... an
athletic negro with a fantastic straw helmet, an
immensely thick girdle of strips of palm leaves
around his waist and other uncouth articles of
dress." We are also told that the festive negroes
"thronged into the street and there performed the
most typical dances of their remote countries."
Trinidad boasts the satirical alter-ego of the
princely Pierrot in the character of Pierrot Grenade
(Grenada Clown). Errol Hill the Trinidadian
playwright qualifies him as being dressed in rags and
tatters, oats bags and crocus bags. Old pieces of tin
and small boxes are tied to the costume to make a
noise. On his head he wears an old straw hat,
adorned with hibiscus or croton and can also be
distinguished by shrubbery or rags. Pierrot Grenade
wears a grotesque face mask as he must remain
Cassidy's anonymous writer of 1797 and Phillipo
in 1843, both write of a character in harlequin attire.
This description is indicative of multi-coloured
patches as well as rags. Pitchy Patchy the Jamaican
Jonkonnu figure bears a name that suggests either
pieces of, or patches of cloth. It is with interest that
one notes that harlequin was originally dressed in
rags and patches. European writers, familiar with
the harlequin of the Commedia Del'Arte, would
have seen in the local character what they knew.
Pitchy Patchy is,- in my opinion, the visual
expression of the religious beliefs and practices of the
West African people who constitute the broad base
of Jamaican society. His horned head-dress is a relic
of the horned masks of West Africa and the first cow
masks of Jamaica a symbol of power and fertility.
The many head-dresses of Pitchy Patchy recall the
varied head-dresses of the Egungun and
Circumcision figures in West Africa. His rags are
reminders of vegetal matter such as leaves and
straw. His donning of dark glasses (like the
four-eyed doctor) and his rags constitute links with
the strong bush tradition that is evidenced to this
day in use of bush medicines and the belief in bush
spirits and balm yards.
Ritual expressions such as Kumina, Gumbay and
Pukkumina are indicative of continuing links with
the bush tradition, so too, are the leaves worn in the
performance of Maroon war dances and the weed of
Pitchy Patchy, not Jack-in-the-Green, was the
original Jonkonnu figure. The acceptance of
Jack-in-the-Green was logical because of his
similarity to the original Circumcision figures of
West Africa and the local bush symbols. There was
no reason for Pitchy Patchy to be banished or to
remain underground after Emancipation.
This colourful Jonkonnu character remains a
positive, silent and omnipresent reminder of the
strong African identity that for centuries was
shamed and denied but never vanquished "an
echo in the bone." He seems to say "not everything
good fi eat, good fi talk."
Bibliography and References available to researchers on
THE FORMATIVE YEARS:
ART IN JAMAICA 1922-1940
NATIONAL GALLERY EXHIBIT
The true Jamaican artist is a product of the twentieth century: he is also, for the most part, a consequence of a movement, a
swelling force which has garnered the creativity of a young and vital people, and which is leaving in its wake a body of painting and
sculpture which is among the most significant of the entire Caribbean region.
The purpose of this exhibition is to focus attention on the formative years, and on some of the complex forces that contribute
to the origin of this movement The revealed inter-relationships that develop between the artists of the mainstream Edna Manley,
Koren, Marriott, the young Huie and Burnett Webster demonstrate a certain contiguity of thought and purpose which stamps this
early swell of creativity as a movement with a discernible set of stylistic principles. But the achievements of the fiercely independent
Dunkley and the Millers demonstrate that from the very outset of the movement, there has been a strong undercurrent of intuitive art,
which has its origin, not in the art books and theories of the day, but in that hidden part of the unconscious that can reach back into.
David Boxer, Curator, August 1978.
Innocence (The Artist's
Alvin Marriott 1930
Girl with Rose.
Albert Huie 1939
Portrait of J. S. Webster.
Alvin Marriott 1933
David Miller Senior C 1940
The Last Negro
Green flaming wilderness!
White jagged rocks of faith!
The last Negro moves across the world
In his flesh Time's loins
By his side Time's children.
Way back in 1940
There was murder.
Dawn bent its rose face
Kissed a black animal
Woman of the Negro race
Lovely black animal.
Way back in 1930
There was a lynching
He was dangling
And survived his tree.
Spirit in physical
Death is no end of faith!
The last Negro looks into the sun
Into the gold flames
Feeling the heat of stars
And close is God
For Time is God is Man
And peace is chaos.
From First Poems by George Campbell
(from the Formative Years period)
David Mille Senior C 1940
Augustus (Gus) Brathwaite was born in Barbados, where he
received his early education. He is a graduate of Peabody
Conservatory in Boston, U.S.A. He was a tutor at the Jamaica
School of Music in the early 1970's and subsequently at
Shortwood Traning College. Gus Brathwaite was known for his
role as founder of the 'Divertimento' String ensemble which was
very well received here in concert performances and on radio and
television. He has previously contributed to JAMAICA
JOURNAL in transcribing Caribbean Drum Rhythms (Vol. 11
Nos. 3 & 4). He has recently returned to his native Barbados.
When in 1935 a group of upper class citizens took
the stage at the St. Andrew High School for a sedate
performance of Jamaican Folk Songs, few recognized
the birth of a significant cultural movement. The
Cudjoe Minstrels, as they came to be called some
time later, were pioneers in bringing the music of the
folk to a wider audience, giving it acceptance in
respected circles. The group undertook to present
their music in authentic form with the expected
'cleaning up' of some lyrics.
'Minstrels' in the name of the group, and their
practice of blackening faces before performing,
suggests a conscious influence from the Southern
United States. But Miss Linda Stockhausen,
founder of the group as well as Mrs. Grace Kearon,
another original member, admit to no such influence.
Both explain that this was done in part to conceal
identity but, more importantly, for the sake of
authenticity. Clearly, there was no attempt at
parody. The crudely applied make-up was not
comical (unlike the North American counterpart).
The object was to create the appearance of Africans,
"just a bunch of market people". The eyes,
predictably, gave the disguise away.
Concerning the use of blackface, Linda
Stockhausen states "We had to be very careful,
because we were pioneers. We wanted to be careful to
let the audience know it was not burlesque, that you
were not ridiculing the people. ... One of the highest
compliments that were ever paid to us was a
comment that came from the gallery when we put on
"Manda goes to town". Somebody said 'Lawdi but
dey know us dough ee!' and I felt that what we were
doing was real".
In her "Story of the Cudjoe Minstrels" Linda
Stockhausen deals with the choice of name:
In consultation with Miss Alma Sherlock and
my sister, the name was chosen. We are some-
times asked for its origin and why the name was
chosen. Well, it was chosen because it seemed
suitable and we liked the sound. "Cudjoe" is an
old African word for one of the days of the week,
Tuesday, I believe. In Mr. Phillip Sherlock's
first folklore lecture at the Institute of Jamaica
he made mention of this. As he explained, many
of the old African slaves named their children
after the days of the week -
Cudjoe, Quamin, Quashie, etc. The name
"Cudjoe" comes in some of the older Jamaica
folk songs such as "Quakoo Sam". It is also well
known that "Cudjoe" was the name of a famous
old Maroon Chief. However, I have to admit
that in choosing the name there was no thought
of history or romance but just suitability and
During a period of recovery at Milk River Baths in
1935, Miss Stockhausen and one of her sisters made
the acquaintance of a Mrs. Chambers, matron of the
Baths. Mrs. Chambers who came from West-
moreland sang folk songs for her charges. Two
which lingered in their minds were "John Crow say
him can' walk (sic) pan Sunday" and "Jordan is a
hard road to travel, I believe".
Later in the same year a group was assembled to
sing at a benefit performance at St. Andrew High
School in aid of the George V Sanitorium. A number
of mistresses from the school, together with Linda
Stockhausen and other members of her family and "a
few male friends of the braver sort" presented this
first performance. Accompaniment was provided by
two guitarists who earned their living as gardeners,
and Edith Figueroa at the piano. A photograph of
the original group shows guitarists Leonard and
Charles with other members. In recalling the event
BY: AUGUSTUS BRATHWAITE
Linda Stockhausen describes the misgivings over
performing 'vulgar' folk songs in a ladies' seminary:
"We walked delicately, and were careful not to shake.
Fully two years went by during which members
came and went and new songs were collected. A clean
break was made with St. Andrew's since this setting
was unsuited to preparation for stage performances,
particularly with respect to the choice of songs.
Late in 1937, with Mrs. Ivy Brown as piano
accompanist, the group prepared a performance for a
church in the Cross Roads area, probably on Lincoln
Road. About this time, Mr. Astley Clerk arranged a
private concert for Arthur Benjamin, visiting the
island as adjudicator for that year's Festival. Mr.
Benjamin liked what he heard and encouraged the
members to continue with their efforts. Arthur
Benjamin is now best remembered for his "Jamaica
Rumba", a setting of "Mango Walk". This was the
first occasion on which the name "Cudjoe Minstrels"
Their public debut was made at a concert in
November, at the Lyndhurst Wesleyan Manse. The
Cudjoe Minstrels functioned actively for approxi-
mately fifteen years, before the duties of married life
claimed one after another of the members. In 1953
the group was reconvened for a performance at
King's House during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II.
Additional members had to be recruited on this
occasion in order to replace those who were no longer
On February 2, 1938 Phillip Sherlock's "Pepper-
pot" was staged at the Ormsby Hall, to be repeated
shortly afterwards at St. George's Hall. This
'entertainment' presented two groups of Negro
Spirituals on an otherwise exclusively Jamaican
programme. There were ring games, Anatcy Stories,
a "John Canoe dance (with drums)", danced by Eric
Coverley as the Horse Head, 'Songs of today', by the
popular Slim and Sam, and two sets of folk songs by
the Cudjoe Minstrels. Referring to the dance an
un-named reviewer writes: "In this last item the
drummers deserve special praise for their skill. They
proved that drums can make music". The remark
shows a basic ignorance of Jonkunnu and/or the
extreme novelty of this event on a stage in Kingston.
Linda Stockhausen was one of seven children born
in Stewart Town, Trelawny and she was exposed
practically from infancy to the folk culture. "When I
was a small, small child there was a man named
Austin who used to come on Saturday night, and he
would sit on the barbecue and he would relate these
Anancy Stories. There was one about this baby to be
christened, 'and they called the name Grandy Nandy
Chum'. And you know, that is all I remember of it".
In one account of the group's development she
identifies other sources:
ine Luajoe ivinscres win traaltional Jamaican musical
An unofficial member of the Cudjoe Minstrels
is "Maggie". My chief source of inspiration and
my tutor. A conservative estimate of Maggie's
weight is 230 Ibs., but she dances as light as a
From her I have learnt some of our best songs.
... Our Revival songs were collected during my
two weeks holiday in August 1938 from "Kate".
A profitable Sunday afternoon spent in her
'yard' sitting on a 'long bench'. A small child of
about 8 or 9 years assisted.
Elsewhere we read "My chief source of inspiration,
has been my friend "Maggie". Maggie lives in the
country in my old home town in Trelawny ... I have
known her from my childhood".
Other influences included a cook who worked for
the Stockhausen family at two different periods
.interrupted by a stay in Cuba. And there were the
activities in the neighbourhood, both religious and
secular notably Jonkonnu at Christmas time. A
lingering recollection is of running back to the house
in terror, as a small child, at the approach of the
On leaving High School at about the age of
seventeen, Linda came to Kingston to begin a career
as a secretary. She later worked for the Royal Bank
of Canada and once wrote a piece for the bank's
magazine about signs, often humourous, which could
be seen painted on hand carts in Kingston. She
published articles,5 gave lectures and collaborated in
the publication of a set of Folk Songs,6 intended to be
the first of a series. One talk was given before the
Music Teacher's Association in 1943, and Phillip
Sherlock called on the Minstrels for various
demonstrations and lectures.
Jamasing 7 and Brukkins was presented at St.
George's Hall in November 1938 with Phillip
Sherlock as 'Narrator'. The programme included
Folk Songs, Street cries, Anancy Story, Street
preaching, Ring games and dances Shay-Shay,
Heel and toe Polka, Varso viana and Mento. Willie
Ashman appeared as a guest performer. Miss
Stockhausen remembers "I have never heard a
better narrator of an Anancy story than Willie
Ashman. I never told him one he had his own
collection". Two of the stories he told were "How
John Crow get im peel head "s and "Why dawg
tummy queege in".
The format of Cudjoe Minstrels performances was
becoming established. Full programmes often
included tales of the supernatural duppy stories,
tales of 'Old Hige', and River Mumma9 and an
elaborate Jonkunnu presentation. In keeping with
tradition, this involved the men only. The Minstrels
owned and used a real cow's skull and a "lovely
horse head". Jonkunnu bands would journey to
Stewart Town to dance for 'Miss Linda'. "And one
year I got a letter from one of them: I would like to
kow where you are going to be at Christmas for
where you are, there I want to be ". This must have
been a most encouraging demonstration of the
acceptance and affection coming from the ordinary
In the audience at Jamasing and Brukkins was an
American, experienced in stagecraft, who had made
a name as a producer on the local scene. Disillusioned
with the drama world Mrs. Doris Hastings now
wrote reviews and commentaries and a column for
JAMAICA Magazine. She 'adopted' the Cudjoe
Minstrels from that night and added much needed
expertise to the staging of future presentations. She
also introduced stage make-up, where charcoal had
formerly sufficed. The first joint effort was an
appearance in December 1938 at an Arts Ball staged
by the Quadrangle Club, a fashionable group which
presented concerts, plays and social functions.
The activities of the Cudjoe Minstrels climaxed in
1940. The appearances at concerts had, by 1938,
expanded to include dance and story telling. Later
street cries added further to the expression of
Jamaica's folk lore. "Manda goes-to Town" was
staged in 1940. Linda Stockhausen explains that
although "Manda" was her brainchild, the story line
and episodes were the product of the full company.
1NO producer is unseu in me progrmunme Lions
Hastings, at her request, received no more credit
than being listed among the persons to be thanked
for assistance. There was no attempt to write a
strong drama rather, Manda was a vehicle for the
stringing together of various folk expressions.
"Somebody said the plot was thin; there was no plot.
That was not my idea". Miss Stockhausen explains:
"It was to bring in Anancy stories, to bring in
Digging songs, Jonkunnu all the Folk that you
"Manda goes to Town" played to packed houses
at the Ward Theatre on June 1 and 8, 1940. Net
proceeds from these concerts benefited the Red Cross
War effort.'0 There was some discussion of a repeat
performance, but this never materialized.
Late in June an abridged version played at the Old
Court House in Spanish Town, and the Cudjoe
Minstrels travelled by train to Montego Bay for a
sold out performance at the Strand Theatre in
November. "Manda" tells the story of a young
woman who leaves her village to sample the freer life
of Kingston. She finds no great fulfilment there and
returns home before long, only to find her old
sweetheart on the verge of marrying to someone else.
The script served to lead from one tableau to another
where there might be a revival scene, perhaps, or a
dance, Anancy story, or in the final moments, a
typical country wedding complete with pompous
speech, eating and drinking.
The Cudjoe Minstrels were, in their own eyes, a
jolly group, and one incident during the Montego
Bay visit was recalled. In one scene from "Manda" a
prankster substituted wine for the usual tea which
one actor used to drink perhaps during the
wedding party. Other members of the cast looked on
admiring the realistic performance by this actor. The
truth came to light soon afterwards when he was
found, shortly after his exit, sound asleep in the
After "Manda goes to town", perhaps because of
the austerity of war conditions, the Cudjoe Minstrels
gave no major full presentations, but they continued
to appear at concerts, usually for charitable causes.
Some members also belonged to the Red Cross and
involved the group in their work. The Minstrels
also entertained at public institutions such as the
Hansen Home, George V Sanitorium and Bellevue,
and seemed to make regular appearances at these
locations each year during the Christmas season.
The founder of the Cudjoe Minstrels regards
Arthur Benjamin and Phillip Sherlock as godfathers
to the company, the former for having heard one of
the earliest performances, and gave his
encouragement both privately and in the Daily
Gleaner. The relationship continued by corres-
Phillip Sherlock had a sustained and sustaining
relationship with the Cudjoes. As an early
campaigner for the promotion of Jamaican folk lore,
he called on the Cudjoe Minstrels to illustrate
lectures, encouraged Linda Stockhausen to write
material for talks by both parties, took the stage
himself as narrator for one of the early productions
and had the real satisfaction of seeing -Folk
introduced into the National Festival Competition."
The Gleaner of November 25, 1940 records that "The
Cudjoe Minstrels ... were largely responsible for the
entertainment and contest, providing almost the
only entries in the various classes," offering
competition among themselves in solo and small
In the Jamaica Standard of September 8, 1939
Sherlock lends'support to the proposal by R.L.M.
Kirkwood for an "Annual Folk Lore Festival for
Jamaica". Sherlock had earlier made representations
for Folk entries in the National Festival for which
he was soundly criticized and he urged publication
and recording of the material. Phillip Sherlock and
the Cudjoe Minstrels seemed to catalyse each other,
writings, lectures and promotion on the one hand
interacting with the collecting and presentation on
stage of the Folk material. This two-sided
relationship is illustrated by Sherlock's quoting from
"Jamaican Story and Song" by Jekyll,12 a name
which made no impact when mentioned to Linda
Stockhausen. Yet the status of Folk music and Folk
lore in Jamaica owes a great debt to both of these
persons and the contribution of each would surely
have been diminished without this cross-fertilization.
Now retired and in her seventies, an alert and
active Linda Stockhausen recalls the heyday of the
Cudjoe Minstrels with mixed feelings many
members have passed on or migrated leaving a sense
of loss which is balanced by the joy of achievements
remembered. Yet she is pleased that oblivion has not
entirely engulfed her group's work. "I thought we
were rotten and forgotten" she said, without any
hint of bitterness, but as a simple statement.
An appreciation of the impact of the Cudjoe
Minstrels is gained from various anecdotes. During a
performance of "Manda" the cast sings a Revival
Chorus "Love is to open up de door". At the end of
the song Linda Stockhausen steps forward to begin a
speech looking squarely into the face of the Lord
Bishop of Jamaica in the Royal Box. "You know",
reflects Miss Stockhausen "We didn't expect anyone
like that to be there. ... We were afraid always that
we would shock people".
When the Cudjoe Minstrels first sang one
particular number in public there was a holding of
breath in the theatre followed by a self conscious
release of laughter when they sang "Gal yo clothes a
drap". (The original word is 'drawers'). On another
occasion the group was requested not to include
"Iron Bar" on a programme presented for visiting
dignitaries because some lyrics were regarded as
Unquestionably, something of the work of the
Cudjoe Minstrels must have influenced early
productions of the National Pantomime, and many a
Pantomime script owes a debt to the format of
"Manda goes to Town", the basic difference being
the use of original music in the later works.
Following the pioneer efforts by the Cudjoe
Minstrels Folk music has been made increasingly
acceptable, and indeed popular, by the Frats
Quintet, the Jamaican Folk Singers and a host of
other performing groups.
1. At that time also a Methodist-Presbyterian Seminary.
2. In a letter somewhat later announcing publication of his
arrangement for two pianos, Benjamin writes that the title
'Jamaica Rumba' is rather a contradiction in terms.
"Perhaps" he adds "you will hear it broadcast one day".
3. H. Leo Brown in a letter writes "Incidently [sic] the term
is not John Canoe but Jong Cunnu. The research of Olive
Lewin has given validity to the rendering Jonkonnu, used in
this article. Mr. Brown also questioned the use of a piano in
4. The story of the Cudjoe Minstrels.
5. The most extensive was "The Story of the Cudjoe Mins-
trels". It was written for the GLEANER'S weekly 'Pink
Sheet' but appeared instead in the first issue of Esther
Chapman's JAMAICA, March 11, 1939.
6. Jamaica Folk Songs Part 1 ... Sung by the Cudjoe Minstrels.
Arranged by Linda Stockhausen and Ivy Brown. 1938.
7. A Name supplied by the 'Cuban' cook.
8. The animals, growing tired of John Crow's stealing, invited
him to a party. The refrain of their song ended "Dip Bredda
John Crow, Dip" into a huge bowl of hot cornmeal
9. African mermaid.
10. The GLEANER for June 22, 1940 shows in a detailed state-
ment the net proceeds of 200.-- handed over to business
manager Mrs. Vera Moody.
11. The Choir of the East Queen Street Baptist Fraternal entered
the Festival that yearbutthe Frats Quintet apparently was
not yet formed or did not enter the competition.
12. In "Folk-songs and Songs of Today" /by/ PMS in the
GLEANER of December 17, 1938.
JAMAICAN FOLKSONGS AND A BALLET
QUEEN ELIZABETH II BIG BIG SAMBO GAL
BIG BIG SAMBO GAL
H ROYAL HIGHNESS i istr su by THE CUDJOE MINSTRELS
THE DUKE OF EDINBURTw g| R
TAI M O Present
SIManda Goes to Town"a 0,I
. MALE VOICE CHOIR ;rand Taii
a) Mn. Fyenanon
Good ovd no M.. flnno pn -i How a0 ,0 u 0 i0 eIano n
I~no.od. nIl0puM o 0 u NOVEMBER 8TH 8.30 P.U
Fi Fin Fintr. Nollin she do bat bFin
All Ih do v rmp piaMo nod od nod hewn -ne -.. .. .
Chon. AllIdo nir n ,OO.Ok as a nta Bay Wa
F EinA. Finoe. FmBn. FnIB. F DE. GA
TEACHER LICK DE GAL
One shift me have rat t ct i' same place 1'
r- m" |n" i
ett Me- me watch P Same Place I' patch fire- o Im, 11Teac-er lick- d. get I,
tan righbt o-lr Tend er lick_ d. get P tun right verr.
-44 1 1 0 _!- 7V
o.*hbift m bv. nt0* out 0 '
IneB ple i' out M=u natoh I
BMe plo i pe tel, t, buno i
T7e. r link d ic I' t.1-! 6I0 o1 r
T.oaL r link d- l I to rIhn b onr
TMn.r Uo de i I' tOnn ribt or
On. dmn lio al onof ialntd
00. dana twn 00 oner Iantolod
TIwbhr lak ds r, i" tun ight orer
Tloher lik de .01 i' lto rihl onr
oont Ul0e by Lnd. Stokhouoa .d Inn mrn,
Hold n runon ,I m.in t Moder Trecn
Hol d ind i, at Moder Tno
T70lh0 lInk de 00l 1. tan nght onr
T io. l rk de k l I' t-d n1bt t Te
p To. To. To. Ten. lM.ke tall o
0. T, T7.. Too, Tn., Mkor tell aon
Too. Ton. Tun, T.n. xIIk me tell )ou
A A I tr Cub d kill J. Browe
A b1ter C.uu& kill Jo Blnmo
. A bitter Co-do kid J. BOn..
R o n n o ili tllt
Sn'i home. to 'im Par-ents Oh sen'im back- to 'im M -ma 'im
t-k"- a w tk 4- 9 '.-l-- -- - e
take c-keelmake up'im tke'loot-ta cal-lar i Gnyou want f come kill me.
L- c I-j
JAMAICA FOLK SONGS
TEACHER LICK DE GAL
JACKASS DEY JUMP AND BRAY
SOURCES: "Folk Songs and Songs of Today" by P.M.S. in Gleaner, Dec. 17, 1938. "The importance of the Cudjoe Minstrels",
by H.R. Fowler, in Public Opinion, June 8, 1940. "Music Ho" Review by Robert Verity, in Jamaica Times, Nov. 25, 1939. "Our
Folk Songs and Folk Lore", by V deB. in Jamaica Times, Dec. 18, 1937. Reference by Authur Benjamin to work of the Cudjoe
Minstrels in article in Gleaner 'Pink Sheet', Nov. 27, 1937.
SATURDAY JUNE 8th, 1940
AT THE WARD THEATRE
At 8.30 P. M.
THE CUDJOE MINSTRELS
A Repeat Performance of
"MANDA GOES TO TOWN"
A Musical Entertainment
IN AID OF THE RED CROSS FUND
Admission:- Parquette & Dress Circle ........ 3/- & 2/-
Gallery ......................... ... I1/
BOOK AT COCKINGS, 21 Church Street, Kingston.
Space donated by J. S. WEBSTER & SONS.
(Bustamante seen as) THE
SHEPHERD, John Dunkley C.
1938 Collection: Bolivar Gallery
Below: THE SAWYERS, Edna
Manley1939 Collection: St Andrew
School for Girls
from The 'ormative Years
MIUSIIC IN THE JAMAICAN
BY: LILETH SEWELL I
Mrs. Lileth Sewell was born and educated in Jamaica. She was
trained at Bethlehem Teachers' College, the University of the
West Indies and the Jamaica School of Music.
Jamaicans are remarkably susceptible to the
"communion" of kindred spirits, inspired by music
and singing. Their reaction is peculiarly emotional -
a reaction that is best described in the language of
the Jamaican himself. 'Jamaicans feel music inna
dem bones; when we hear music it bite us under de
Music, to the African, has magical properties. It is
no wonder then that Jamaicans of African descent
regard music as an antidote to, and a panacea
for any ill effects of the white man's or the
aristocracy's political and cultural control.
Pamela O'Gorman observed that "the history of a
people is not found only in its history books in the
dry-as-dust tabulation of events. There is beneath all
these a living, breathing history that lies in the folk
songs;) and here one could add, in all its music.
Music, in the Labour Movement and Political Life
of this country has played a very important and
impressive role. It has been the heart-rending wail of
those who felt themselves alienated from the society
in which they live; the cry of the destitute who have
a burning desire to have economic, social and
political shackles shaken off so that they can become
independent; the bitterness and anger of the
frustrated "sufferer"; the ridicule and sarcasm of the
cynic; the intensity of the political fanatic. The
music of politics has over the years expressed
personal feelings and group reactions. It has served
to entertain the jubilant party supporters.
Thousands have danced to it at village squares all
over the island; adherents toast the party of their
allegiance in bars as they lustily sing their favourite
songs. Music has been used to express political
ideologies, to extol, to censure, to motivate people to
fight for a cause, to whip up emotions to a point of
resulting violence. It has been the music of protest
and of worship.
The Part played by Religious Music
Africans, uprooted from their various territories,
had among other things, to surmount the tribal
language barriers. Verbal communication was at
most times impossible. The drums and other musical
instruments were for a while their only means of
communication. In music the enslaved found an
outlet for their sorrows. Later on, the songs taught
by the missionaries became a common meeting
ground for their thoughts. As African religion was
suppressed the slaves readily embraced Christianity,
presumably because it seemed to be the key to the
white man'spower.2 When the slaves were freed they
retained their religious ardour, retaining the hymns;
but in many instances flavouring these hymns with
the interjection of African rhythms and melody lines.
Early observers and current ethnomusicologists
emphasize that Negro music and songs are
There is no doubt that leaders in the political field
capitalise on this aspect of our heritage; religion
made itself felt in the political arena from the
inception of any semblance of unions or political
strategy. The first songs that could be associated
with the political movement in Jamaica were those
used for worship in the established churches. Before
1944, there were no party songs as such as there were
no rival parties. The Labour Movement and the
struggle for nationhood were led jointly by
Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley.
The riots of unemployed workers in 1938
triggered off an awakening to the political needs of
the masses, and a quickening of public interest in
political affairs was apparent. The music used then
consisted chiefly of hymns, and it is interesting to
note that these hymns were mostly "fighting"
songs.4 The Labour Movement used songs such as
"Onward Christian Soldiers", "Fight the Good
Fight", "Those who March to War", "Let God
Arise", as its main songs. Later on these songs were
used by political parties which grew out of the
Labour Movement. The Jamaica Labour Party was
always known to start a rally with "Onward
Christian Soldiers", while the People's National
Party sang "Blest be the tie that binds", "Lord Thy
Word abideth", "0 God, our help in ages past".5
Norman Manley had as his favourite hymn, "There
were Ninety and Nine", while his son, the Prime
Minister is said to favour "I must have the Saviour
Songs of praise and songs asking for God's
guidance have been profusely used. Among these are
"Now think we all our God", "Mine eyes have seen
the Glory", "Praise my soul the King of Heaven",
"O God our help in ages past"; in some of these
hymns such as "Thy Kingdom come, O Lord", is
mirrored the yearning for release from the oppression
being experienced and in a line from "From
Greenland's Icy Mountains", the burning desire to
deliver "their land from error's chains"6 is
vehemently expressed. The words of these well
known hymns, expressed in songs, must have been
much more meaningful in a Jamaican situation than
if the same ideas had been expressed verbally from a
Religion was closely tied in with politics even
before the era of the recognized political movements.
Paul Bogle's political life was intricately tied in with
his religious life as he expounded his political
thoughts from the pulpit of the church in which he
was a deacon. One can safely assume that hymns and
gospel songs were employed to kindle and maintain
the keen interest of his followers. George William
Gordon was a preacher in a circuit of Independent
Baptist Meeting Houses, who travelled extensively
over the island. In his sermons he preached against
the existing social, political and economic injustices
in Jamaica. Again it is a safe assumption that these
sermons were interspersed with much hymn singing.
With the advent of mass politics in the 1940's,
came the continued use of religion and religious
songs. It is ironical then that accusations have been
made against the People's National Party that it is
atheistic in its outlook. One wonders then why hymn
singing and Bible readings are standard features of
its group meetings. Another puzzling matter is the
extent to which the two major political parties, as
well as the many others which emerged and failed,
relied so heavily on the religious beliefs of the people.
Barry Chevannes contends that "it (religion)
continues to play the same role (of being used as a
resistance point culturally and politically) and none
understands this better than the politicians".8
The Jamaica Labour Party pride themselves on
being founded on sound Christian principles;9 and so
over the years they have used religious songs wher-
ever political campaigns and meetings are held. The
songs used are similar to those used in the unions of
workers and those used in the early years when there
was one combined labour and political movement.
Hymns are not the only religious music used. The
songs of the folk culture have been used, especially
those with strong rhythmic background. Revival
songs and Sankeys are among the favourite ones.
Since Adult Suffrage in 1944 the masses form the
greater percentage of the electorate. It is interesting
to observe the preponderance of revival tunes,
choruses, and gospel songs in use since then; and
side by side with these are tunes and vocabulary of
the contemporary "pop" music. Typical of these are
the ones which, although they may retain the
original melody, the rhythm is altered and the words
are changed to suit the need of each party or
Songs such as "Go before us, Lord, go before us"
have been altered to be sung as:
i. Go before us Manley
ii. Go before us Busta
iii. Go before us Glasspole
iv. Go before us Joshua
v. Go before us Shearer
"Our God surely will deliver" is sung as "Joshua
power surely will deliver". The most recent one heard
in a bar by this writer was a moving "Wake" song,
adapted to be sung as:
"I saw Father Manley (Abraham)
Stretch fort' de palm of 'is right han'
To take me across socialism (Jordan River)"
In the anthem of the People's National Party is
stated the "assurance that God will look down, and
grant us His blessings our effort to crown", and so
the call is made to "build by His grace a nobler
Jamaica, a loftier race". The same party has a song
specially composed and set aside for members who
are travelling abroad. God is invoked to "guard our
comrade from all harm", to be "the pilot ever near"
and to "breathe (His) peace be still".
Louise Bennett, the well known folklorist,10 attests
that political rallies have always commenced with
the singing of a hymn and that even from the
beginning, soloists and bands were a part of every
It is difficult to determine how many of these
political leaders are genuinely religious, but it is
evident that religion and its songs play a very
important role in influencing people to give their
allegiance to a particular party, and although the
burning question is how far should the Church
"meddle" in politics, it is clear that for many decades
to come politicians will use this almost fanatic
religious fervour of Jamaicans to enhance their
chances at the polls so long as Jamaica remains a
Studs Terkel supports this when he states that
"the integration of religious forms, speech
patterns and folk tales into the political
arena is important to the survival of a
party"." Jamaican political history confirms
What Olive Lewin says of folk music could be aptly
applied to the music of the political sphere. This
Research Officer states that much of the music of our
forefathers was "only one manifestation of the basic
philosophies and religious beliefs of the people".12
This assertion could be used to describe the religious
music chosen from the numerous songs to be used to
Songs Depicting the Personality of the Candidate
Adult Suffrage enabled Jamaica to enter the era of
Mass P6litics.13 Apparently because the newly
established electorate was unfamiliar with political
dogma, their main allegiance was to the person
expounding the political theories. In the "febrile
atmosphere" of the political campaigns in Jamaica,
auditory appeals and personality often overshadow
One finds, therefore, that the songs which reflect
the hero-worship of individuals are numerous; and
in these songs is seen the tendency to shape the
character of the party not merely by the political
view of an influential individual but by all facets of
his personality. In the 1960 (vol. 9) issue of Social
and Economic Studies the opinion is expressed that
"no rival of comparable stature to Bustamante or
Manley has appeared to lead a possible third party
and so one finds that most of these songs extol the
virtues, bravery brilliance of these two great political
figures. It is important to note too, how emotionally
charged these songs are.
As far back as 1938, during the waterfront strikes,
workers lustily sang "I will follow Bustamante till I
die", to be followed by:
"Busta power is movin' jus' like a magnet ....
It moves in you and it moves in me
Jus' like the day of Pentecost ...."
Alongside these were
"Hurrah for Bustamante,
Hurrah for Busta's boys.
Bustamante goes before us as our leader,
Bustamante never make no war.* 15
"Busta is the lily of the valley,
The bright and morning star;
He's the fairest of ten thousand
To my soul".
Later on there was
"BUSTA feed us, Busta clothe us,
Busta fill our heart with joy.
Glory to Busta we are free;
For we know what Busta is doing for us
That's why we are happy all day".16
When difficulties arise the followers find
expression in music to pledge their faith and loyalty
to their political hero. The music and words of an
original song are adapted to suit the occasion for
which it is required. The song "Down in the valley
with the Chief I will go "depicts this. It continues in
the same vein:
"Follow, follow, I will follow Busta,
Anywhere, everywhere I will follow on".
Invariably the songs stir the emotions of the singers
and those who listen,and kindle a fire that usually
brings the desired results.
In the parish of Clarendon the virtues of McNeil
were extolled in "McNeil, McNeil, vote for Eustace
McNeil", as he contested a seat in Local Government
elections as an Independent candidate."
Over in St. Ann, Sydney James was lovingly hailed
"Little David, play on your harp,
and this was so because he was adored as an
instrumentalist who always led the local band which
played at political meetings around the area.
Undoubtedly his music stood him in good stead as he
presented the candidate he supported in any election.
Invariably those meetings were always well
During the recent elections the hills of St. Andrew
resounded as exuberant party followers sang
"Closer than a brother,
Lindo is to me;
He's my dearest friend
In everything I need.
He's my rock, my shield and hiding place ...,
and although he lost at the polls, this song must
have impressed many who heard it.
Marcus Garvey was serenaded with
"Garvey dear, we love you,
Honest we do;
You are so true",19 (and his virtues were
enumerated in consecutive order)
"Marcus Garvey brave and true,
He's a man of high degree.
Now we shall rise in truth and high estate,
For he shall set his people free".2
Many voters were wooed to the polls by the singing
of "Michael, row the boat ashore", and many women
must have reacted passionately when they sang
about Iris Collins-King, the first woman to enter
active politics here. Even the men forgot male
superiority as they joined in and sang
"Vote for the filly,
Vote for the filly,
Vote for the filly,
The filly is sure to win ...."
In the majority of the songs the people were asked
to vote for the person, instead of being called upon to
vote for the party. So in one song people were
practically coerced to -
"Vote for Manley, Glasspole, Wills Isaacs
On election day.
Vote for Manley, Glasspole, Ken Hill,
That's what the people say".21
In Social and Economic Studies, p.4., an article
supports the assumption that Jamaicans are more
impressed with personalities than with party
policies. This however seems to be truer among the
less privileged of our people. In the same article on
Party Politics in Jamaica the writer contends that
this hero worship of personality can even cause free
movement of leadership between parties with no ill
effect to the deflector. He cites Ken Hill, Rose Leon
as examples. He further refers to this as "personality
party politics". It is for these reasons that the songs
project the personality of the candidate.
Even when the now defunct Federation of the
West Indies was the topic of the song, personality
predominated as is shown in
"Federation story is going all about
But nobody never tell it to me.
'Twas only Manley, Iris and Glasspole
Tell it to me".22
So riled have adherents sometimes become when
the image of their adored is attacked that there have
been subsequent outbursts of violence and personal
physical attacks. Aggie Bernard vividly recalls
incidents of violence involving both parties as
aggressors, when derogatory songs were sung about
a favourite candidate.
Song of Ridicule and Derision
Jamaicans are well known for their sense of
humour and their ability to poke fun at rivals in a
jocular yet sarcastic manner. This characteristic is
found in the songs of all the political parties. The
emergence of mass politics in Jamaica provided
ample scope for the development of this Jamaican
trait. The need for opposition and rivalry arose and
the Jamaican electorate became vociferous in their
music. The vigorous political interest since 1938
stimulated the formation of many parties. However,
two have consistently dominated Jamaican politics
both at Central and Local Government levels.2 One
will find therefore that most of the songs originated
among groups of these two major political parties.
After the hurricane of 1951, the Honourable Rose
'Leon who was then a member of the Jamaica Labour
Party, was instrumental in securing clothing for
victims of the disaster. Concurrently the Jamaica
Labour Party leaders were alleged to have said at a
public meeting that "salt-fish is more important
than education". Readily the opposing party sang:
"Old clothes government! a weh me do yuh?
Sal' fish government! a weh me do yuh?
Chakka-chakka government! a weh me do yuh?
Me ask yuh fih wuk an' yuh gimme ol' clothes".
On Bustamante's release from imprisonment in
1942, a public meeting was held at the Ward Theatre.
Of the chief songs sung at this meeting the most
popular must have been a funeral hymn adapted for
what turned out to be a "funeral service"24 and was
ceremoniously sung thus:
"Shirley gone, Shirley gone,
Shirley gone to a silent home;
And forever with Manley (Norman)
Amen! so let it be".
Although the song was serious in content it was
really intended to poke fun at Shirley, Vice President
of the Union who was charged with misusing the
unions money and car, without sanction. Manley and
Bustamante had broken political association and so
this dirge was meant to ridicule Manley. The practice
of performing funeral rites for an unsuccessful party
or candidate can be regarded as poking fun at the
loser. During the "funeral procession", "burying"
hymns are sung and as usual words are deleted from
the original songs and appropriate substitutions
A group in Montego Bay, sometime before the 1944
election, jeeringly sang
"Come we go dung a gully battam;
Tek yuh yeye off de four race haase
See C.B. roun' de caana,
Mr. Lowe back-a im;
See Aubrey Stephenson mek de coat house ....
Donkey Wanderer25 hare-um-scare-rum.
Tek yuh yeye off de four race haase".
Singers do not hesitate to poke fun at any
candidate's physical incapacity as shown in an
"Corkfoot Simpson, yuh vagabon'
If a ketch vuh, a cut off de nadder one".26
A similar pattern is seen in the singing of the
song to undermine the morale of one party through
ridicule, and without any regard to the sensiti-
vity of the persons sung about; as was done when the
Leader of the Opposition had newly taken over the
reins of his party.
During the campaign meetings for the
Referendum, the streets re-echoed the singing of
"Federation is a boderation", as the Jamaica Labour
Party preached against a federation of the West
Indies. The popular revival song, "Adam in the
garden hiding" has been adapted by both parties,
with each substituting its own words, for example:
"Manley in de garden hiding,
Hiding from Busta",
"Shearer in de garden hiding,
Hide himself from Mike".
These songs were carried all over the island, and
appropriately the names of the candidate for the
constituency was substituted.
Sometimes these songs were so cuttingly sarcastic
that no equivalent English words would do justice to
them; and so what would be probably regarded in
some quarters as the most ribald Jamaican language
has to be employed. Two of these come readily to
mind, and for obvious reasons words are left out in
this printed medium.
"--- dead an' gone, dead an' gone,
Dead an' gone forever.
If you follow --- Party,
You'll never wear a ---"
"--- tek a bundle of grass,
Fih tie up under --- ---,
When Norman Manley in the Nineteen Forties
abandoned his political aloofness and led in the
national struggle under the banner of the People's
National Party, the call was made to join his party,
mainly through the medium of music. Many of these
songs ridiculed the already established policies of
Bustamante, and so during the campaigns of the
1944 elections a popular song was
"Come join de P.N.P.,
Get Busta out de way;
Busta only speculate
An' we words 'im underate
So join de P.N.P. ....
Busta tek we union card
An' go mek --- a' right'
That there is no record of anyone being charged for
libel or defamation of character is testimony to, and
proof of the Jamaican's ability to poke fun and to
accept in good spirit, fun poked at him; or perhaps
he just prefers to retaliate with other songs or
The second stanza of another song covers the idea
of a particular party advancing like a "mighty host",
causing "Chief" to be on the run. Probably because
Bustamante was a force to be reckoned with there
were many songs of this nature referring to him. In a
very popular song one stanza deridingly states that
"Busta promise electric fan
No house, no lan' fih heng it pon;
But even before the era of these two great stalwarts,
people were ridiculing their leaders. Bedward, whose
religious movement was considered political in
motive because it had in its doctrines the idea of a
struggle on behalf of the oppressed, was ridiculed in
"Mongoose go inna Bedward kitchen,
Tek out one a 'im righteous chicken".
Typically there is a second meaning in the words of
Marcus Garvey who advocated that the world
accept the supremacy of the Black Race was not
spared as his opponents mocked when he lost the
election to a seat in Local Government. They sang
"Marcus Garvey jump tru de winda
Bruck 'im little finga fih one dry pinda".
After he was "let down" by his voters allegedly
because of a bribe they sang
"Don't min' St. Andrews people,
Dem jus' like chink and weevil;
Dem sell 'im vote for rice an' peas".
In St. Ann during a hectic campaign the opposing
candidate was held up to ridicule as the singers
uproariously laughed as they sang
"Run Martin, Lloydie back a yuh".
Bustamante had represented Central Kingston for
a number of years, but decided to go to represent a
constituency in Clarendon instead. He had scarcely
arrived in that parish before his political opponents
mocked him in song yelling,
"Where is the Labour leader today,
It seems as if he has gone astray;
From Central Kingston he has flown away
To a place where he can hardly stay.
Come let us find him where e'er he abides,
For he has told us some dreadful lies".28
In spite of this jibing song, Bustamante won with a
convincing majority. Coincidentally, Pixley was
jibed with "the bird can't fly". 29
The Role of Music in the Unions
The use of religious songs in unions of workers is
not peculiar to Jamaica. Edith Fowke and Joe
Glazier writing about Union Songs Jf America have
this to say
"Musically speaking the line from the church to
the union hall is short and direct. Some of the
greatest union songs have been adapted from
hymns, gospel songs and spirituals .... workers
naturally transferred their feelings and music
from the Church to the union hall or picket
These two writers could have been describing the
situation in Jamaica as this is so true of the music
used among the workers here. Aggie Bernard vividly
recalls the use of hymns in the early years of the first
unions which later merged to form the Bustamante
Industrial Trade Union. Most of these are the hymns
mentioned in the section dealing with the Role of
Religious Music. As stated there the songs depicted
the fighting spirit of the people in the Labour
The physical horrors, social and economic in-
justices and the low morale of the people bred a
desire to fight back and encouraged the formation of
Trade Unions. Again songs were used to play on the
emotions of the workers as also to serve as a safety
valve for their pent up anger and frustrations,
generated by the pressure from the Establishment.
Most of the first union songs, not including
hymns, were composed by Granville Campbell and
W. McBean. The latter seemed to lean heavily on the
idea of the whole exercise being a struggle and fight.
The animosity of the workers against the "vile
oppression" and the vow to fight for freedom and
justice is portrayed. In these songs too the workers
are encouraged to unite and "break the bonds of
thraldom". The final lines call on workers to "unite,
unite and fight".3
The same idea of fighting is found in "Toilers",
sung to the tune of "Onward Christian Soldiers", as
the battle cry is made to
"Sound the note of battle ....
March against the tyrants".
Women were summoned to "come like brave war
maidens" and to co-operate and support the men in
TRANSCRIPTIONS & NOTATIONS
Because Bustamante was a leading figure in the
Trade Union Movement, the workers sang many
songs depicting him as a great leader. Among these
were "Hurrah for Bustamante", "Go before us
Busta, go before us".
With the rift between Bustamante and Norman
Manley came the formation of the Trades Union
Congress, a strong electioneering machinery; and
with this new union came new songs. "Ho my
comrades see the signal" with its appeal to the Trade
unionists to fight the ills being experienced, was a
popular song among the workers.32
Although the riots of 1938 among the workers
were not politically motivated, in the long run the
BY: MARJORIE WHYLIE
Although it is beyond the scope of the study, mention may be made of the general singing style: At political meetings, there is usually a
song leader whose function it is to 'warm-up' the crowd and attract listeners. The songs are tracked' i.e. lines are spoken before they are
sung. Many of these songs are in fact hymns, from various denominations and from the Moody and Sankey Hymnal, that inspiration of
many Revivalist groups. The singing is characterized by long metre, lines are dragged, and final phrases held as long as possible. Triadic
harmony is also a feature and descant parts are sung at will; the.tone varies from very nasal to open-throated, and breathes are taken
whenever necessary regardless of the progress of the words and sense of lines.
Air li ri-i r L
I saw Fa-ther Man-ley stretch fort 'de palm of 's right han'to take me a-cross So- cial is- m
i I I a At
Bus- to pow er is mo- vin jus like a mag -net._ Bus to pow- e is mov- in jus like a ,
SBus- ta Pow -er is mo i in jus' like a mag-net.
Cork-foot Simp-son yuh a-ga-bon an if ah ketch yu ah chop off d* od-der one.
Dip yourfin- gerinthe. vot-ing ink,. the o-ng ink, th vo-ting ink. Dip -yaurf in the
aI 11 7 M 1
A vo-tine ink and .in vour name u. there. -
Sign your name,
Sin your nam up
S.... I..I I. *
I _Ce ~II_ I_ _
Aign your :..M p thaw.
SiRn your name.
In-de-pen-dence Is Rood for the rmunR and the odd
Al-so for w and me
pen-denc is ood for the whoe gee a-on n-cluding your chil-dren too.
'7 -' f -6-
fd-low Bus-ta- man-t., hwe w tf-low Bus-toa man-tu
Bus-ta- man-te w fd-low. Bus-ta- man-te till w dead.
GO BEFORE US
Go be-fore us Manley go before us.
do thy work th slf. Roll Man-ley roll
dothy th f. Lit-de Da-vid
do thy work Lyi-f.
and do thy work thy-yself
Rd ol Man-ley rol ....
play on your harp. Alil
Go Ib-fr u anley go b-fw~ us. and
RM Majm Iy Md.... *wd
lu, Al- -
A Garvey dear, we love
you Ho-anut w do YeO n awe .
R Full transcriptions and references
available to researchers on request.
a-tion sto-ry is run-nin a a -bout, but no- bo-dy-d it to
.a-tion a-ry i rn-nin lia -bout, bu no.- bo-dsni-i w tdtto
me. Fed-er- a-tion sto-ryis run-nine all a- ou b
A me 'Twas on-ly Man- lay -ris an Glass- pole
-) Man- ly, I-ris, Glass-pole that tell the whole sto-ry
bo -dyt t ne told' it "'
tll it to me. my Lord. Twaos n-ly
OLD CLOTHES -
Old cloths go-vrnment! ... A whey me do you ....7 Sal fish go-vern-ment! A whey me do yu ......
A whey me do you M ask yuh fi wuk an' yuh im-meo clothes.
J Chak-kacha-ka go-vern-ment! ....
Labour Movement proved to be the backbone of the
political parties and so the party with the strongest
union support invariably won at the polls. In turn
the union with the most popular leaders presented
these candidates for election to Parliament, and in
most cases they won a seat.33 This explains why the
songs of the unions ultimately became party songs.
Another song "We shall overcome" borrowed from
the American Civil Rights Movement was used by
both the National Workers Union and its affiliated
party. The last stanza was specially adapted for
So strong was the feeling of aggression among the
majority of the working force that the songs verbally
attack the opponent. There is the possibility that
sometimes these songs were meant to intimidate a
weak-hearted opponent. Hence when such songs as
"We'll roll the union cart" were sung it was
emphasised that if "Manley (Michael) in de way,
we'll roll it over him"; or when sung by the National
Workers Union members "If Shearer in de way"
was substituted. At the time when this writer heard
these sung these two men were impressive union
The adoption of the song "The People's Flag'bby
the Trades Union Congress branded them as being
communistic in their outlook; but the plaintive
melody and dramatic lyrics made a great impact on
the membership and strength of that union as they
sang the chorus of that song:
"Then raise the scarlet standard high!
Within its shade we'll live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here".
An observer from outside Jamaica who is not aware
of the effect of music on our people would probably
be appalled to see how mesmerised the singers are as
hundreds of them fervently sing this song at a union
Songs and music in general proved important in
the early days of unionism as these helped to ease the
tensions and to unite the workers in an effort to
consolidate the efforts of the unions. Imprisonment
was always imminent in the initial years of the
Labour Movement with its resulting Trades Unions;
and so in many of the songs the unionists were asked
to ignore the threat of imprisonment.36 A stanza is
specially added to "Workers' Song", and was
intended to be used exclusively when comrades were
released from prison.
The interdependence of the union and the party is
brought out in the song "Hold the Fort, for we are
coming, P.N.P. and N.W.U. so strong". Another
such example is a stanza in "Mek we join de P.N.P.",
a party song in which one stanza runs thus;
"Lead us Manley (Norman) lead us on -----
The workers know you are the man -----"
In a television interview on Friday, March 20 of
this year Aggie Bernard dramatically related the
events during the labour unrest on the waterfront. In
an interview later on she further stressed the
deprivations faced by the workers who had gone on
strike. When asked about the songs used then, she
named the hymns that were later to become the
hymns known and sung by workers and union
members affiliated to both the Labour Party and the
People's National Party.
It was difficult to ascertain to what extent hymns
and music are still being used among unionized
workers. One person interviewed suggested that
music has been replaced by guns among the labour
force. However this writer was assured that hymns
are used as part of the opening ceremony at union
rallies and conferences.
One hymn that is said to be very popular is
"Fight the good fight with all thy might,
Christ is thy strength and Christ thy light;
Lay hold on life and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally".
The first two lines of the last stanza are very signifi-
cant as they give encouragement to
"Faint not, nor fear, His arms are near;
(for) He changeth not, and thou art dear".
The role of patriotic songs
It was to music that the agitators for a better
Jamaica turned as a vehicle for their political
aspirations and thoughts during the turbulent years
of the 1930's and '40's. There was a strong
nationalistic feeling permeating the consciousness of
the masses; they became politically articulate after
the riots of 1938 and even more so after the island
gained independence. This political awareness
seemed to be centred on the fact that Jamaica was
on its way to being a nation, and that at last, there
was the freedom of the individual to call a country
his own. Lord Oliver, a former Governor of
Jamaica was heard to exclaim during those years of
crisis that "all over Jamaica in places where one
would least expect it, the worm is beginning to
One therefore finds that the earliest recorded
songs, separate and apart from hymns, were
specially composed and were outstandingly patriotic
in content. Among the first of these was "Our
Homeland". In it the composer calls on Jamaicans to
"stand as faithful children" and to be proud of
Jamaica although it is a small island. Even in these
early years the call was made to eradicate racial
prejudice and to regard all shades of men in Jamaica
In the published songs of the People's National
Party this idea of stirring people to be aware of
Jamaica as their country is recurrent. One would be
led to assume that the politicians were cognizant of
the fact that "the natives" (sic) were sensitive to
their being regarded as second class citizens in their
own country. This was inborn as the country's social,
economic and political structures were controlled by
the plantacrocy. The early politicians, conscious of
the urge for recognition, and fully aware of the power
of music, used songs as the medium to foster this
pride in one's country in the meanwhile using the
patriotic trend in the party's manifesto. "Land of the
Bold and Free", "A Better Deal", "P.N.P. is
calling", "Pull Comrades, Pull", all have the same
patriotic vein running through them. In the songs
one finds such thoughts as:
"The right to rule our country,
Is a right we'll never waive;
Our manhood demands that we should rise
And unitedly claim our noble prize".
The appeal is then made to accomplish all this
"through the People's National Party". An analysis
of the Anthem of the People's National Party* with
words by William Seivwright shows clearly that
much thought was given to composing songs that
would emotionally appeal to a cross-section of the
population. This appeal has been so effective that
many persons recognizing the patriotic nature of the
anthem have expressed regret that it is a political
song. So patriotic and nationalistic are the words
that it could easily be used as the National Anthem
of any country. It invokes one and all to "awake
from your slumber and answer the call" to join "in
the fight for his own native land". In the refrain is a
pledge to the country:
"Land of my birth, I pledge to be
Loyal and faithful, true to thee".
The second stanza realises the difficulties to be
encountered and in the final stanza God's blessings
are invoked to build "a nobler Jamaica, a loftier
"Jamaica, Glorious Homeland"*, sung to the tune
of "The Church's one foundation", extols the virtues
of Jamaica and admits to knowing that we can serve
our country best by claiming our freedom. It
expresses confidence that Jamaicans are capable of
making the country "proud in our liberty".
The youth of the island are exhorted in "Salute to
Life" to be the new generation to "join in the battle
for truth" as the country "turns toward the dawn of
a new life begun".
In many cases the heart-rending experiences of the
populace are used to arouse their bitterness against
the historical circumstances which now control their
status. One finds that words such as
"Toil we now no longer,
For another's gain,
While our wives and children
Pine in want and pain.
Slaves we've been and cowards
But the night is o'er;
Up thee with the morning,
Weep and sigh no more".
will have much meaning and foster a feeling of
building a new society, if these feelings are properly
Currently this patriotism is taken up in song by
the popular musicians whose music is in the idiom of
the current "beat" but with the words claiming
citizenship in the island. Pluto Shervington gives the
modern outlook in his hit song
"I man born yah
I man ahn yah
I nah leave yah
Fih go America;
No way sah;
Pot a bwile yah;
Belly full yah;
On the extreme side are those of us who are seeking
to identify ourselves with our African roots. The
Rastafarians feel strongly about this, and in turn
have influenced many, especially the new generation.
Among the first of these was
"Take me back to Ethiopia land". The Rastafarian
claims that he owes no patriotism to Jamaica, and
sees Black people as "oppressed anywhere he is
outside of Africa". Therefore instead of singing
"Jamaicans stand on your feet", he sings "Black
man stand on your feet". The politicians,aware of
this cultural awareness among the youth,are making
inroads into this new ideology and it remains to be
seen what use will be made of this in the forthcoming
elections. It will be interesting to see politicians
encouraging the music of "Back to Ethiopia Land",
while imploring us to remember "I man born yah".
During the years 1883 1935, many Jamaicans
migrated. Samuel and Edith Hurtwitz give the
figure as 10,000 annually3sThis leads one to assume
that these migrants had found conditions in Jamaica
intolerable and had left to seek greener grass
elsewhere. As is currently being done, strong appeals
were made for them to regard Jamaica as home. The
writer has been reliably informed that the songs of
the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the
People's National Party were sung by the members
of the Progressive League in the United States of
America when meetings were convened.39 It is not
too far fetched to conceive that much of the support
given by this league to organizations in Jamaica was
even partially inspired by these songs of patriotism
- such songs as
"Land of our birth we adore thee
And answer whene'er you call.
We stand as faithful children
All for each and each for all.
With hearts and hands we endeavour
Bravely to stand for thee
We seek the welfare of our homeland ...."
The comparison between the salubrious climate of
the land they had left, and the cold, alien country
they had adopted must have made them sing fondly
"Hip hip for old Jamaica,
Land of sunshine and climate serene."
Use of Songs to explain ideologies and
convey messages to the Electorate
Lady Bustamante states that it is "quite
noticeable that among all strata of Jamaicans that
they are music lovers, and it is indeed interesting to
see how our people react to the strains of music at all
Those involved in politics seem to realise this. For
although the news media is used for verbal
communication and even with the popularity of
television broadcasts, politicians realise that these
amenities are not available to the greater percentage
of the electorate.
Songs have therefore been used extensively for
imparting the ideologies of the various political
parties. Sometimes the opinion is expressed that
songs are used because so many of our people are
illiterate and so would not readily comprehend any
message written or orally delivered in a sophisticated
manner. Statistics do show that the greater
percentage of the voters are illiterate, so this may be
one explanation for the profuse use of music; it may
be the reason why songs make such an impact where
speeches fail. However this writer is inclined to agree
with Louise Bennett that the Jamaican's inherent
love of music is the deciding factor for the
employment of music in campaigns and canvassing"9
Even before the era of party politics, leaders in
Jamaica used the medium of music to convey
messages to the people. Marcus Garvey stressed the
dignity of the Black Race and although his
involvement in politics did not meet with much
success then, the words of the songs used seemingly
were meant to project the image of the Black Race.
The "master song'40iof his movement (the United
Negro Improvement Association) was
"We are uniting, we are uniting
And it is said that negroes
could not be united;
Tell it out through all the world
We are uniting.
The tune "te ra ra bum" has been used to
advertise the policy of the People's National Party in
"The P.N.P. has pledged to fight
Until we gain our human right"
and again in
"The P.N.P. has got a plan
Which every man can understand."
In "P.N.P. is Calling" the Party pledges to "fight for
a better life" and to "conquer social strife". When
this party's slogan was "A Better Deal", the
manifesto was conveyed to the public in music, using
"A better deal, a better deal,
We firmly demand a better deal"
The second stanza expresses that
"We pledge ourselves to unity,
We are seeking to gain our human right
To freedom and security".
Songs such as the last mentioned must have been
impressive as it must be borne in mind that slavery
had caused the loss of self confidence and there was
dire need for this to be restored.
The People's National Party formed in September
1938, declared its immediate aims to be
I. Universal Suffrage and constitutional reform
II. Full support of Labour and Trade
In 1940 it declared its adherence to Socialist
principle and affirmed its policy that socialism must
be democratic and Christian in method and outlook.4
Consequently the message was relayed in the text of
the songs used, which songs the party retained and
increased in number after the formation of the
Jamaica Labour Party. In these songs an appeal is
made for Jamaicans who are "suffering" to sever
from "the hands of those Dictators who have
changed your very life".42
Granville Campbell in composing another party
song states the slogan as being
"Might ne'er shall conquer right". He then
proceeds to say, justifiably or unjustifiably so that
"justice, truth, twin virtues, are ever with the
P.N.P.". Assurance is given in yet another song that
through the party "from dirt and slum and degration
we all shall be free". People are encouraged to join
the party because the party is "striving to give a
helping hand to all Jamaicans". Numerous are the
songs calling people to be members of a particular
party. With the intensified accent on socialism the'
call is now made to support socialism; and so one
finds a declaration that
"We are marching on to socialism ....
We are blood fire socialists"
and in another
"Press along socialists, press along
In God's own time
Persecution you must bear
Trials and crosses in your way
The hotter the battle, the sweeter the victory".
"Anybody ask you who I am ....
Tell them I am a socialist"
The message to be prepared is given in
"Get ready socialist, get ready,
Get ready everybody get ready,
For in the morning yuh fresh an' bloomin'
In the evening yuh widda (wither) away".
To what extent these songs will be effective in
spreading the doctrine of socialism is still to be
determined but the believers in socialism continue to
"Onward Christian socialists
Marching as to war;
With the banner of the P.N.P.
Going on before;
Joshua is our leader,
All one body we;
And in socialism
We can never fail".
In these songs is displayed a certain contagious
fervour and with the tunes being adaptations of the
religious tunes familiar to the humble people of our
island no one can say for sure that they will not be
influenced by these songs.
During the pre-election campaign for the 1972
General Elections the P.N.P. used as its favourite
song the Reggae tune "Better must Come". This
became the slogan of the party given in music. An
effective party shout was "Power for the people".
This was put to music with the word interspersed at
appropriate intervals. Jointly with this was sung,
"Joshua power surely will deliver".
When symbols were introduced to assist the
illiterates of our society to cast their vote the voters
were taught to recognize the symbol of each party
through songs. The Jamaica Labour Party sang
"Bell a ring fih dinner, Bell a ring fih supper",43 while
the People's National Party retalliated with, "Bells
are made by fools like these, but only God can make
a tree". Then when the symbol was the Head, the
party informed its supporters by singing
"Use your head wisely
Go out on election day
And vote for ----- (the candidate presented)
Long before the 1960's the slogan of a particular
party was, "Sweep dem clean". This was made more
forceful as the supporters sang this to the tune of
"Don't fence me in".
One must bear in mind that the songs of the period
1938 to 1943 were sung by all Jamaica and that most
of these songs remained songs of the People's
National Party. This may in part account for the
dearth of songs of the Jamaica Labour Party. One
observer remarked that the last mentioned Party
used mainly hymns, and as mentioned elsewhere
were chiefly about Bustamante.44
The Role of Topical Songs
"Every society", George Beckford contends "is a
product of the particular forces that give it shape
and form".45 One has only to examine the songs
composed by Jamaicans relating to the events which
affect their lives, to determine the particular forces
which shape the history of this country. The
ordinary folk seems unparalleled in his ability to
spontaneously compose lyrics and music which aptly
describe a situation.
When strikes, triggered off by the unrest among
all categories of workers in Jamaica, were numerous,
Slim and Sam, a singing team, composed lyrics
which aptly assessed the situation:
"Strike, strike strike,
All around me is strike;
Now de worker pon de wharf dem strike,
Constable man do the same.
Banana man, the cane-piece man
Dem all play de same game.
Everything in Jamaica is striking".
In relating the particular event the composer's
thought usually creeps in; and in many instances
these comments reflect the thoughts of the populace.
So it was that many years after the above-mentioned
was sung, the country seemed to be on the brink of
economic collapse; morale was low and the people
seemed desperate. The Ethiopians, a singing group,
used the medium of the ska to display the mood of
the masses. The song was similar in many respects
to the one of the previous years and in part says:
"Look deh now!
Firemen strike, watermen strike;
Down to the policeman too;
Wah gone bad a mawning
Ca'an come good a evening Oh ...."
The people responded enthusiastically both to the
lyrics and the beat. It was the voice of the people in
music and so it became an instant hit.
With the introduction of the voter's ink there came
"Dip your finga in de votin' ink,
An' sign your name up dere".
The decade of the Nineteen Sixties will probably
be recorded as one of the most troublesome periods
of Jamaica's contemporary history. This decade was
marked by unrest, anxieties, uncertainties and
self-doubt.46 It was during this decade that Jamaica
seceded from the West Indian Federation and gained
Independence. An interesting reaction from
Jamaicans during this period was described in
"Independence is good for the young and the old
Also for you and me.
Independence is good for the whole generation
Including your children too".
Further on is expressed:
"Twas good to see
Two politicians shaking hands".
This decade saw many confrontations from the
lowliest in the society. The songs of the period
reflected the attitudes, assumptions and aspirations
of the man in the street, the women in the market
place, the slum dwellers, those who felt themselves
alienated, for example, the Rastafarians. The songs
evolved from being subtle and of double meaning to
being forthright, except for naming the person sung
about. Most of these songs cast aspersions on the
politicians who are always blamed for the problems
faced and for the poor socio-economic conditions in
the country. The songs of this period had their roots
in the Rastafarian Movement and became popular in
the reggae idiom.
An article in Times Magazine of March 22, 1976
states that the lyrics of the reggae deal with
"political tensions, social grievances and black roots
culture". This article continues: saying
"Because an unpopular law or politician can
the subject of a popular song, reggae is a
force that is felt at the highest government
It is well then, that politicians listen to these
songs. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying in an
interview47 that he "listens attentively" to these
songs. Apparently he uses it to gauge the pulse of
In "Revolution" Bob Marley shows his deep
distrust of politicians as he expresses this in
"Never make a politician grant you a favour
They will always control you forever".
One is convinced that the politicians make an
in-depth study of these songs, analysing them and
thinking of them when formulating policies.
Social conditions and the misery of the poor are
"Cost of living get so high
Rich and poor they start to cry.
Now the weak must get strong.
They say, Oh, what a tribulation.
Them belly full, but we hungry
A hungry mob is an angry mob
A rain a fall but the dirt it tough
A pot a cook but you no enough" .
Michael Manley confirms that "Reggae is more
accurate than a political machine when it comes to
gauging mass reaction".48
If this is true (and one will find it difficult to
dispute) politicians will have now to sit up and listen
respectfully; for the messages all bear the same
discontent among people in the lower socio-economic
Such songs as those of the Rastafarians, in which
they try to tell the world that they are not in the
least satisfied with their lot.
These songs are charged with dynamite. They lash
out against the Establishment in Joy White's (1975).
"All dem a try to fight down I
A jus' a dread out deh"
or in Max Romeo's (1975) "No Joshua, no; rice gone
up, salt-fish gone up"; as also in the lyrics of
"Serious time, Lord a serious time;
Dem drop de bomb, dem fire de gun
De people dem a run out a Trench Town etc."
The Mighty Diamonds' "Right Time" with its
serious social content, and strong historical bias,49
serves as a warning to Jamaican political leaders.
For in his own words
"Marcus Garvey prophecy say
Man a go fin' him back againstt the wall
Oh yeah ....
It a go bitter
When the right time come
Some a go try fih treason;
Some a go try fih arson;
And when the right time come
Some a go try fih murder!
Natty dread nah go run away,
This here a prophecy."
The same tension is present in Big Youth's
"Some peace an' love in the ghetto
Some peace an' love is what we want in
Black people do we have to fight?"
Ernie Smith's 1976 release contains the same
"And so we fight one another
Fe de power and de glory
Jah kingdom goes to waste
For every drop of blood we spill
A fi we own disgrace
Max Romeo thinks that "it sipple out deh" because
there is "war inna Babylon". In "Rat Race" already
mentioned, Bob Marley in a sarcastic vein describes
the whole business of Parliamentary contests as a rat
race and warns that "when you think is peace and
safety sudden destruction". The most recent one
heard by this speaker on one of the local radio
stations is Danny Adam's "Exploitation". In it the
ever recurring theme of revolution is present as in
this song he wails
Say now where do the people play
Where de people cherish their culture
Movin' an' movin' every day
An' de poorer get poorer
Sufferin' from day to day ....
Don't let the rich man exploit my people
For if the rich man show no mercy
There'll be a revolution"
Politicians may have to ask of the singers as the
disciples asked of Jesus "Is it I?" as they listen to
the "Prophecy" of Marcus Garvey as the Burning
"There'll be a false ruler
And the leader won't be shot
He will be stoned with stones".
Politicians will have to give thought to the voice of
the people and not ignore the opinions of the tax
payer as he sings
"So you get de wuk
You si dung pon de shovel"
It is evident that our leaders are taking stock of
the situation as can be seen by the manner in which
so many of them are abandoning the European
culture in which they were brought up and are "re-
treating" into the culture of the folk, especially in
the musical sphere. This they will have to continue
doing until the voters become more politically
sophisticated; this in turn will involve the setting up
of a more sophisticated electioneering machinery.
Till then the people will continue to air their griev-
ances in songs and politicians will continue to listen
even if there is no resulting change.
Summary and Conclusion
Although the four main types of electioneering
tactics by both mass parties and the other minor
parties which have cropped from time to time are the
street corner rallies, radio and television broadcasts,
newspaper advertising and house-to-house cam-
paigns, it is the music which arouses the emotion
and charges the electorate with the enthusiasm and
fervour to go to the utmost limit to see that the party
of their choice emerges winner at the polls.
Radio and Television broadcasts are preceded by,
and end with the favourite and most effective of the
party songs; group meetings are interspersed with
hymn singing and party songs; hit records are
greedily grasped by political parties and the lyrics
adapted to suit the immediate ideologies of the
party; the contemporary music of the period is used
to entertain the masses at a rally; or again it can be
used to impress the citizen of the importance of
doing certain things, as (in the case of) when the
government wished Jamaicans to know the
importance of being enumerated, Big Youth sent the
"You got to vote, vote, vote
And dip yu finga in de ink
For what yu think .
An interesting feature of these political and
protest songs is that they are rousing, have an easy
melody line and are strikingly rhythmic with simple
lyrics and much repetition. Another feature is that
the songs all sound familiar and as such are easily
learnt. The hypnotic effect of these songs can be seen
in the way in which people spontaneously react to
them, either by joining in, or in becoming almost
fanatic in their reaction, sometimes to a point of
Records of the thoughts, aspirations, frustrations
loyalty of our people are recorded in these songs of
bitterness, humour, sadness and patriotism.
Politicians are being called upon to identify more
positively, insteadof making appeals that are vague.
This is the message in the current hit tunes.
Hymns brought to the forefront the depth of the
people's feelings and yearnings for a God or gods
who would deliver them; while the mento, gospel
songs. Sankeys, revival tunes were used mainly for
hero-worship and to pledge party allegiance. Ska
brought out the suffering of the Sixties; but in the
ska songs were the hopes of the citizen that in an
Independent Jamaica all the social, economic and
political problems would be solved.
Reggae brought to the limelight such singers as
The Wailers, Max Romeo, Bob Marley whose lyrics
touch the sensitive pulse of the masses, showing
clearly that the consciousness of the Jamaican was
being developed as far as his social and political
rights were concerned. The Leaders, now more than
ever, realise that the voice of the populace cannot be
ignored or shelved a voice which in our country is
Music has not been the panacea for our ills; it has
not been and is not likely to be an avenue for solving
our innumerable problems. But it has served to ease
the burden of the worker, and has been used to
measure mass attitudes. Above all it has made the
leaders of the nation more attentive to the cries of
the oppressed or dissatisfied citizen and as each
political aspirant continues to push his image, songs
and music will hold an important place in our
The words of Lady Gladys Bustamante aptly
assesses the role of music in the Labour Movement
and in the Political Life of Jamaica.
Among the things she says are these words:
"Music therefore in The Labour Movement as well
as in the Political Life of Jamaica is an indispensable
ingredient, whether it is by way of song,
orchestration, or as it is today "discos" thousands
rally to musical strains in support of the movement
This study was set as a Research Paper for the graduating class of 1976, pursuing a course in Jamaican Studies as part of their Jamaica School of Music Certificate
requirements for School Music Teaching. As Tutor, I gave basic material in normal seminars and set up interviews with Miss Aggie Bernard and Mrs. Louise
Bennett-Coverley.Lady Bustamante was unable to grant an audience but sent a very kind letter.One important source did not respond. From these beginnings
the students found other resource informants. This paper was chosen as the most comprehensive produced. M.W.
St. William Wellington Grant
*fighfef BY Nek diziTy
BY: NOEL WHITEk
BY: NOEL WHITE
Noel White, B.A. (Lond.), Dip.Ed. (U.W.I.), M.A. (Columbia)
was born in Jamaica where he received his early education. He
was the first teacher to enter students for West Indian History in
Cambridge School Certificate; he did this at Calabar High
School, introduced the subject at Kingston College and
Camperdown High School, and developed its teaching at Mico
College. He founded the History Teachers Association for the
same purpose. Recently as a free-lance journalist he has won
three Seprod Press Awards for historical and educational articles.
His first book, George ATLAS Headley was published in 1975
and he has previously contributed to JAMAICA JOURNAL. He
is currently working on a dissertation on West Indian
immigrants to the United States.
The Jamaica of the years 1880-1900 saw the birth
of a generation of men of strong individuality. No
matter what the world might consider the safe thing
to do; these men adhered to their goals, their chosen
paths and their chosen rules. Examples are Garvey,
Norman Manley, Bustamante, W.A. Domingo and
Claude McKay. Among this panoply of
single-minded, stout-hearted individuals we must
place St. William Wellington Grant.
Born in 1894 at Brandon Hill in St. Andrew, he
was destined to lead crowds to march and
demonstrate against the oppression of the ruling
class. His father, Charles Emanuel Grant boasted of
his Ibo heritage 1 in those days many persons
could tell from what African tribes their parents
came. Little St. William caught from his father the
pride in being of African descent and this became a
life-long part of his character.
Charles Grant and his wife were seeking a better
life. Accordingly they left Brandon Hill in St.
Andrew and moved to downtown Kingston. St.
William knew of life in both St. Andrew and
Kingston where he attended the St. Phillips Church
School in the former parish and the West Branch
Elementary School in the latter. 2 Perhaps it was
his parents' willingness to move from place to place
that gave their son a sense of adventure. The proper
response to hard circumstances was to try new
After he left school he began to work at the wharf.
One of his friends, Freddie, ran a cold supper shop.
Perhaps St. William first learnt of (the) wireless on
the ships he helped to unload. Whatever his
motivation he and Freddie began to experiment with
a wireless set at what was then called Tannery
Beach. Jamaica is a land of rumours, idle tongues
and wild imaginations that care not what harm they
do. Rumours soon reached the British authorities at
Up-Park-Camp that St. William and Freddie were
receiving and probably transmitting news. British
officers swooped down on the cold supper shop, and
although Freddie escaped, St. William didn't. The
latter was incarcerated at Up-Park-Camp for
fourteen days during which time his mother pleaded
with the officers to let him go. In the meantime
investigations of the officers proved to them that St.
William and Freddie were not two evil spies but two
innocent, naturally curious boys, who had not done
Britain any harm. They released St. William but
they closed down his wireless station.3
Rather than hold a grudge against the British, St.
William took a keen interest in World War I and
eventually lent his services to the British forces. He
stowed away on a troop-ship with a contingent of
soldiers of the West India Regiment going out of
Kingston Harbour. It was thus that he was allowed
to join up and to fight for Britain in this war. Evan
Francis, his friend volunteered in the usual fashion,
partook of the marching and parading at
Up-Park-Camp, but by that time no more troops
were sent to France. It seems then that St. William
Grant just made it. When the war ended he returned
to Jamaica with his contingent but he did not find
favourable employment. Therefore he departed once
more, his adventurous spirit taking him to New York
He reached that city in 1920 when Marcus Garvey
was at the peak of his persuasive powers. The
Universal Negro Improvement Association was
rowing by leaps and bounds, and was planning its
first international convention. It was not hard for St.
William Grant to become converted to Garveyism,
not difficult for him to accept the belief that black
men were not inferior to others. Had not his father
showed pride in his Ibo descent? His military
experience enabled him to be promoted quickly to a
high rank in the Royal African Guards of the UNIA.
He could drill recruits, train them to march and
parade. For a livelihood he worked in restaurants. In
the evenings he lent his culinary skills to the Garvey
movement, preparing food for the hungry at Liberty
Hall thus he learnt compassion for the poor in a
St. William Grant learnt more. The main aim of
Garveyism was to give inspiration and pride to the
black man. He must slough off apathy and his sense
of inferiority. He must struggle to achieve. Through
what instrument could this best be done? According
to Garvey, the black man must look back, not to
slavery, but to the glories of ancient African
civilizations. When he learned that his forebears
were scientists, mathematicians, artists and such,
rather than slaves, he would gain confidence in
himself. Grant learned African history and soon he
was pouring it out fluently on UNIA platforms.6
His was not the urbanity of a Norman Manley. Since
he spoke to crowds without the benefit of a
microphone he pitched his voice high so that it would
carry and he spoke with emotion. His fiery loyalty
was recognized. He rose to be president of a UNIA
division in New York and Brigadier-General in the
Royal African Guards there. 7
In 1934 he returned to Jamaica to attend the
Seventh International Convention of the UNIA to be
held in Kingston. He must have missed his homeland
after an absence of fourteen years. The convention at
Edelweiss Park gave him the opportunity to renew
old ties with boyhood friends, and by the end of the
conference the warmth and gaiety of the Jamaican
community convinced him to stay. Not that he liked
all that he saw. To eyes accustomed to New York,
the poverty of the masses in Jamaica was starkly
heart-rending. He noticed too the apathy with
which the poor reacted to their lot. In the United
States he had become accustomed to see people
demonstrate to express their feelings and opinions.
They were not content merely to grumble and
continue to bear their burdens. Grant decided to free
the Jamaican people of this helplessness in his
own dramatic words recorded in the Newday
Magazine "free them or die in the attempt".
In one 6f the discussion sessions Grant had a small
tiff with Garvey. He had moved a motion that all
persons in the ranks of the UNIA, from the highest
to the lowest, should be finger-printed and
photographed. J.A.G. Edwards, (of Havana) raised a
point of order and Garvey as chairman asked Grant
to sit. The impulsive Grant became angry and left
the meeting. However, such an insignificant event
could not deter him from supporting Garveyism and
in the months that followed he began to preach that
philosophy in the streets. To earn his living he
St. William Grant in U.N.I.A. uniform last known
photograph Photo Errol Harvey
became a "Ball Pan Man", selling beef balls, lobster,
fritters, fry-dumplings, fish and other cold supper
items. According to his nephew, St. William Grant
made sure to bank his money and he soon had a
handsome bank account. 8
To reach a wide audience with his message of
African redemption Grant changed his venue from
day to day. According to an article in the Newday
Magazine of October 1958 pg.26 "Lest We Forget
his favourite spots were Victoria Park, Coke
Memorial Church, the corners of Oxford Street and
Spanish Town Road, or Love Lane and North
Parade. He also went to the rural areas and spoke
there in his Garvey uniform. He was not the only
Garveyite speaking in and around Victoria Park.
Others were L.P. Waison and J.A.G. Edwards. Two
other Garveyites, L.W. Rose of Spanish Town and
H.G. Buchanan sought to reach the masses through
a trade union, the Jamaica Workers and
Tradesmen's Union which was founded and led by
"Father" Allan Coombs.
St. William, as so many called him, had a high
opinion of his activities. As Mr. Lionel Lynch, in a
letter to-the Daily Gleaner, reminiscing on Grant in
the 1930's stated, he used to declare: "North
Parade/Lemon Corner as it was called is my
university". And for the "classes" he held there, Mr.
Lynch continued, he was always immaculately
dressed. Sometimes he wore an African robe and
turban; at other times military uniform with Sam
Browne belt and sword, well-polished boots and
leggings; on still other occasions he dressed as a boy
scout; also sometimes, he wore a white uniform with
gold braid around the tunic and sleeves and a
braided cap of a naval officer. Whatever the uniform
he liked to pin on it the medals presented to him for
his participation in World War 19 these medals
were the General Service Medal and the Victory
Medal.10 St. William's dress served a purpose.
You must catch the attention of people before you
can educate them.
In 1938 St. William Grant used to shave his head
clean of all hair and polish the dome of it so that it
shone like glass. He was broad shouldered, his
physique reflecting the strength of one who had
worked at the wharves, and served in the army. All
in all he seemed a very imposing figure.
To ensure that he could be seen clearly when
speaking even to large crowds he had a platform
built. It was about five feet high and had steps. On it
the red, black and green flag of the UNIA was flown.
His meetings attracted some of their largest
audiences on Sunday nights from the congregations
of various churches after the evening services.
Sometimes such men as Rabbi Nathaniel Jacobs,
Rev. George Penso and Rev. Hayworth of Coke
Memorial Church, a scholarly orator joined him on
the platform.' These men talked of world affairs and
of the mind and behaviour of man. In the world at
large during the 1930's communism, nazism and
fascism were all growing alongside capitalism and
Fabian socialism. Accordingly there was much
speculation as to which would become the strongest.
Mr. Lionel Lynch, one of Grant's regular listeners
described him "exuberant and full of rhetoric" and
"a bit cantankerous but meant well". He adds that
the crowd was sometimes greatly amused when
F.L.B. Evans, well-known as "Slave Boy", joined
Grant on the platform, because the two would argue
fiercely on various topics. In 1935 when Italy
invaded Ethiopia, Grant was beside himself with
anger. He organized a mass meeting which was
supported by other soap box orators who had pitches
in and around Victoria Park, men like L.P. Waison
and E.S. Barrington Williams. He was also
supported by Doc Alfred Mends, a well-known
political stumper. At this meeting St. William read
his own "declaration of war" on Italy and its dictator
Grant's flamboyancy and his method of
presenting a variety of speakers ensured that he
retained the interest of the residents of downtown
Kingston for a number of years. Despite his
effusiveness, his efforts broadened their horizons and
proved that though of limited schooling they were
hungry for knowledge of the world around them so
long as it was succinctly and graphically described,
was relevant to their needs, and was presented in an
atmosphere in which their work-a-day dress and
spirit were acceptable.
One evening in 1937 when Grant was addressing a
crowd at the corner of Love Lane and North Parade,
he spied a face he knew from his days in New York.
It was the face of Alexander Bustamante who had
been working in a Jewish hospital there. Grant
invited Busta to come up and say a few words.
However, when the crowd saw Bustamante they
objected. They shouted that they didn't want any
white man to address them. Grant informed them
that Busta was coloured. As one young fellow named
Ray still insisted that Busta should not speak the
impulsive Grant jumped off the platform and began
to punch Ray. To prevent confusion, Grant's
Lieutenant, Evan Francis, raised the hymn "Every
morning the red sun". By the time the hymn was
ended the crowd had decided to put its trust in St.
William Grant and its members allowed Bustamante
After Bustamante had finished he arranged to
meet Grant later in the evening. Accordingly after
the meeting Grant wended his way to Arlington
House. While having a drink with him, Bustamante
asked Grant if he would be willing to go to jail with
him and would be willing to die for the workers.
Grant's answer was in the affirmative.
In the months that followed Bustamante spoke on
Grant's platform from time to time. And when Grant
took his pitch to the Kingston Race Course (now
National Heroes Park) Busta spoke there too.
In 1938 Grant was becoming increasingly
concerned about the plight of lowly paid labourers
and the unemployed. Accordingly, he shifted from
talks on African-history to exhorting crowds to make
the wider society aware of their sufferings. They
must cease being passive and patient. Thus he was
taking on the role of a labour leader.
At about midnight on the 2nd May 1938, Grant
led a crowd of some 3,000 people whom he had been
addressing in Victoria Park, to the offices of the
Jamaica Standard. There, he sought to enlist the
support and sympathy of the editor of that paper to
expose the bad living conditions of the poor and the
working classes both in Kingston and in the country
areas, deploring the low rate of payment, the lack of
proper medical attention and the consequent lack of
proper nourishment. He wished to enlist the help of
the editor in exposing the truth of the dreadful
conditions prevailing, both to the Jamaican public
and to the British people overseas.'3
10 o'clock on the morning of the 3rd May Grant
led a group of 500 people along West Queen Street to
an unoccupied lot called Dark Park. The mob,
incensed by the recent happenings in Westmoreland,
threw angry shouts of "Down with Imperialism".
They also resented the presence of newspaper
reporters at the gathering and for a while violence
seemed imminent. But Grant demanded order, and
gave his word that the reporters would not be
molested. Under his guidance, reporters and crowd
all went to the Dungle to take pictures of the poor
conditions of life in this area of the city for
On another occasion Grant counselled the crowds,
"Stay calm. Watch developments. People have
been killed. Others have been wounded. Let the
killing be confined /to/ Westmoreland since
there must be killings. This thing demands an
investigation. Don't start anything here in
Kingston. You cannot fight bullets with fists,
sticks and stones. It will be foolish".'1
He was clearly mindful of the safety of his
followers and the need for orderly demonstrations.
Then there was the upheaval at From Estate in
Westmoreland. It began on 29th April, 1938 and
reached its climax on 2nd May, 1938 when four
persons were killed. Some days after, Grant and
Bustamante left Kingston and visited Frome. What
Grant heard there motivated him to become a trade
unionist. He became convinced that workers needed
to be represented when they had grievances.
He also realized that workers needed to be
conscious of the importance of solidarity with their
fellow workers if they were to obtain the improved
wages and working conditions they wanted. This
was the theme of many of his speeches when he
returned to Kingston and it earned him the early
label of "labour activist".
It was because Agnes Bernard knew of Grant's
interest in the lot of the workers that she advised
strikers at the waterfront to send for him. They did.
He listened to their grievances and enlisted
Bustamante's support on their behalf. But since
Grant and Bustamante made little headway with the
wharf-owners it was good that Agnes Bernard
invested her little savings in a soup kitchen to keep
the strikers fed. She was supported by Mrs. Edna
Manley who collected funds for the soup kitchen and
helped her to prepare the meals for the strikers, and
thus keep the strike going. While they did this Grant
and Bustamante spoke to crowds urging solidarity;
a spark was touched off that fired all the sufferers in
Kingston. They spontaneously formed themselves
into mobs which obliged merchants to close down
stores and shops, forced buses and tramcars to come
off the roads and remain in garages. The sufferers
were signalling that they could bear no more; their
patience was at an end. Grant, Bustamante and
others rushed from place to place addressing them.
The police were ordered to quell the
demonstrations and Inspector Orrett, their leader
was like a tiger. Under his command they first set on
the crowds beating them with batons. At first
Bustamante and Grant were immune to public
attacks. Bustamante was middle-class and Grant
was known as a man who invited ministers and
politicians to speak on his platform. Richard Hart
who walked the streets and watched the
demonstrations reported seeing Grant rescue
persons from public beatings several times. As the
tension heightened the police were ordered to level
their guns. Still Bustamante and Grant walked at
the head of the crowds and the former dared the
police to fire.
"Let them shoot you down, you are better off dead
than living like dogs anyway", Grant is reported by
Newday Magazine (October 1958) to have urged the
crowds at the height of their confrontations
attempting to retain solidarity among the people.16
On the 23rd May the mobs took over the streets of
Kingston, entirely. Not only were businesses closed
but streets were also blocked and public property
destroyed. Then the people went further. They drove
out the staff of the Sewerage Pumping Station and
the Gold Street Power Station of the Jamaica Public
Service Company and "captured" both places. At
this point the authorities also escalated their efforts.
The police approached a crowd of several thousand
persons in Harbour Street whom Bustamante and
Grant were trying to address. They ordered the
crowd to disperse. They were ignored. They then
charged the crowd wielding their batons. The people
retaliated with a hail of bricks. The police took
Bustamante and Grant to the Central Police Station
but released them after a short time. It was a signal
that the immunity of the two was ending.
Resulting from these incidents the Riot Act was
read. Its wording is:
Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and
commandeth all persons being assembled,
immediately to disperse themselves, and peace-
ably to depart to their habitations, or to their
lawful business, upon the pains contained in the
Riot Act .... God save the King.
In substance it gave the police and the courts
extraordinary powers to deal with any crowd of
twelve or more which refused to disperse. Persons
found guilty of such an act could be imprisoned for
three years with or without hard labour. The police
were free to kill or maim in the course of carrying out
Soldiers were called out the Sherwood Foresters
were then stationed at Up Park Camp. They
"recaptured" the Sewerage Station, the Power
Station, the Railway Station and other places from
the mobs, they broke up a crowd near Victoria Park
which Bustamante was seeking to address. In view
of these events it was not surprising that on the
24th, Bustamante and Grant were arrested. At 9
OUT FROM THE
WALLS: Mr. Alexan-
labour leader, and his
assistant, Mr. St.
William Grant, leav-
ing the General Peni-
tentiary on Saturday
after they had been
granted bail. Beside
Mr. Bustamante is his
Counsel, Hon. J.A.G.
Smith, and behind is
his solicitor, Mr. Ross
Photo Neville Smith
The Daily Gleaner
a.m. the two had sought to hold a meeting on
Spanish Town Road but the police prevented them
from doing so. They then walked to the Fire Brigade
Station, then on Sutton Street, where the men were
reported to be restive.17
Before they reached there, the police arrested
them. By this time Grant was no longer immune to
police brutality. The police set on him and beat him
to the ground. The skin on his scalp was burst open
by the blows and he had to receive fourteen stitches!s
Even Bustamante's immunity was threatened
for he had to quickly submit to the police with the
cry "Don't you dare touch me with your clubs".19
The arrest was made conveniently near to the
Sutton Street jail. The two were taken there and then
to the courthouse. Bustamante was charged with
having made a seditious speech during a meeting
held by Grant on the 4th May. Both men were
charged with inciting unlawful assembly on the day
of their arrest. The judge ordered that they be held in
custody for a week without bail and that they be
placed in the General Penitentiary for safe keeping.
If the authorities assumed that the arrest would
end the demonstrations they were wrong. Grant and
Bustamante did not start the activities of the mob or
demonstrators. They merely supported or tried to
steer the energies of the demonstrators into other
channels. If we look back we find that the two went
to Frome after the shootings and killings had
occurred. In reporting what he saw Richard Hart
mentioned that Bustamante had written letters to
the English press about conditions in Jamaica. The
newspaper, the Jamaica Standard, edited by an
Englishman, had attacked Bustamante and the
latter had used St. William Grant's platform to
attack the Standard. This helped to make the
government look bad but it certainly was not
It is true that Grant's meetings grew larger and
larger in May Hart reported a meeting in Parade
of between 5,000 and 6,000. But Grant had then led a
large part of the crowd to the offices of the Jamaica
Standard and asked the editor to present the case of
the people to England. He also got the Gleaner
photographers to take pictures of the dunghill
("dungle" in colloquial speech) in Kingston's west
end 20Here again there was a constructive move to
induce the British government to act. It is true that
on the 22nd May, Grant and Bustamante made
speeches to the dock-workers who had gone on strike
urging them not to give in. But the dock-workers had
already taken this decision on their own. It is true
that the dock-workers had something to do with the
closing of shops on King Street but the mobs that
halted transportation and closed down and looted
shops all over the rest of Kingston acted of their own
Osmond Dyce, later a distinguished trade unionist
remembered as a young man installing himself -
without any instigation from anyone as a leader of
one such group21 It is not surprising then that while
Bustamante and Grant, cooled their heels, in the
General Penitentiary the demonstrations continued.
Other men like E.S. Barrington-Williams and Evan
Francis harangued the crowds. The latter testified
that on the day on which his two friends were
released from jail he had spoken to five different
crowds of people.22 Men of discernment had been
able to foresee what the colonial government was
still too dull to acknowledge. Hart reported "Crab"
Nethersole as saying that the government had had
due warning for a whole year of what was coming
and had done nothing.
It was Norman Washington Manley who at this
time found the solution to the demonstrations. The
crisis caused him to decide to enter the political field,
and he saw immediately that the people needed
channels through which their grievances could be
redressed. He made himself such a channel and
various groups of workers, including the wharf
workers applied to him. He used his persuasive
powers to win a raise in pay for them, and he
promised to take up the case of the fire brigade men.
Many men of goodwill had reacted to this crisis.
Ken Hill, then secretary of the National Reform
Association, saw that a permanent channel was
needed. He spoke to the dockworkers advising them
to form a trade union under the leadership of
Bustamante.23 Another urgent question was the
release of Bustamante and Grant. The government
first refused to give them bail. However, Norman
Manley and J.A.G. Smith, the Member of the
Legislative Council most admired by the people
combined to win the release of the two men. J.A.G.
Smith was at the gate of the penitentiary to see them
out. A group of workers who were also there lifted
the two shoulder-high, carrying them away from the
precincts of the jail.
It is clear that at this time the stevedores felt a
special loyalty to Bustamante and Grant. After
Manley won them a raise they had refused to work
until the two men were released. So it was only a
matter of time before Bustamante became fully
convinced that he should form a union and in June,
Grant was right alongside him in founding it. Ken
Hill had collected several hundred names for them?'
There were, too, small groups which lacked the
leadership of intelligent men and acted on their own.
Frank Hill wrote of them:
Speaking of May 23, 1938, the eve of "Empire Day",
"With the police withdrawn from point duty,
the city's traffic descended into chaos. But a
civic-minded band of strikers quickly took over
traffic control: directing cars and horse-drawn
buggies and the public tram cars past the
clogged street intersections. But the small
group that is a lunatic fringe in every crowd
soon had a field day. They roamed the city's
back streets and lanes. They menaced the
small shopkeepers, mainly Chinese, looted their
shops. More than anything else, they caused the
barometer of tension to rise towards anarchy.26
It appears that subsequently a number of men
were jostling to see who Would be next to
Bustamante in the hierarchy. Grant felt that he
deserved to be respected by all. Had he not
introduced Bustamante to the working class from his
platform? Had he not been jailed with Bustamante
with the charge of sedition hanging over both their
heads together, till it was quashed on the 19th June?
In August 1938, at a meeting of several thousand
people at Pier No. 1 Grant publicly accused three
union members, Buchanan, Wellington and Williams
of graft, treachery and tale bearing calculated to
undermine his position in the union. He then left the
platform in anger. Bustamante apologised for
Grant's behaviour but three days later expelled him
from the union.
The "Jamaica Labour Weekly", an organ of the
BITU edited by Buchanan attacked Grant. It
accused him of being a consistent opponent of labour
organization, that he "antagonized all efforts to
organize unions .... /and/ told the people that
Jamaica was not theirs and that all they should
strive for is the redemption of Africa".27 It also
sought to undermine his contributions in the labour
struggles and his character in general.
In the face of this, St. William Grant took his case
to the people and at a meeting at North Parade on
Grant's behalf, some 2,000 workers demanded his
reinstatement and the next day a deputation
escorted him to the union office where the
reconciliation with Bustamante was effected.8
Grant was subsequently made general organizer of
the Union, but as such he was not an officer of the
union.29 Such events might have caused many a
man to abandon the struggle of the worker.
However, Grant continued to believe that labour
must be organized and must make itself felt. In May
1939, he organized the first ever Labour Day march
and in later years he felt proud when unions followed
In 1942 the final breach between Grant and the
BITU and Bustamante came. Less than a week after
the BITU split with the PNP at a public meeting
held at Ward Theatre with the special permission of
Governor Richards, the Universal Negro Improve-
ment Association had Norman Washington Manley
address its members on the subject of the
self-government movement. Grant was among those
who welcomed Manley at that meeting at Liberty
Hall on 5th April, 1942.30
Grant's not following Bustamante in this move
was frowned upon by his- public, reports Mrs. Grant
in an interview with Daily News' Sandy McIntosh,
and this occasioned many jibes and taunts.
Whenever Grant challenged his attackers there was
inevitably a fight from which, she reports he was
always the loser.31 Grant suffered then for support-
ing the movement for self-government.
Thus badly used, St. William Grant slipped out of
the forefront of active public life to live a life of near-
poverty. In the 1950 s he took a job as a night-
watchman at the Central Housing Authority,
later to be called the Ministry of Housing, and
remained there for some 27 years, struggling up to
the time of his death, with a mere $36.80 per week to
support himself and his wife,32 whom he married
Those who are tempted to argue that if Grant had
played his cards differently he would have stayed in
the BITU should note that no one who shared the
lime-light with Bustamante in those hectic days of
May 1938, remained alongside him by the time he
was released from Up Park Camp in 1942 not
Agnes Bernard, not Grant, not Manley. And those
who were inclined towards any form of socialism did
not stay either men such as Ken Hill and H.C.
On the 11th November 1957, in the celebrations of
the achievement of internal self-government, Grant
was allowed by Premier Norman Manley to play a
part. A large dais had been erected before the statue
of Queen Victoria, then in South Parade. Chairs for
special guests were placed on the sidewalk near the
dais. On the dais sat Norman Manley, the Governor
Sir Hugh Foot, Bishop Gibson and a few other
dignitaries. Thousands of men, women and children
thronged the area around the dais. Uniformed troops
of the Army and Air Force Cadets, St. John
Ambulance, the Worcestershire Regiment, the
Jamaica Regiment and the Police Force marched up
King Street and lined up on the three sides of the
hollow square in front of the dais. Then as all awaited
the beginning of the function, St. William Grant and
uniformed troops of the UNIA paraded up and down
in the hollow square. It was a proud moment for a
man who had supported the self-government
movement over the years.33
The years had not treated Grant well financially.
But poverty did not dim his faith in Garveyism nor
his pride in the forward movement of his country.
Even then he spent some of his spare time in Victoria
Park lecturing and conversing with men gathered
there. In 1958 he was reported in Newday Magazine
to have said to a group of men: "Any race that
doesn't known its own history can achieve no lasting
greatness. The white race knows its history century
by century from the time they were living in caves ....
That is why they are strong and powerful".
In recognition of his contributions to the making
of modern independent Jamaica, Grant received
some token of the gratitude of his nation in the
evening of his life. Formerly a Brigadier-General in
the UNIA,4he was elevated to the rank of General in
the 1950's. It was a proud St. William Grant who on
National Heroes Day in 1974. marched up to the
Governor-General to receive the medal of the Officer
of the Order of Distinction. The UNIA also showed
its pleasure and esteem of the man by honouring him
at a function on the 21st December of that year.3"
He received further recognition from the government
when a set of new apartments was opened at the top
of Church Street, in Fletchers Land, Beverley
Gardens also in 1974. He had the honour of being the
first to receive from the Mayor of Kingston a set of
keys to an apartment. In 1976 the Pan-African
Secretariat of Jamaica which takes an interest in
unsung heroes as well as the fortunes of Africa and
Africans, presented Grant with a certificate, "The
Pan African Award of Excellence" in recognition of
his dedication and "personal sacrifice to unite the
people to resist all forms of oppression", his
"consistent anti-imperialist stand" and his "work as
a Jamaican Nationalist".36
On the 12th August 1977, Grant made his last
public appearance when he visited the BITU
Headquarters to view the body of Sir Alexander
Bustamante (whom he had done so much to bring
to public notice). On the 27th August, 1977, St.
William's adventurous spirit ended its course on
earth, leaving behind his widow, Mrs. Icilda Grant
and two daughters, Mrs. Daphne Collington and
Miss Doreen Grant, both residing in the United
His death brought forth in the Jamaican
community, a flood of memories of his deeds: how he
used to preach Garveyism persistently and
vigorously; how he became a labour leader on his
own account, marshalling workers and unemployed,
and receiving little or no pay and recognition for his
efforts; how he supported the PNP's nationalist
programme for self-government from its inception.
He sought to uplift Jamaicans in social, economic
and political spheres. He lived to see many peoples of
African descent win independence. He was a man of
the people who provided them with a public forum
for listening and discussion, taking freedom of
speech to heights it could not rise to in pulpit,
legislative chamber, or committee meeting,
providing a wider spectrum of speakers than any
single political platform, improving the ability of the
common man to tell where his country was going and
whether the direction suited him. His contempora-
ries recall a colourful figure in Garvey uniform, his
soldier's cap resting on his head with a slight tilt, his
head erect, his back straight, his medals from World
War I resting prominently on his left breast. They
In further recognition of Grant's services to (our)
nation, the government of Jamaica accorded him an
official funeral. The service was held at the Holy .
Trinity Cathedral where Grant had been married. On 5
the 5th September hundreds of people filed past the
flag-draped coffin to have a last glimpse of the man
who played a leading part in stirring the masses to
demonstrate against neglect and oppression. The s
remembrance was given by Evan Francis. As
befitting a former soldier, Grant's remains were
interred at Up Park Camp.
In honour of the memory and recognition of his
services to the nation the government has set up a
St. William Grant Undergraduate Scholarship to the
Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the
West Indies which is to be administered for the first
time in October 1978. The Pan African Secretariat
has also dedicated its Pan African Relays for the
month of July (1978), which was held at the Prison
Oval in Spanish Town, to the memory of St. William
In September, 1977 a motion was proposed in a
meeting of the Kingston and St. Andrew
Corporation to the effect that Victoria Park, one of
Grant's stamping grounds should be renamed the St.
William Grant Park. Councillor Beresford Johnson
proposed the motion. It was seconded by Councillor
Ken Hill who had played an active part in the
demonstrations of 1938 and knew Grant's work and
worth at first hand. The motion received unanimous
On the 27th August, 1978 the Jamaica Unsung
Pioneers Movement held a memorial service for St.
William Grant appropriately in the park named after
him. The chairman was Frank Gordon, O.D., a
well-known Garveyite, and the service was
conducted by Rev. Norton Bellamy, a former
chaplain of the Universal Negro Improvement
Association.38 Everyone who attended that service
realized that another disciple of Garvey had made his
mark on the world.
The Prophet by Edna Manley (from The Formative Years).
".... Frank Hill, O.T. Fairclough and I were sitting on the back
of a truck at the corner of Pechon Street and Port Royal Street
.... St. William Grant on the podium above us .... and Frank
said 'look up Edna the Prophet', and after that everyone
started calling St. William THE PROPHET" Edna Manley
remember that General Grant's favourite figure in
African History was Hannibal, the great
Carthaginian general. They recollect his exhorta-
tions to them to unite and co-operate to reach their
goals. A few remember the brief period during which
he was a general organizer of the BITU.
RESEARCH ASSISTANT NOEL STENNETT
You in me shot me like hell
I am new born now
You are the mirror I look in now
Whatever I put on turns to rags
Starvation is out in my eyes
I hear my voice echoing
death shaken up
On city streets I walk
I look on like a hill beast
The cock has crowed
but it's a resurrection
without a heaven
I am haunted
more than when we gave songs in chains
more than when the winds whispered
we are free
and we took the hills' back
for roots and leaves
You clamour hard to claim
a self I scorned
Hunger has you ablaze
for more than the land's offerings
I am cracked clods in your drought
for more than water
You are the mirror I look in now
You let go voices in me like hounds
You torment the loathsome brute
that man I despise in me
from Fractured Circles
(New Beacon 1979)
Sing a sang a dunny:
belly full a win,
scrubbin all de mawnin,
ole, sick an t'in.
"Now de day is ova ..."
trying nat to cry -
blackbud in de gyad'n singin,
hangin out to dry.
Mister in de counting house
counting up de money,
missis in db dinin room
eatin aff de honey.
Gatta in de gyad'n
prayin nat to dead,
waiting fe de blackbud
walking t'ru she ead ...
if you love language
leave it alone
it's perfectly capable of giving you all
i thought everyone died for the project
they are not leaving
the line to turn
from Credences at the Altar of Cloud
Squatted. Stiff like
a snackbox in my window's
frame, his cardboard house.
One night the rain came
licking its brown tongue and thundering
a little, the gully
rippled its great flat
throat, and belched. After
I washed my hands
and lounged before the television flood
But miss his cooking fire
in the evenings now
I eat my dreams
if I die after such music
you were lovely
pregnant you glowed
like a great lamp
I know what you said now darling is true
the letters I lost
but hung in my body
no wonder the light said
no to my hands
from Credences at The Altar of Cloud
(Institute of Jamaica 1979)
The Maiden and the Death
for Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Her partner is a skeleton.
Does the waltzing beauty know
that he will never let her go?
He'll have her when the dance is done.
He's put a bone between her legs.
Her fleshy body begs
for love, she holds him tight,
her gigolo, her slave tonight!
Mervyn Morris -
from Shadowboxing \
(New Beacon 1979)
/1 ( ; .
EXHIBITION IN JAMAICA
The Bank of Jamaica Venue for Munch exhibit -
ihe stub Mystery ot the bnore.
The Prime Minister of Norway, the Hon. Odvar Nordli, officially
opened the Edvard Munch exhibition in Jamaica at the Bank of
Jamaica auditorium. The prints shown in this issue are included in
the catalogue entitled Edvard Munch: The Major Graphic, prepared
by the Munch Museum and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution.
The Kingston exhibition included etchings, lithographs and woodcuts
by the famous Norwegian forerunner of expressionism. The exhibited
prints were on loan from the Munch Museum in Oslo, anid the exhibi-
tion presented by the National Gallery of Jamaica. According to a
report in the local press:-
Munch's northern intensity and sombre mood rush from the prints
to grip the viewer with the force of a boa-constrictor; but despite
their tragic narrative which explores the basic themes of life,
death, love and the woman, they are very beautiful to look at and
thus persuade the viewer to reconcile himself to life.
& Third World Polic
Dr. Jorgen RanIrders is Director of the Resure olicy Group, use of the oil revenue, the wealth most
Oslo, Norway. He was educated at the University of Oslo and at likely will be wasted on short, tern! con-
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he obtained the sumption.
Ph.D. degree in Operations Research. While at M.I.T. he TeDvlpeto h owga erlu
participated in the famous and controversial 1972 environmental Thet veoprn fteNrwga erlu
study entitled "The Limits of Growth" which was sponsored by Sco
the Club of Rome, In recent years Dr. Randers has conducted a The emergence of the Norwegian petroleum sector
number of resource policy studies in Norway in such matters as has been rapid. It is only 17 years ago (in 1962) that
petroleum, hydropower, and forestry. the first oil company asked for permission to explore
the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The first
ABSTRACT commercial find occurred 9 years ago (in 1969).
This paper reviews the history of the rapid Today (in 1978), 3% of the Norwegian Gross
expansion of the petroleum sector in the Norwegian National Product is in petroleum exploration,
economy over the last decade. Less than 15 years extraction, and transportation. And in 1981 less
after the start of exploration, the petroleum sector is than 20 years after the beginning of the Norwegian
expected to generate 10% of Nor-way's Gross petroleum era this primary oil sectorI is expected
National Product and 3-4 billion U.S. dollars per year to generate 13% of the GNP. Oil exploration, extrac-
of foreign exchange. tion and transportation will then create nearly the
Several public policy issues related to petroleum same value as all other industrial activity in Norway.
developments are discussed. It is shown how actual In addition comes activity in the secondary
developments in many cases deviated from what was petroleum sector in construction of capital
expected when policy was formed. The structural equipment for the offshore activity like rigs,
change in the economy has been less than feared. The platforms, supply ships, etc. In an industrialized
oil wealth has been used more to boost short term country much of the necessary capital plant can be
private consumption, than to realize ambitious plans- produced domestically. In Norway, employment in
to restructure and improve Norwegian society. the secondary petroleum sector quickly grew to twice
Although Norway is a highly industrialized the level of the primary sector.
country, part of the Norwegian experience is of Developments would most likely have been even
relevance to less industrialized countries entering a faster if Norwegian authorities had not entered with
petroleum era: a firm desire to oversee and control developments.
SIt is possible for the host nation to obtain a Governmental regulation has been pervasive all the
major share of petroleum profits through way from the first exploration request. This desire to
tight governmental control and regulation govern is understandable given Norway's long social
of activity on the continental shelf. democratic traditions, and that Norway already was
an industrialized, full employment economy before
-The effects of a medium-sized oil sector on oil was discovered.
employment and industrial structure are To control the rate of development, the
small in an industrialized economy, and will Government divided the Continental Shelf in blocks
be smaller in less industrialized countries of approximately 500 kmn Exploration rights for
with less capacity to supply the advanced, blocks are awarded only when more activity is
capital equipment for off-shore activity. deemed appropriate. There have only been four
rounds of concessions. A fifth is expected in 1978
SUnless one has a firm long term plan for the (figure 1).
triggered a apl ent of the Nbrwegian
The 1965 concessions idt tutity to shape the developm
increasing drillin activity (figure 2)4 Still, it took society.
four years before le, first commercial find was made Furthermore, the increased revenue is in the form
Several ups gave-up exploration in the North i" of foreign exchange. The discovery of petroleum will
before re (,discovery of petrolourn In 1069. Later on, a NO for imported, petroleum, to _-forwig'n
.,the four concession rounds have lied to a rapid = gerevenues that are many dwes..1",
increase in proven reserves (figure 3). On the average figure 8). This occurs, howeveri only after a penW
fl40f the liAown reserves in commercial fields are of larger deficits when the petroleum- sector is beigg
recoverable at vxpected oil prices and current developed.. The existence of proven reserves makes
technology. Secondary recovery could increase tb finan f capi
is cmg 0 ital equipment for the sector.,vasm'.
fraction. The Z&y of the nation to obtain interoo4onal
So far, three groups of fields have been developed credit seems to increase with proven reserves I figure
gkofi8k F i and Statord. The
produc;on pro'jWe for these fields illustrates 'the long "-I have described the impact of proven reservew.of
time periods involved : in exploitation of the some four billion tons of oil equivalent on -an
Continental Shelf. (figure 4). Petroleum Production economy of four miUionL ople. and a GNP of 30
is expected to increase rapidly- to a level of 75 million billion dollars Y ear, orwhich one haff is Ua&d
tons per year in the early I 9W s, and then decline internationally. The strength of the impact in other
back tozero over the f 11 two decades. situations will depend on the relative size of th"o
The cost of explorl"nag oar and discovering numbers.
petroleum is minute compared with the cost of field The major Public Policy issues-in the deve4opm"t
development, Figure 6 shows the costs incurred in of the Norwegian Petroletun Sector
geophysical.surveys and exploratory drilling to find
the three fields mentioned. above. Also shown am the The actual, and particularly the expected impact
expected future costs of developing and operating of the petroleum sector on Norway, was sufficient to
those fields through their expected production life elicit a whole series of public debates.
cycles. IAfe, cycle costs are .1 billion dollars' for Ownership of petroleum resources
surveys, .7 billion dollars for drilling, 14 billion The firstpolicy uestion pertained to the control
dollarsfor developmental, and 18 billion dollars for of the Contmen 1helf. ftither than following the
operating the fields, making a total of 33 billion Danish example, where all rights to extraction. of
dollars. Expected revenue from the expected natural resources from the shelf for a 60-year period
production of 1,000 million tons of oil equivalent is were given to a private company, Norway chose -to
100 billion dollars, or roughly three times total costs, leave property rights with the state. The stW
It should be superfluous to add that such estimates maintains full control over the rate of development.of
are very uncertain. But the general picture is valid, the shelf.
The numbers are large. During the ten Year A national petroleum expertise
development phase, average investments run at 1.4 It was decided to develop Norwegian expertise in
billion dollars per year. This amounts to 15% of the the full range of petroleum activities. First, to obtain
total investment rate in the Norwegian economy. maximum control with foreign field operators.
The expected revenue equals four GNP's, that is, the Second, to increase the technological sophistication
value of all other production in Norway for four of Norw" industry. Much of the activity was
yews. gathered in a state-owned oil company The desire
Nevertheless, relatively few people are involved.
was to learn through collaboration with foreign
Employment in the primary and secondary companies, and then take control. The endeavour to
petroleum sectors has grown spectacularly (figure 6)- be on par with international expertise, resulted. in
Yet the current total of 24,000 employees constitutes legislation and contractual arrangement that are
only 1.5% of the Norwegian workforce of 1.6 million favourable to Norwegian interests.
people. Only 5,000 people ate actually working
offshore. Ayroximately the same num is Use of the petroleum wealth
working on t e construction of new refineries and Because the rate of petroleum sector development
petro-chemical plants that will use petroleum as raw was removed from the realm of the market, one had
materiaL to decide on a rate -of development. A rational
The activity connected with petroleum represents decision required a plan for the useof the petroleum
a sizeable boost of the GNP. Most of the profits end revenue. The obvious use of revenue would be, to
up in the Government, in the form of royalties, taxes, increase the material standardof living in Norway
and fees. The result is a very significant increase in by increased imports paid with oil. Stilldeep-seated
the revenues of the state (figure 7). This gives the Norwegian puritanism and the fact that Norway
Norwegian Government an unprecedented oppor- already was rich, worked against spending the' oil
seismic, gravimetric, and magnetic inveigation offshore Jamaica in April-May 1978.
Sl.6 million from the Norwegian Government.
wealth on consumption. It seemed more responsible
to use the wealth to transform Norwegian society
according to some plan. Suggestions were numerous:
to improve the transport network, to improve the
condition of the forests, to upgrade the capital plant
of Norwegian industry, to boost development aid, to
buy back foreign interests in Norwegian firms, to
send sick and disabled to warmer climates, etc., etc.
It proved difficult to agree on a plan. Worries about
a future surplus and low oil prices made many feel
uneasy about leaving the oil in the ground. The
decision was made to go ahead, and the problem
became how to invest the expected large revenues
abroad in such a way that the money would be safely
available when plans had crystallized. For the time
beig, the stated plan became to use the oil revenue
"to improve the quality of Norwegian society".
Stnrctural change in the economy
The selection of a plan was particularly difficult
because of the intense resistance in Norway against
rapid shifts in the geographical distribution of people
and jobs. Norwegians prefer to stay where they are
and do what they do. Any use of the petroleum
revenue, except imports of goods that are not
produced in Norway and export of capital, would
require people to change to other jobs and other
locations. People would have to move into
the petroleum sector
the sectors that provide the goods and
services needed to transform society
according to a chosen plan (e.g. road con-
struction, if that was chosen as the objec-
those sectors that provide goods and
services that are increasingly demanded at
and out of*-
those sectors that cannot survive with the
higher income level (typically low-priduc,
tivity sectors like agriculture, forestry and
those sectors that produced goods that can
be imported (ie. sectors subject to foreign
The rate of movement would increase with the rate
of growth of the petroleum sector. To limit structural
change, and ensure "the quality of Norwegian
society", one had to limit petroleum sector growth.
Rate of extrction
High rates of extraction would increase state
revenue and the possibility of boosting material
standards. But high extraction rates would also
necessitate rapid structural change. A balance was
struck in a tacit agreement that petroleum
production should be held below 90 million tons per
year. A sub-goal was to achieve relatively stable
, ,,, ,. , .: ,, "'*,' ,." ,, : ^ ,;*,,,"'.. *;"= .. ... *, o,* .,.-^ *T '
-' ,, ,-* ,P ,,, ,,
. . .. '. '
,. .... ,, ,, "
PROVlU RESERVES TI CDIBRiCUAL PIELDS. NIORAY
Soure i QIed rekLoratrts- AXr LdLL 1976,
Oslo 1977. .. 24
S I I
BLOCKS AMkRDED. KORMAY 1960 1978.
Sources Stvrina av aktiviteten Hnordaloon ied
blokktildelin4, CMr nr. 75013-3, Perqe 1975, .
EXPLORATORY ,S DRLLED., NW ,Y 1-960 1976
.Oso 191 .: 14
,, , , ,
. ... '. -,'.
,',, ,, ,l,
clan IQaC; 1970 1975 1980
1960 1966 1970 1s l
. . ...... . . . .
.- .. ,. :, .:., :. '. .,: '. ... : ' ..- . . '. .-' .. .. :. . ',; k ,, .
I I I
COSTS AED REVENUES IN OIL FIELD DEVELOW PET
AND EPLOITATION, BKOFISK, PRIGG AND SaT-
FJORD 1960 2000.
Source: OliedLrektoratets Areldinq 1976,
Oslo 1977, n. 27.
z bq -4
I \ DOMESTIC
I \ / CONSUMPTION
I ,A (projected at 3.5.%lyear)
PTROLnn CONSWIPTION AND PRODUCTION. ORaWY
Source: 01 edirektoratets ArmeldLin 1976,
OsLo 1977. i. 33 (production) and personal
communication fro Central Bureau of Statis-
ticm (connumpt on).
1PLOMBST IN TND PEROL3W SECTOR, MORIWY
xIrcee SYssels6ttinoen ved ol1eaktivitetena
rbeidsdirektoratet. august 1977. s. 3.
Exploration, drilling, production
Bases, transport, catering, administration
Construction of platforms, supply vessels, etc.
Construction and operation of new refine-
ries and petrochemical industries
=07 1 "
Source: StatAistls Aroox. Aejerai Lsue..
(GNP without peLroleli) and figure 5 (net
s.rpl., Inr. perrole.s sector .
'- GNP excluding petroleum
- -- (projected at 3.8%lyear)
PROJECTIOliI Or Ti. r3POi NKAiIONAL PRODUCT
WITH AND WI rTOUT i HE PErROLEUM SECTOR,
NORWAY 1960 2000.
FOTAL UI4POiS Li3ATr r Oi LU. AbiD HPOPri
OF Bjt'lmA1PN Foi rip E :BKTOL.EL ?aCPio.
NOP.iyY 'I-r 1 *:
Bourcei Statiatlm ArboK. several IsBueS
(toul ImLport. u-por of equipment, and
ol.P) wn tL.matea (oiIt ulporc) .
IMPORT OF EQUIPMENT
FOR PETROLEUM SECTOR
FOREIGN DEBT AS A FRACTION OF THE GROSS
NATIONAL PRODUCT, NORWAY 1965 1977.
Source: Statistisk Arbok. several issues
(foreign debt and GNP).
1960 1966 1970 1975 1980
. . . . . . ...
. . . . . .
MT, All. M
private consumption in Norway. Ne ay borrowed
abroad in order to maintain fumpym d*uing
the first three years of the current economic crisis.
When international demand dropped, and certain
Norwegian industries (e.g. textiles, ship yards, forest
products) approached bankruptcy, the government
chose to subsidize these sectors in the hope of better
times. The subsidies were partly financed through
international borrowing. Norwegian requests were
gladly satisfied because of the security m expected
future oil revenues. The state saved employment
in the short term. But the cres led to a situation
where foreign debt is accumulating, and it has
become necessary to adapt the industrial, structure
to the existing demand. Another unintended side
effect of the strategy has been the steady increase in
Norwegian income levels. While heavy unemploy-
ment presses wage claims in other nations, the
knowledge of the existence of the oil wealth fuels
income demands in Norway and softens the ability of
management and politicians to resist them. As a
consequence, the whole Norwegian industry has had
its 'cmpoetive strength reduced totlhe point where
successive devaluations became necessary.
In sum the result is one where the income level has
soared and the Norwegian citizen is living a good life
off the oil revenue even before it is quite certain
that it will materialize. An unlucky set of
circumstances can be blamed, but the situation also
illustrates the difficulty a democracy has in
restraining itself and utilizing a sources of wealth in
an intelligent manner for a constructive, long term
purpose. Had it not been for the agreement on a 90
million ton per year production cling, the
squandering could have become much worse before a
restraining action occurred. A physical limitatim on
the capacity to generate revenue may be the only
safeguard against wasting the petroleum wealth in a
nation with a medium-sized oil endowment.
PTROlE UM AND LESS INDUSTRIALIZED
Norway is still only half way into its petroleum
era It is too early to. whether tead l Cs*o nse:
will prove beneficial. One thing is already certain. In
thehand of evisionary, well ganiedpation, an oil
enhostatin to secure for itself a major share o the
oft n gto etrQ1lfum. exteactio. A W. 4101
Norwegia case, this must occur through ti
governm t control anm eulalton of the act` ;
on the continental shelf. If require great cean -.,d
preparation to avoid losing control. It is important
to secure the nation's access not only to the pri;its
from foreign sales of oil, but also to as much oil as is
The effects of a medim-sized oil sector on
lyment and industrial structure are small in an
in a .economy. The fc tSrrekl: t P
even ter a le dust d ,Jountry to ,eS
capacityto supply the advanced capital eqt
for off-shore activity. It s difficult to say
this is an advantage or not. At any rate, exploitation.
of the continental shelf will provide the opportuni
for industrial experience to several workers a
Access to petroleum gives a less industrialdud'
country greater freedom to plan its development.
Other and simpler development strategies are
sibl when oil is available in large amntt
o ma~keepssailte the iiti instruction of
S saving macbhinery 'ic inei
uct y and reduce the toil in agriculture.
etroleum can provide the fuels for .sai all
industries that have to absorb those that aref
from the land.'Also, for the transportation n:twrkat
has become increasingly necessary. If dstribued
a thoughtful way, oil can serve to
differences in income and oppertt B
petroleum revenue provides access to i
goods and -services which can help remove
ttlen~ek_ in the development path.
Many difficult public policy questions arise, and
the difer from toseof anind d coian
such as Norway. Should oil be made available at'a
very low price in order' to boost development in the
short term? Should oil be allocated to rural reaSao
counter migration flows to the cities?
Access to petroleum offers a chance that.kgd
not be wasted. But it will, unless it is adm Or.
The first step in a petroleum e
should be to pln for thisheeof
revenue is a magnificent tool to reach any set of
objectives. The tool is available even before oil The petroleum sector enompasses the primatofln~ setWre.
production starts, as access to international credit all off-shore activity and all on-shame actiUty that meiis
seems to increase along with proven reserves. But directly to the operation ofoffshoreinsamtalhUnt-ta pA
without a firm plan forthe use of.this opportunity, it tion, transportation, extraction, bases, transport swrvi1s,
is most likely that the oil wealth wfl be wasted Sw, end tht secodatey all9 te (prodrdudnga
th.ouh, increased private consumption ... arnee"e tkffO- et ,.fc..) d
Although Norway is a t industrialied ships, ml
country, pact of the Noregian eperince is of p"it -ti p-- n--r _
e to t es dltaust Um alze entering a ade).
petroleum era. 8. A iaw biiP~ nb aor betwe5 aniA&1amd ptmpen
-irstt is usefm to know that it is possible for the expected futu re venus.
OIL & GAS EXPLORATIOn
in developing countries
-such as Jamaica
BY: RAYMOND WRIGHT
I Ts paper was presented at the Jamaica-Norway Petroleum Seminar, Kington, November 15, 198. The views expressed in this
I paper are offered by the author for the purpose of generating discussion and are not Intended to reflect any policy of the
Government of Jamaica
Dr. Raymond M. Wright was born and educated in Jamaica.
He is the Commissioner of Mines in the Ministry of Mining and
Natural Resources. A geologist, he was educated at Durham and
London Universities in England, and Stanford University,
U.S.A. Dr. Wright's major immediate professional activity is in
the search for oil and gas in Jamaica. He h as previously
contributed to JAMAICA JOURNAL.
The material prosperity of industrial society today
has been built primarily on easy access to fuels and
metallic ores. The most accessible of these deposits
have been found and exploited already. Yet society is
not running out of energy or raw materials in any
absolute sense. The essence of the situation is that
energy and metals are not near exhaustion, but that
the cheap and easily found ones are nearly gone. A
shortfall in petroleum supplies, to occur about 1990,
has been predicted by many, including Saudi
Arabia's oil minister Ahmad Zaki Yamani.1 However,
I am one of those who believe that there is still
plenty of oil to be found. I believe that the many
peamng-out predictions and Doomsday theories fail
to consider the world's constant record of adding
more reserves each year than are consumed. The
industry's wild-catting successes are not given full
In the last decade, global oil reserves have risen
from 414 billion barrels in 1968 to 646 billion barrels
at the start of 1978. Consumption in that period was
about 167 billion barrels, yielding a net addition of 65
billion barrels of new oil. The world, of course, is
consuming more oil nearly 23 billion barrels per
year today, compared with approximately 14 billion
barrels per year in 1968, But giant new fields such as
Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's North Slope, Mexico's
Reforma fields and major finds in the North Sea, are
helping to meet the rise in demand. Arthur
Meyerhoff estimates that a total of 491 giant fields
will produce some 79% of the known world reserves
of oil and gas in the next decade and these giant
fields will ultimately continue to deliver a major
portion of future needs through field extension, and
secondary and tertiary recovery methods.
Economist M.A. Adelman of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, indicated a July 1978
Conferences in Calgary, that any change in
international oil pricing will be gradual and there will
be no gap between supply and demand. For the next
50 years the world will have as much oil as it can
afford no more, no less. There is only one real
question: at what price?
Conservation will become a major effort and in
this regard dominant is the role of the U.S.A., which
in 1976 consumed 36% of the world's supply of oil
outside the centrally-planned economies, with only
8% of the proven reserves. The U.S.A. also consumed
62% of the world gas sales (again outside the
Communist Block) whilst having no more than 15%
of the proven gas reserves.
More new oilwill be found in virgin territories, and
wildcat drilling will continue to be one of the busiest
industries in the world. It is estimated that the rate
of wildcat drilling in Canada and the U.S.A. during
1978 will be nearly two holes for every hour of the
day, and in other countries outside the Communist
Group, one exploratory well per hour.
Intensive petroleum exploration and development
in developing countries could reduce their
dependance on imported crude oil from an average
of approximately 80% in 1977 to less than 50% in
1990, despite an increase in the rate of consumption.
New exploration activity is now justified in many
countries because of rising oil prices. Crude oil
development costs in most developing countries
range between $3 and $6/barrel whst the current
price of oil exceeds $12/barrel. These costs now
compare favourably with development costs in other
areas such as the North Sea and Alaska.
A recent World Bank study estimates that
non-OPEC developing countries currently produce
... ,, i 4IL. .A
I.F .. 7
Main components of a seismic profiling system. (Modified after
R. McQullin and D.A. Ardus, 1977, "Exploring the geology of
Shelf Seas Graham & Trottman publishers).
Batteries of air
is which are suspended from steel frames and
to provide a t y release of sound impulses.
Steamer cable of 2,400 metres length
which is trailed behind the vessel dur
ing operation. The cable carries about
1,500 hydro-phones. The reflected seir-
mic waves, picked up by the hydro-
phones, are recorded digitally on
magnetic tapes for later processing.
Seismic recording room aboard the
WO awses Is coret t withe siet Mn e
.Ie; n l~ aa be lefthe the optn ofd
"*~-*~ot 4% p'te o itbtithea ;o'pghtbntyr a retain bamlck ibe,.
; fnd 710% be world market prices, determined by auction, or by
Tvw fi'S r,.co r ents be S temg o ajto elshe e, the res ult i t o
n; essioney c' agemem ats with ofes oe cooesin, to the highest id tt
However, there are drawbacks. Some national o bidder, could result in the entwrk becfus e t .
onhefaie ino;dtheo.pig econtoies 'lack, the ial a e hands of a single company, madMadeset
manpower necessary ofr susao ied eporatory of tonttirptieete ^ ,o
tffist onawe wish. tora en aor fnr di tohaateing fm p aonds thisor cony huess As a a
their over ents, or suffoer from too muh politeial syst is an inspPopiiate too for mo yan
exposure. Political pressures tend t generate
1973, "It is time we began the process of
cservaystif e ttit er santu ofthis most einga reluctance S Tre an yer ar ent fork the inclusion
three principal requirements for exploration success exploration oder t a e re ler lpis ruei
of nldusrevae". Toward these ends petroleum the maximum public reenues will be earffin s we
orgaevelpnizationstries have set up Stae corporate ons tate participation, corporate meome ta ., and
sectluo atr. imneixi hW.l offlgshore concession are, which, given to th an t.
setor, dthe governmensult is deprived proceeds from a the
Howevssion Ter operationaredrawback. me national oi production starts. This nyse
In tmphe face of the growing economic and political may be several yearthes to more than a decade
manpof concession termsary for sustained pla world-wide rents may, in such cases, cover temporary needs and
effot,-or ar unable to obtain proper fa fdia rom operatios of this eompoSany. ?hEs tSSl
their zatemnts system is an inapproseiate tool for many do4yesd u
teir government suff erfromt gomuheot sd vetic countries. %
basis. The results of this are increased government provide an early cash flow.
take, direct or indirect control of acxploraties, and state Another strategy is to open only a limited area ore to
participation, exploration under a n ew petroleum law. This limited
In introducing new petroleum legislation, a area can be offered under terms just suffidiet to
In introducing new petroleum legislation, a area can be offered under terms just sufficient to
induce the drilling of a substantial number of
exploratory wells. If such an exploration programme
succeeds, the probability of success in the remaining
area will be considerably higher, and better terms
can be established. If exploration as unsuccessful, the
government may have to offer the remaining area
under more liberal terms.
In a simple sense, a national petroleum policy can
be defined as follows:
Sthe development of a petroleum industry,
.the development of associated industries,
.the earning of the maximum possible revenue,
the enhancement of national independence and
.the protection of environment, health and
Sthe provision of more employment.
Each government faces constraints in the effort to
carry out these policy objectives. The most im-
portant constraints for Jamaica are going to be:
.. the availability of the oil and gas resource base,
.capital availability, and
.. availability of infrastructure and know-how.
It is obvious that the entire success or failure of an
exploration programme will depend on the extent of
the resource base. The studies so far indicate that
favourable conditions could occur for generation of
petroleum and many of us feel certain that at least
small petroleum accumulations occur both offshore
and onshore Jamaica. However, it needs
considerable exploration effort to discover such
resources and even if 4 or 5 exploratory holes are
drilled on Pedro Bank, it is still possible that
important reserves will not be discovered. It is
evident that the amount of exploration activity will
be the important factor in determining the resource
base. Thus it is of absolute importance that all
contracts should provide for maximum possible
exploration activity until an adequate resource base
is found. For this reason, one might wish to give up
partial objectives with regard to bonuses and surface
rental for the purpose of having a maximum
At this time Jamaica may not have sufficient
capital available to risk in the large scale exploration
programme required to determine the resource base.
Foreign private and state-owned companies will be
invited to make available the capital to conduct a
substantial part of the exploration effort.
The availability of infrastructure and know-how in
the exploration effort is going to be an important
factor. The infrastructure in Jamaica for petroleum
development is relatively good. Good ports are
available to function as supply bases for offshore
activities, and sufficiently qualified labour can be
made available through short training programmes
for many different activities. However, we still lack
in Jamaica the skilled manpower required for the
many specialized functions that are necessary in the
Jamaica will have to take into account that any
significant petroleum development in the offshore
area could move at a considerably faster pace than
national markets for specialized labour and
equipment could stand. Hence, as Joergen Randers
of the Resource Policy Group in Norway has shown,
the effects of a medium-sized oil sector on
employment and industrial structure, will be small in
a developing country, which does not have the
capacity to supply advanced capital equipment
needed for offshore activity. Further, economic
growth resulting from petroleum development might
be more rapid than the national economy can
sustain, resulting in imaginary growth, or, in other
In this paper I have not used the approach of
sweet reason leading you gently through a path of
flawless logic and analysis to some reasoned and
justified conclusion. That approach may enable us to
be wrong but with confidence. Instead, I have
presented a mix of ideas and strategies to the
planning of oil exploration in developing countries
such as Jamaica, from which you should draw your
Just as war is too important to leave to the
military, perhaps, also, oil is too important to leave
passively and entirely to the private oil companies.
It is possible for a developing country to obtain a
major share of petroleum profits through tight
government control and regulation of exploration
and development activity. A finite resource such as
oil is a one-time gift of nature, which, if squandered,
will hurt ourselves, our children, and our children's
children. The future is purchased by the present,
hence it is our responsibility to ponder and debate
the many vital issues involved.
1. Yamani, A.Z., 1978, Keynote address given at the C.S.P.G.
International Conference, Calgary, Canada, June 26-28.
2. Meyerhoff, A.A., 1976, American Scientist, v. 64, No. 5.
3. Adelman, M.A., 1978, Paper read at the C.S.P.G. Interna-
tional Conference, Calgary, Canada, June 26-28.
4. Tanser, M., 1978, Natural Resources Forum, v. 2, No. 4,
5. Anonymous, 1978, Noroil, v.5, No. 2, pp. 49-64.
6. Church, F., 1973, Multinational Corporations Committee
Hearings Reports, Washington D.C.
7. Meyerhoff. A.A., 1976, Bull. Canadian Petroleum Geol., v.24,
No. 2, pp.282-304.
8. Randers. 1., 1979. JAMAICA JOURNAL 143.
uW V Uasumer ass umWa n Wn MWWsi Y Wv aR u w'-oPy wouse
seroasmw experience listed in that country. The
first Nwegians to be employed in the new
industry were the crew of the semi-subm-asible
'"Ocan Traveller" that pdded the lrst wells onthe
i~coWeinenta'hhglf; sad the first Norwegian-bJfPA rg,
"Ocea Viking", was completed at the Aker Grp
no Norwegianknowh existed. A team t a few
econsltati lawyers amnd egines, assisted. by a
petroleum expert from Iraq, drew up a petroleum
policy and handled negotiations between companies
and the government.
Today, less than 15 years later, the petroleum
activity, excluding .the petro-chemical industry,
provides an estimated 25,000 jobs on-shore and
of hoare. Twenty eight drilling rigs of Norwegian
design have been built, half of them under licence
abroad, and the value of oil development projects to
the economy is estimated to be 80 billion Norwegian
kroner,(US l6,000)of which an increasing .share is
going to Norwegian industry. By 1979, it is expected
that 60% of all contracts will go to Norwegian
companies. About 850 people are employed in the
various governmental agencies that today control
the exploration, development, and production of the
petroleum resources following the policy objectives
laid down by the government.
The problems of meeting the manpower challenges
of a new industry are most difficult for a small
country like Norway, with a total population of less
than 4 million people. The rapid development of
*Z.-Wm ,u nutuflms.. awS afrESt e.yW qM
shpbuildig played a central role, i
in. 1905. Including the i shing
180,000 Norwegians engaged in acvlt
with the off-shore envismnt; it w as
a radicalo.hange of orientation to enter into offi
petrole~ m activities. aMwever, ptid' i.
iptan trquird abwholerange of epecsalised ailsathat
had to be acquired. oilmplBex opiabibea f.iat
underwater pipelines -for hundreds of
required solutions to logistic problems of war time
dimensions, and the future tasks planned in the
North Sea will call for even- more complex solutions.
Even more important was the ability of skilled
manpower to adapt concepts from abroad to the
specific Norwegian environment, and to draw on
existing knowledge for solving new tasks. Two
examples may serve as illustration: The now
well-known Aker drilling rig H-3 was an adaption of
a foreign concept (the semi-submersible rig) to the
harsh North Sea environment, by utilizing
techniques known from ship construction, such as a
self-supporting deck. Also, the experience in
constructing hydro-electric dams was critical to the
design and building of concrete platforms and tanks,
such as the Condeep platform.
The existence of a well-established industry
characterized by creative engineering and skilled
manpower and the willingness to enter into a new
technological area, were thus the basis for today's
know-how in off-shore and petroleum industry.
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n.omnt h,. t/oS Ndtailtbdrlf
: tayt . mntt y.- nt ftmiw ai^ speoft zerwhic lto .tQ "i
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$ S* sta K Conttie.stlo yNa Sten aNw d nwim iHe inpaotio f w o a tip pai taer teadr to
b s~dr Istuant to NorwitorWtlarab
lahtedonb ui In The Nmfaa nksbotenr Today:
t i epIo in the N" W o r lan bt olk rct' or. Most
14kW ntapoa me mapwnof mae tillsd ofen tt mae shtjyurida
ngeii actiltales related to the oft-ainae, dand a
e8 0stnce of a ropd edtaetional wegia and a numinerMf Upalndp hAve eArsaed.
*ee ljta'ordlnatclnes* tab lisst were the In order to 1vitJ' pfgjestqthr N*th
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pmti-weidon reaor Jesqaii. rwlapi whsie es th oel ntgeirm
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te: ^sls Ntres, aegiannd a rmsa rea
a": .%eM te -nit ..is We- te fU !
pp eeiW-hat4iiY M^wB e and tiiirritrne3 alrgis, : !'' are.s* d .,to c. ortvey.
ta ,bh "m OW 8. The-p
y a*-' u.. ,s e ,o i t .... N Is ,er r he.to.th e e
Se.,tem ti g .mnd vessel design, to r^ CCI) me atiWAY Infl
yia^etroleum technology f-7d PSTRlIeUM SiE
sytecsi esearc i h to reservoir smula n.and According to a recent study by.the Wrl.,ki
S blowout control. water research, au as tlhemajotty ofThird World untewIth
,... d,... g^. .titen ypurbac ii.ad ma, B. shel, ear potential for.petroli,.
et o erater f. The mor u-natoal oil
to h o. n.mies ontrqzi over tIwor An i~iipr rt
Only a prt of the research required to the world's petroleuar potential, pasaO
meet new e oli frontiers can be provided by upto 25% ofthewodd's potential reu.vesg^j
Sa inaR country, i Norway, Therefore, a close discovered min countries that are in dire teel C,
iternational co-operation in research and energyresoureea. c.,
d-... pe is ,e9qirlet Onie such joint leor.t with Many Third Worid countries wish develfo ,
A. i ch int. q te offshore o.wn petr le source ad h eo
&.;.A d eU41W~~r~pl*~w)~r j~~
IiLLL.~: les~C o 1W~~T smlqis..ad AerigC arcn tcI~.h tt~S:'5~~~i f~
boo a re
:.... ... .
'... .3 m m",
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-cipni~gr~s: .ttM riomgt yz d p to decttbn at
. ...'...' .. ... ..... ... .. . 4 .. 4. . . .
Barrett, Leonard E., The Rastafarians: The Dread-
locks of Jamaica, London: Heinemann Educational
Belli, Gioconda, Linea de Fuego, Cuba: Casa de las
Americas poetry prize, 1978.
Bennett, Louise, Anancy and Miss Lou, Kingston,
Jamaica: Sangster's Book Stores Ltd., 1979.
Berry, James, Fractured Circles, London: New
Beacon Books, 1979.
Brown, Lloyd, West Indian Poetry, Twayne
Campbell, Hazel D., The Rag Doll and other stories,
Kingston: Savacou Cooperative, 1979.
Craton, Michael, Searching for the Invisible Man:
Slaves and Plantation Life in Jamaica, Boston:
Harvard University Press, 1978.
Dawes, Neville, Prolegomena to Caribbean Litera-
ture, Kingston: Institute of Jamaica Monograph
Series No. 1, 1977.
- ---, Interim, Kingston: Institute of Jamaica,
D'Costa, Jean, Voice in the Wind, Longman Carib-
bean Horizons Series, 1978.
Galeano, Eduardo, Dias y Noches de Amor y de
Guerra, Cuba: Casa de las Americas prize book
Gonzalez, Omar, Nosotros los Felices, Cuba: Casa de
las Americas, 1978.
Harris, Wilson, Eternity to Season, London: New
Beacon Books Ltd., 1979.
Ingram, Kenneth E., Sources of Jamaican History,
Switzerland: International Documentation Com-
pany AG., 1976.
Jamaica Festival Commission, Literary Anthology,
Jamaica National Trust Commission: Port Royal,
Jamaica, Excavations 1969-70, Kingston, 1972.
Kolia, John, Historical Plays, Port Moresby, New
Guinea: Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies,
La Borde, Harold, An Ocean to Ourselves, Longman
Caribbean Horizons Series, 1978.
McNeill, Anthony,Credences at the Altar of Cloud,
Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1979.
Morris, Mervyn, Shadowboxing, London: New
Beacon Books Ltd., 1979.
Nettleford, Rex M., Caribbean Cultural Identity:
The Case of Jamaica: An Essay in Cultural Dyna-
mics, Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1978.
Ojeda; David, Las Condiciones de la Guerra, Cuba:
Casa de las Americas prize story, 1978.
Owens, Joseph Dread The Rastafarians of
Jamaica, Sangster, 1976
Proctor, George R., "New Plants from the Cayman
Islands", Sloanea, Occasional Papers of the Natural
History Division of the Institute of Jamaica, No. 1,
Phillpotts, Karl, The Nine Principles of Nazareth
United, Kingston: Jamal Foundation, 1976.
Reid, Victor Stafford, The Jamaicans, Kingston:
Institute of Jamaica, 2nd. ed., 1978.
Richmond, Angus, A Kind of Living, Cuba: Casa de
las Americas, prize novel, 1978.
Roumain, Jacques, Masters of the Dew, Heinemann
Caribbean Writers Series No. 12, with an introduc-
tion by J.M. Dash, 1978.
Sibley, I.K., Dictionary of Place Names in Jamaica,
Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1978.
Wauthier, Claude, The Literature and Thought of
Modern Africa, London: Heinemann, 2nd. English
Wilson, Jeanne, Mulatto, London: Macmillan, 1978.
Caliban: A Journal of New World Thought and
Writing, Volume 11, Number 2, Fall-Winter 1978.
Caribbean Journal of African Studies, No. 1, 1978,
Kingston: African Studies Association of the West
Caribbean Quarterly, Special issue: Writers and
Writing, Vol. 23 Nos. 2 and 3, June-September 1977,
Kingston: University of the West Indies.
Casa de las Americas, Nos. 109, 110, 111, Cuba,
COMLA Newsletter, Nos. 21 and 22, 1978, Kingston,
Jamaica: Commonwealth Library Association.
Cuaderno de Cultura, Madrid: Ministry of Culture.
No. 3, August 1978.
La Educacion, Revista Interamericana de Desarrollo
Educativo, 78-80, 1978, Washington: OAS.
Signos, 1978, Cuba: Casa de las Americas.
Ministry of Education, Jamaica: The Teaching of
Language, Torch Special Issue No. 3, September
Translation from the Spanish:-
In memory of the very virtuous and
sadly missed Ester Baruh Alvares, wife
of Abraham Alvares, who was called
by God to a better world on the 30th
Her sad, swift and youthful death is
mourned, for if life is prolonged in the
good, she, because of her virtue de-
She was a beautiful plant, fully grown
and bound in conjugal love,
When her life was cut off at 17 years.
She was full of virtue,
and they, steeped in sorrow, erected a
perpetual mausoleumto her memory.
And God granted what they humbly
requested, that eternal glory follow a
Spanish & Portuguese
JEIS OF JAMAAICA
mid 16tk- mid 17tkc.
BY: ROSEMARIE DePASS SCOTT
Mrs. Rosemarie DePass Scott was born in Jamaica and
educated at Wolmer's Girls School 1958-61, Barrington College,
R.I. 1962-66 B.A. Cum Laude (History, Bible), University of
New Mexico 1966-68 M.A. (History) and University of the
West Indies 1973-74 Diploma in Education. She has taught in
Jamaica, U.S.A. and Peru.
INTRODUCTION WHO ARE THE JEWS?
The Jews are a ubiquitous and resilient people.
Such characteristics as these, have been forged
through the experiences they have endured in their
4,000 year old history. Abram, a native of Ur in
Sumeria, felt God's call to migrate to Canaan. There,
this first Jew, was to worship the one God and to
receive His many blessings which were concomitant
on Abram's obedience and trust inAdonai. Abraham
and his defendants kept alive their monothesitic
faith whether they lived in Palestine or as
"sojourners" in Egypt.
When the twelve tribes of Israel defendantss of
Jacob's twelve sons, and thus the great grandsons of
Abraham, the Patriarch) returned to Canaan, they
set up a kingdom. After the death of Soloman, the
nation was divided into the Northern Kingdom
(Israel), and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). About
2 centuries later in 722 B.C., the ten tribes of the
Northern Kingdom were deported to Assyria, where
they seemed to have lost their identity as Jews. The
two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin, were
also captured by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Yet,
their detainment was short-lived, and on their release
by the Persian King Cambyses in 516 B.C.,
thousands of Judeans (the word "Jews" is a
derivative) returned to their homeland. Some
remained in the Persian Empire and established
communities in that vast area. However the great
Diaspora or dispersion of the Jews, ha' its
greatest thrust in A.D. 70, when Jerusalem fell to the
Romans. Jews scattered throughout the civilized
world; to Greece, Italy and places along the coasts of
the Mediterranean Sea.
As we have seen, Judaism began with one God -
fearing man, until it spread to include his family, a
tribe, several tribes, then a nation. Since 1948 an
Israeli nation, in which the majority of citizens are
Jewish,1 has been set up once again in Palestine. But
the numerous Jews outside of Israel (11,400,000) are
not part of that nation. So no one nation
encompasses all Jews. Are the Jews then a race?
Orientals, Negroid, Causasian and mixed castes of
Jews exist. What is common to all Jews, regardless
of national allegiance or racial characteristics, is the
same religion. Today, the Jews are primarily a
religious body (enveloping several denominational
groupings). Any unity of nation or race which might
have existed among Jews, has not survived.
WHY JEWS CAME TO THE NEW WORLD
Two different methods of Jewish worship develop-
ed after the fall of Jerusalem, in 586 B.C. at the
hands of Nebuchadnezzar. One evolved in Babylon
among the Jewish exiles; the other in Palestine,
where returning exiles revived the small Jewish com-
munity in the homeland. The differences in worship
were largely a matter of variation in arrangement of
synagogue services and liturgy. Pronunciation of
Hebrew, used in worship, also differed between these
two branches of Judaism.
Jewish settlers in the Iberian peninsular (which
today comprises Portugal and Spain), adopted the
Babylonian liturgy and were called Sephardics.
Those in Central and Eastern Europe, influenced by
the Palestinian school, came to be known as the
Ashkenazim. Besides using the vernacular
languages of the countries in which they settled, for
everyday use, Sephardic Jews also spoke a dialect
called Ladino (a mixture of Spanish and Hebrew),
while the Ashkenazim used Yiddish (a
Most of the Jewish communities in the New World
were established by the Sephardics. Almost all the
Jews up to the 1770s in Jamaica, were of the
Sephardim. In order to see why this is so, we must
look at the Iberian Peninsular the adopted home
of the Sephardics.
From as early as the Roman domination of Iberia,
the Jews were numerous and influential. They only
experienced their first major persecution there,
however, under Sisebut, a Visigoth king, who in 616
forced around 90,000 Jews to be baptised. Then came
the Arab invasion of 711, which ushered in a "Golden
Age" for the Sephardic Jews, since they enjoyed
great freedom during this era. They became Moslem
in dress, speech, culture in everything that
mirrored the greatness of the Arabic civilization -
except in religion. Thus their wealth, culture and
numbers, surpassed those of all other Jewish
communities in the western world for that period.
The Catholics, who had been pushed back by the
Moslems in 711 into the tiny kingdom of Asturias,
then began their seven-century long re-conquest of
Iberia. By the end of the tenth century, they
governed three small kingdoms (Leon, Castile, and
Navarre) in the North.
After a major victory in 1085, which resulted in
the recovery of the great city of Toledo, the Arabs
reasserted themselves to curb the advance of the
Christians. Christians and Jews within the Caliphate
of Cordova (as the Moslem two-thirds of the
Peninsular was then known) were forced to convert
to Islam, or be enslaved or killed. Most of the Jews
therefore, fled to the Northern Christian kingdoms;
so the centre of Spanish Jewry was shifted to the
northern states, during this period.
The Catholic rulers demonstrated a more tolerant
attitude towards the Jews, since their skills and
wealth could be used to strengthen the Christians'
position against the Moslems in Iberia. Moreover,
their usefulness to the royal courts as interpreters,
diplomats, advisers, financiers and physicians could
not be belittled. While other European nations
degraded the Jews socially and economically, and
some even banished them from their shores, Jews in
Iberia were receiving tolerable treatment.
Spain. However, as Moorish lands were
progressively reconquered, the position of the Jews
slowly began to deteriorate. In the twelfth century
the Christian kingdoms of Aragon and Portugal were
carved out of territories reconquered. Then, Moslem
power was dealt its death-blow in 1212, at the battle
of Las Navas De Tolesa, so that it ceased to seriously
menace Christian Iberia again. (The Moors became
confined to the south-east tip of the Peninsular called
Granada). Though divided into four Christian
kingdoms (Leon, Castile, Navarre and Aragon) this
area was about the same size as encompassed by
modern Spain today. From the end of the fourteenth
century, Jewish persecution in Spain increased as
conversion of all non-Christians was sought.
Thousands accepted baptism into Catholicism so as
to escape imprisonment or death. Moslem
"converts" were called Moriscos, while Jewish
conversos were dubbed Marranos (an old Spanish
word for 'swine').
However, intensified actions against the "infidels"
occurred from 1469 onwards, with the marriage of
Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of
Aragon. Political unity of Spain through this
marriage, (Granada was added in 1492, and Navarre
later in 1512) was not enough. Religious uniformity
had also to be achieved. The Inquisition, as a
stringent measure to ensure religious unison, was
therefore introduced in 1480. As a court of law,
concerned solely with heresy the Spanish Inquisition
dealt predominantly with relapsed Moriscos and
Marranos; the latter greatly outnumbering the
former. During 1483-1494, over 2,000 suffered the
death penalty, while many others were tortured to
confess guilt, and thus to "save their souls".
Although some Marranos genuinely accepted
Christianity, others (receiving no instructions after
baptism excepting the learning of the prayers
entitled "Hail Mary" and "The Lord's Prayer")
retained their Judaism, but only outwardly lived as
Catholics. For example, they would have their
children baptized in the Church, but would
afterwards wash off all traces of the ceremony in the
secrecy of their homes. Many of these Crypto-
(secret) Jews, who wished to openly practice their
faith, left Spain right from the commencement of the
forced conversions. The numbers of refugees to
Morocco, other ports of North Africa; Sicily,
Sardinia, Naples and the Ottoman Empire, increased
largely after the establishment of the Inquisition. In
July 1492, Spain expelled all Jews, when heightened
religious zeal turned against all alien elements
(Jewish and Moslem) in society.5 With the Moors
finally defeated in March 1492 (Granada was
reconquered), Jewish support was no longer needed
to conciliate the Moslems. By that time, however,
such support had been severely weakened by
confiscation of property, forced conversions and by
massacre. So about 300,000 Jews left Spain on
August 2, 1492 for the Ottoman Empire, Holland,
Italy, North Africa and Portugal.
Portugal. Records show that Marrano refugees to
the New World were predominantly Portuguese, not
Spanish. For example, in Mexico the Inquisition was
introduced in March 1571, so as to 'Free the land,
which has become contaminated with Jews and
heretics, especially of the Portuguese nation'.
Twenty three years earlier, the Portuguese
Inquisition had commenced the policy of deportation
(generally across the Atlantic, and to Brazil) of all
convicted, but 'penitent' heretics. Two shiploads
yearly, of criminals, Jews and persons condemned by
the Inquisition, went to Brazil from Portugal. One
Brazilian area alone (Recife), had about 5,000 Jews in
1654. Surely not only deportation could have
accounted for these numbers.
What then, caused the multitude of Jewish
refugees to settle in the New World? What
conditions in the homeland provoked such a sizeable
exodus? Unlike the Jews of Spain, those of Portugal
received quite good treatment under Christian
rule,6 right up to 1496. King Manoel was per-
suaded by Ferdinand and Isabella to expel all
heretics who did not accept baptism, as a condition
to his receiving their daughter's hand in marriage.
So the Jews were forced to accept Catholicism "to
save their souls", even if they were unwilling to do
so. Children who were not presented for baptism,
were seized and distributed, among good Catholic
families. 200,000 Jews assembled in Lisbon to depart
in October 1497. But after confinement in a palace
without food, and after methods of pressure were
applied to convert them, they submitted to baptism.
Actually only seven or eight in all were expelled from
Portugal to Africa in the end.
Portuguese Marranos were at first prevented from
leaving the homeland, because their souls would be
endangered if they reverted to their ancestral beliefs.
Also because Portugal would loose the skills, wealth,
culture and learning that Marranos contributed to
the national life. Special licences and legislation
failed to stem the flow of emigrants smuggling
through the many ports and miles of frontier
boundaries. Thus by 1629, permanent freedom of
movement legally was attained. Marranos fanned
out into every city of Northern Europe which lay
along the recently developed commercial routes. At
the time when Spain and Portugal were at the zenith
of their power, Sephardic Jewish refugees founded
merchant colonies in European cities, and to a great
extent controlled maritime trade. Antonio Fernando
Carvajal is an example of the wealthy Portuguese
Jew of the period. Born in Fundao, Portugal, he fled
to France and from there to London, and became a
.British subject in 1655. Carvajal owned his own
merchant vessels and traded in several colonial
products of the East and West Indies, South
America, and the Ottoman Empire. He imported
large quantities of bullion, and kept the government
'informed politically, through information gained
from his business correspondents overseas.
Unlike many of the Spanish Marranos, the
Portuguese were firmer in their faith, and proved
their ability to maintain resistance despite centuries
of persecution. They learned to adjust to
Crypto-Judaism (practicing their faith secretly)
during the 43 years, after the expulsion and before
the coming of the Inquisition. Further, no
punishments for offences regarding their new faith,
were meted out to the New Christians for the first
twenty years after the Edict of Expulsion. Such
tenacity of faith developed by the Portuguese
Marranos, was well tested in Spain during
1580-1640. (Emigration to Spain accelerated during
this period when Spain and Portugal were governed
by the same monarchy.) Spanish names figure less
and less on the Inquisition's rolls, while those of
Portuguese immigrants and their descendants
dominate. Increased severity of the Portuguese
Inquisition, plus the impoverishment of Portugal
under Spanish rule, raised the numbers of Marrano
refugees fleeing to Spain. Many must have escaped
from Madrid, Seville and Toledo for the New World,
the land of golden opportunity where they would be
EARLY JEWISH ARRIVALS IN THE
It is perhaps ironical that the Jewish expulsion
from Spain and the discovery of the New World
occurred only ten weeks apart. The Ottoman
Empire was in the 1490s, the main, though not the
only, haven for Spanish and Portuguese Jews. But
with the Discovery, a new continent opened up to the
banished Sephardim. Though just Catholics were
encouraged to colonize the Spanish Americas,
restrictions against unbelievers migrating did not
take a serious turn until 1555. And even then
Marranos, wearing the mask of Catholicism, settled
in all the islands and territories to which ships from
Spain and Portugal went, carrying explorers and
colonizers. References have already been made to the
numerous Marranos settled in Mexico and Brazil.
But with the establishment of Dutch trading depots,
and English and French colonies in the 1620s, scores
of Jews migrated to these Protestant areas where the
Inquisition did not exist.
It is an attested fact that loans to finance
Columbus' early voyages came from Jewish
merchants. Three important patrons of Columbus
(Luis de Santangel, Chancellor of the Royal
Household; Gabriel Sanchez, High Treasurer of
Aragon; Alfonso de la Caballeria, Vice Chancellor of
Aragon) were Marranos. Some of the scientists (like
Abraham Zacuto, astronomer; and Ribes, the map
maker) who were involved in the rebirth of learning,
which contributed to the Discovery, were professing
Jews. There is quite a bit of evidence to support the
belief that Columbus himself was the descendant of
converted Jews. Some of the personnel on
Columbus' ocean journeys were Marranos. For
instance Luis de Torres interpreter, was baptized
just before the vessels sailed out in 1492. The
superintendent, the ship's surgeon and Mestre
Bernal, the physician, also were Marranos.
Jews in Spanish Jamaica. Columbus was given
hereditary titles as well as proprietary rights over
Jamaica, as a reward for the Discovery of the
Americas. His descendants were marqui of Jamaica,
having full control over the island's welfare, and
subject only to the Spanish monarch. Marranos were
attracted to the island, where the Inquisition was
never introduced, as was the case elsewhere in
Spanish America. Many probably came as
merchants, who may have considered the strategic
importance of Jamaica for trading (as it lay on the
route to the more prosperous Spanish Main.)
Marranos probably settled in Jamaica in
considerable numbers from the second half of the
sixteenth century up till the close of the eighteenth.
The increase at the time, was due to the Spanish
domination of Portugal (1580-1640), to which
reference was made earlier.
The British Conquest of Jamaica, 1655 At the
time of the capture of the island, General Venables
recorded the presence of many "Portuguese" in
Jamaica. From the early sixteenth century, the name
"Portuguese" was regarded as almost synonymous
with "Jews", throughout Europe. The amusing
story is told of a Catholic priest, who on his arrival in
Rome, inquired the way to get to the Marrano
ghetto. But no one would tell him, since it was
assumed that he must know the directions; the
priest was of Portuguese birth. One of the
Portuguese found in Jamaica was Don Acosta, who
as a commissioner (there were five in all), signed the
treaty of surrender. Venables spoke of them as '...
men of quality and worth', Don Acosta being 'one of
the best men among them.8 In a letter to Secretary
Thurloe, dated June 3, 1655, Venables wrote:
... we have only taken some prisoners, the rest
continue in the mountains ... We hope to make
them good subjects, being most of them
Why did the leaders of the British Conquest believe
the 'Portuguese' would make "good subjects"? Why
did the leaders even accept Jews into a colony
planned for the British? To obtain some answers, it's
necessary to briefly look at Britain during the period
of the Commonwealth.
The Puritans triumphed over the Royalists in
Britain, so that from 1642-1660, the land was ruled
by Parliament, then by the leader of the Puritans:
Oliver Cromwell. He tried to foster a mercantile
rebirth for England in rivalry against the Dutch.
(The First Navigation Act of 1651, passed in the
period of the Commonwealth, was later confirmed by
the monarchy on its return to power.) Cromwell was
quick to see the material advantages that the Jews
could bring to England and her possessions. Capital
not brought by them to Britain would very likely go
to Amsterdam, (the main haven for Marrano
refugees in Northern Europe), and so augment the
financial position and power of the Dutch. As one
who professed a purity of Christianity, based
excessively on the teachings of the Old Testament,
Cromwell was more disposed at being favourable to
the Jews as a people, than would a high-church
Anglican monarch have been.
The Grand Design, Cromwell's plan to annex
Hispaniola from the Spanish and thus to have a
wealthy foot-hold in the Americas, failed. So
Jamaica was seized as an alternative. Cromwell
sought the advice of Simon de Caceres, who had
extensive trading links in the West Indies, and like
Antonio Carvajal, provided political information to
the ruler of his adopted homeland, Britain.
EARLY JEWISH SETTLERS IN JAMAICA
The first official British record of Jewish
migration to Jamaica after the Conquest, denotes
the. arrival from London of six Jews with a rich
cargo, on March 31, 1662. One of the six was
Benjamin Buena de Mesquita, a Portuguese
merchant probably born in Amsterdam. Colonel
William Beeston's Journal, information from which
commenced in 1655, states that these new settlers '...
came to discover a gold mine, known to them in the
Spaniards government, but disused'. Correspon-
dence of Marranos in Jamaica prior to 1655, with
European agents and relatives, must have been quite
extensive! De Mesquita petitioned Charles II in 1664
to become naturalized and to obtain relief from the
provisions of the Navigation Act of October 1651. He
was however banished from the island shortly after,
because of his failure to find the gold mine. His tomb
in New York, is the oldest one in the Sephardic
Jewish cemetery; it bears the date of 1683.
Surprisingly few Jews came to Jamaica from
England itself, during this period of extensive
British colonization. (The Jewish community there
was very small in the seventeen and eighteenth
centuries.) Most of the Jewish settlers to Jamaica
arrived from Holland or directly from Iberia, after
perhaps briefly stopping in London. Many set out
from other territories in the Americas, especially
from areas where the Dutch were displaced.9 Scores
of these settled in Jamaica, while a few others
travelled on to North America. It was necessary for
these Jews to be naturalized; to take the oath of
allegiance to the British monarch. As the Jamaican
assembly grew more powerful, it granted more of
these rights. One of the earliest Jews to receive
naturalization, was Jacob Torris in 1668. Such
patents made the citizen a full denizen of Britain,
having the same rights as any of 'her natural born
subjects', said the 1661 Windsor Declaration
brought to the island by the new governor, Lord
Windsor, in 1660.
The status of a British citizen enabled ownership
of property by Jews, a privilege frequently denied
them in Medieval Europe. But Jamaica needed to be
colonized and to become prosperous, therefore, such
- -v ---7
Hebrew scroll from the History Gallery of the Institute of Jamaica (detail at right).
attractions were offered to Jews, even before it was
done in Britain itself. Among the grants of land
given to the first settlers of Jamaica were those
(dated 1665) to: David Jacobsen of Port Royal,
Antonio Rodriques of St. Jago de la Vega and Ann
Jacob, who received twelve acres in St. Catherine.
Wealthy merchants like Solomon Gibay of Port
Royal, bought great tracts of land (1,200 acres in
1669, in the old parish of St. John; 1,620 acres in
1670 in St. Mary). Gibay seemed to have acquired or
increased his wealth, from the logwood trade, though
an interest in agriculture, very likely sugar
cultivation, is also evident. At the time of the Dutch
recovery of Surinam in 1667, Jamaica tried to attract
sugar and indigo planters who wished to leave that
former British colony. Ten Jewish Portuguese
farmers arrived from Surinam in 1675. However, by
1700, only five plantations were owned by Jews in
the island. Most of the Jewish residents were
merchants, or became merchants in Jamaica; a large
number of these resided in Port Royal.
In 1676, Jacob Mendez Guterez shipped to London
items such as cotton, indigo, coconuts, sugar, a box
of gold and a bundle of silver. Two other items
mentioned as exports by Jews, in early bills of lading
were hides and Spanish pieces-of-eight. The export of
precious metals in bullion and coinage, seemed
largely to have been in the hands of Jews, from that
early period onwards. The cargos handled by
Sephardics in Jamaica, were usually received in
London by other Jews. Names such as Michael and
Mayier Levy, and Daniell Soares appear on the
invoices. Jewish merchants held significant roles in
the colonial economic policy known as Mercantilism,
whose roots were beginning to appear in the
Besides business correspondents in Europe, Jews
in Jamaica had relatives scattered over several
lands. The first will of a Jew (David Gomez, a
merchant) in the island, dated 18 October 1673,
designated bequests to his eldest son (who lived with
an uncle) in London; a daughter-in-law residing in
Amsterdam; and a tenant of one of Gomez's homes
in Port Royal. David Gomez also supplied provisions
and medicines to ships making the trans-Atlantic
voyage to Europe. English merchants complained in
1671 to the Jamaican Legislative Council that some
Jews illegally participated in trading activities as
they did not possess letters of naturalization.
Another profession held by several Sephardics in
the island, was that of physician. Marranos in the
Iberian Peninsular had often chosen this as a career,
since they could more easily observe their Sabbath.
Numerous Marranos served as doctors to monarchs
in Europe. During the first decades of the
eighteenth century, some of the Jewish physicians
practicing in Kingston were: doctors DeLeon,
Garcia, Henriques and Jacob Adolphus, who was
Knighted for his work done on His Majesty's
An early resident of Spanish Town (from 1674
onwards) was the poet Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna.
He had actually experienced imprisonment in Spain
for several years, as a result of the Inquisition. This
well-educated Portuguese Jew wrote:
With force I broke my prison door and escaped
the bloody Inquisition. Here in Jamaica do I
sing the Glory of the Almighty God.
His book, Faithful Mirror of Life, published in
London in 1722, was a translation into Spanish of the
Psalms of David using a variety of metrical forms.
This volume, Laguna's life work, was probably the
first book ever written by a resident of British
Jamaica. Besides the privilege of freedom of worship
for Jews in the island, they were pre-empted from
militia service on the Sabbath and on other festival
days, according to a 1699 letter by the Commissioner
of Trade to the Earl of Jersey.
Cromwell's gamble of allowing Jews to enter
Britain and her possessions once again, (the first
legal allowance since 1290), paid off well. Governor
Lynch of Jamaica was able to write to Lord
Arlington in 1671, saying: '... that the King could
have no more profitable subjects than the Jews.'
Despite the fact that Cromwell's encouragement of
the Jews was far in advance of his times, it appears
that his motive reflected the centuries' old attitude
of using or dispensing with the Jews according to the
needs (political or economic) of the nation at a given
JEWS IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JAMAICA
The prosperity of Jamaica in the eighteenth
century was due to the sugar plantations. Trade
from the island of sugar, its by-product and other
tropical crops; and imports into Jamaica of
manufactured goods, food stuffs and Negro slaves
focused around this commodity and the system it
produced. The importance attached to the sugar
islands, motivated intense European rivalry
culminating in many bitter wars almost throughout
the entire course of that century. Jamaica, as the
largest British island, felt the joys and sorrows of
that great era.
We have previously noted the relative affluence of
the Jewish residents of Jamaica in the late
seventeenth century. With the immense prosperity
of the following century, it would be expected that
the Jews played a vital part in it. Sephardic
merchants here, co-operatively carried large stocks
of manufactured imports which enabled them to sell
quite reasonably to planters, civil servants and
professional people. Loans were provided by Jews if
a plantation owner failed to negotiate one from an
English mercantile source. Edward Long secretary
to Governor Moore (and also a planter himself) in
1774, said such loans would be 6% above the normal
But the profits of sugar attracted several Jews
into cultivation as was the case, but on a much larger
scale, in Brazil. Indeed, Jewish farmers got off to a
slow start since the majority saw how lucrative
commerce could be in Jamaica. The Lords of Trade
and Plantation in 1671, received a complaint from
the island's Council declaring that Jews were not
entering agriculture as their patents of
naturalization indicated. The many Jewish cemetries
that dot the island, attest to the fact, however, that
Jews became plantation owners in the eighteenth
The trade with the Spanish Main, Hispaniola,
Cuba etc., which the British Crown fostered from
1670 onwards, seemed to have particularly
dominated Jewish interest. The Sephardics, who
spoke Portuguese in their own homes up to at least
the 1790s, were well suited for this enterprise. Long
Their knowledge of foreign languages and inter-
course with their brethren, dispersed over the
Spanish and other West India colonies, have
contributed greatly to extend the trade ... they
have always been the chief importers of bullion.
Besides recovering ryals, plate etc., as payment for
goods exported to the Spanish Indies, Jews accepted
Hispanic coinage from soldiers and indentured
tradesmen. As money-changers, they made large
sums on exchanges.
Such opportunities attracted many more
Sephardic immigrants in the eighteenth century,
when welath and power shifted toward the British
and French Crowns, and away from the Hispanic
and Dutch centre. It is estimated that Jews
comprised 10% of the white population of Jamaica in
1735 approximately 800. By the end of the
century probably about 2,000 resided here. An
indication of the attractiveness to Jewish refugees,
of Jamaica, may be seen in the naturalizations
granted around 1740. 151 became naturalized in
Jamaica, 24 in New York, 9 in Pennsylvania. The
Jewish population expanded by 25 times its size (in
1700), in less than a century!
This extension of a people who were regarded as
second-rate citizens in Europe, in light of their
rejection of Jesus as Messiah, had early
consequences in Jamaica. In 1671, a party of chiefly
English merchants dwelling at Port Royal, wrote a
petition to the members of the Assembly. They
complained of the great Jewish influx into the island.
Evidently the Port Royal merchants felt threatened
by Jewish competition. Members of the Council
(usually well-to-do planters and merchants)
pointedly stated in 1691, that "the Jews eat us and
our children out of all trade." But not only petitions
were resorted to.
The Jews' Tribute
Probably as early as the period of the Port Royal
merchants' petition, a poll tax was placed on
individual Jews. In 1687 the Assembly voted that
Jews as a body, had to pay 200 pounds a year
towards a bill to raise additional duty. Defence of the
island during the Anglo Dutch wars was a necessity.
By 1700 when the Jews comprised about 80 families,
they had been levied 3,450 pounds above that of
other taxpaying citizens.
During the war of the Spanish Succession, the
"Jews tribute" became 1,000 pounds annually. The
resistance of the Hebrews against this burden, may
be seen in the numerous requests made to the
Assembly to have the amount reduced, for a
particular year. During a ten year period (1725-35),
only on 4 occasions, was the full levy rendered.
To understand the feeling of the wealthy,
Protestant governing-class towards the Jews, it will
be helpful to look at the extract below:
The Jews in this island are a very wealthy body,
their gains ... acquired with great ease and
indolence, that the usual method of paying
taxes will not affect them. That it is in this light
Jews are taxed separately, and not on account of
religion or country.
This was part of a speech made by a member of the
Legislative Assembly on May 7th, 1741.
As with the 1661 Windsor Declaration, the
English Crown in 1740 made it clear that religious
refugees in British possessions, were to have exact
rights as those born in the British Isles.
But enforcing of the King's desire 3,000 miles
away, proved almost impossible. Perhaps it was with
the knowledge of the Plantation Act, why the Jews
did not pay the 1739 tax (generally tendered in the
subsequent year). The matter came to a head soon
after, but not until the King had commanded the
governor, to forbade the passing of a tax "on the
Jews as Jews only, on any pretense whatsoever".
The Jews' tribute thus terminated in 1741.
Attaining of Political Liberties
Though a liability on the Jews was removed, no
thought of giving them full civil rights would be
permitted. That was reserved only for the body of
propertied, white, Christian citizens. A 1698 petition
to the House of Assembly, stated that Jews had
voted in an election for representatives to that body.
Whereupon, in 1702, a law was made forbidding
Jews from voting or becoming members of the civil
Yet, as most whites readily found employment on
the sugar estates as supervisors and skilled
assistants, not enough were available to fill public
offices. Defficiency Laws which regulated the
proportion of whites to Negroes on an estate, also
aggravated the situation. Jews and mulattos
probably entered into unfilled positions in the public
service. The 1711 law, resisted such practices by
threatening to fine 100 pounds for each violation.
The "Christian purity" of officials had to be
maintained at all costs.
Though another trial to exercise the vote probably
occurred around 1711, the case of Abraham Sanchez'
attempt in 1750, is deserving of greater attention. It
clearly uncovered the anti-Semetic feeling that was
rife among the ruling circles. Sanchez' petition
declared that he met the legal requirements for
voters. (He owned property.) A furor arose as a
series of petitions from Christians and Jews
disclosed the real issue. One spoke of devastation for
Jamaica if Jews had the right to vote; white
Christians would not come to the island, those here
would leave. The coloureds gained the franchise itself
in February 1830.
The struggle involved the issue of skin colour. The
whites, fearing being classes as equals with the
blacks, sought the support of Jews, in their battle for
supremacy. The slave trade had ceased since 1807,
and Emancipation would only be a matter of time.
As the free coloureds obtained their civil liberties,
the whites felt their need of allies.
After another attempt to exercise the vote (in 1820
by Eli Hyman) a stepped-up campaign "caused the
House to enact a bill granting legal rights to the
Jews, in 1826. But it didn't become law till July
1831, after confirmation was sought by the English
Privy Council, which stated that this uncalled for,
due to the 1740 Plantation Act.
At least, the way opened up for Jews to have their
say in a country, whose economy, they had for long
fostered. Before England granted similar rights to
its Jews (in 1858), Jamaican Jewry was to be found
as members of the House of Assembly and of the
Council; as custodes, jurors, and holders of a variety
of public offices.*12
LITERATURE AND RELIGION OF
Jewish contribution to the economic and
commercial life of the nation, outstripped that of any
other group of comparable size, in Jamaica. Yet,
even from the very establishment of the Sephardic
community itself, cultural pursuits, especially
literary ones, were strong. Reference has been made
to the first publication in (British) Jamaica by a
resident, Daniel Israel Lopes Laguna, through his
translation and setting of the Psalms of David (in
Spanish) to song.
That volume of 1722, published in London (since
Jamaica did not get its first permanent printing
press till 1730), has been considered "one of the most
remarkable products of Jewish Spanish literature".
But Jamaica also boasts the privilege of actually
printing (in 1788) the first treatise concerning the
Jewish faith, that appeared in the New World. It
arose out of the need to defend revealed religion
which had been receiving attacks due to the
philosophies of men like Voltaire, Hume and
Spinoza. Reason and Faith, had a few words set in
Hebrew characters (the practice of which had begun
in the island around 1776, through the Jamaican
Almanaks); but as an English work, it was probably
intended for a wide distribution.
The author had originated from a family of writers
and publishers in Constantinople and Amsterdam. It
is not surprising that his name was deCordova
(Joshua Hezekiah), the granduncle of the founders of
The Gleaner. Rabbi deCordova, who on his arrival in
Jamaica from Curacao (in 1755) spoke no English,
ministered to the members of the Sephardic
synagogue for 42 years.
Under the efforts of the half-brothers Joshua
Raphael deCordova and Jacob deCordova,
deCordova's Advertising Sheet appeared in 1883.
The Gleaner and Weekly Compendium of News,
beginning in 1834, published more than merely
information on the arrival of cargo and the
movement of ships for business people, but added
news-reports and articles of interest. After the death
-of Joshua Raphael, his son Michael controlled the
firm. It prospered under Michael, extending to a
semi-weekly country edition and an overseas
fortnightly in 1866.
When Gabriel, Joshua's brother successively was
made director, H.G. deLisser Senior, was brought in
and became editor. Under Joshua, Raphael's
grandson (another Joshua deCordova), the Gleaner
became a public company in 1897, and practically
under-wrote the expenses for the Jamaica
Exhibition. deCordovas held the post of
managing-director up to 1948, when another
grandson (Michael deCordova) died.
To this date, besides the name deCordova, that of
Ashenheim has been clearly linked with the oldest
surviving newspaper in the West Indies. Such an
association is probably riveted in the common
experience shared from 1844, when the deCordovas
printed a significant Jewish magazine, co-authored
y a Dr. Louis Ashenheim and Rabbi N. Nation.
The First Fruits of the West appeared precociously
along with the popular London Jewish monthly (The
Voice of Jacob, 1841) and The Occident and
American Jewish Advocate of 1843.
The importance of The First Fruits of the West
lies in the effort made to present Jewish history,
traditions, rituals, literature and news in a "popular
idiom" for the layman. It was feared that unless such
exertion occurred, Jamaican Jewry would be totally
assimilated into the larger society. The tone of
Jewish spiritual life ebbed in mid-nineteenth century
Jamaica. Though probably 2,000 Jews resided in the
island then, with Sephardic and Ashkenazi
synagogues each in Spanish Town and Kingston
(one type only in Montego Bay), attendance at
religious worship and Sabbath school was dreadful.
In fact, no services at all were conducted in either of
Spanish Town's synagogues, and a synagogue did
not develop in Falmouth despite the presence there
of 40 adult males.
The cure-all, advocated by the First Fruits of the
West was education. The Beth Limmud Society of
1843, raised funds and organized the Hebrew
National Institute, which re-opened in 1844. The
magazine promoted elementary Hebrew and English
education for indigent Jewish children especially, at
this Institute. 42 students attended the day school,
and 20 the Sunday school. The Jewish monthly,
like-wise campaigned for the learning of Hebrew by
the youth, and the confirmation of young Jewesses
as well as Jewish boys. Appeals were directed to the
mothers so that the next generation would not stray
away from Judaism.
Neither was social reform neglected. Despite the
concentration of wealth in Jamaica's Jewry, some
members usually endured hardships. Thus separate
agencies, formed by the Spanish-Portuguese and
English-German synagogues, administered to the
approximately 160 needy Jews of 1844. Their
numbers might have increased however, as Jamaica
then was losing its position in the world's economy,
so people likewise suffered financial losses. The
decline of the West Indian sugar on European.
markets, and the increase of British investment in
(the rise of) steam-powered textile industries, paid
its toll on the Jamaican economy. Few Jewish
immigrants came any more; their contribution of
new impetus was being directed to larger, richer
lands, to which Jamaican Hebrews also migrated in
Religious Life of the Jews
After its rapid and intense beginnings in Jamaica
in the seventeenth century, Judaism flourished in
the eighteenth, on the island. Ashkenazim Jews
joined Sephardics in this haven, when Israel was still
occupied by the Turks. A poem printed in The First
Fruits of the West, echoed the longings for Palestine,
that moved Jewish hearts of the Inquisition:
The Lament of an Israelite
Oh Israel, my children, my loved ones are
O'er the face of the earth without chieftain or
Thy tribes have been plundered, derided,
The darts of aspersion been hurled at thy breast.
And then, oh Judea, the land of my love;
The gift of the Eternal, who ruleth above.
Thy popular cities are now barren and waste;
Nought's left of thy temple, the Shekinah
But thou Israel in sorrow now wonder and roam,