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Edric Connor, Louise Bennett & Jamaican Folk Music

 

Last revised: 9/13/14

 

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Introduction

As mentioned on the What Is Mento? and Jamaican Music Roadmap pages, the Jamaican folk music tradition is entwined with that of mento. As mento music was first developing in Jamaica from a variety of influences, it is likely that the first lyrics used in mento music came from Jamaican folk songs. Some see it the other way around, as some early mento 78s were given the legend "mento" if they were recordings of songs from the Jamaican folk tradition. This web site considers a recording to be "mento" if it uses mento instrumentation and arrangement, and "folk" if it uses folk instrumentation and arrangement. The latter typically emphasizes voice with minimal instrumental accompaniment and a simple rhythm. But no matter how you define these terms, mento and Jamaican folk music overlap a great deal.   

Perhaps the first professional presentation of Jamaican folk music was by the Cudjoe Minstrels in the 1930s, though sadly, this group never recorded.

   



Sheet music of "Linstead Market" published 1947 in the UK.

Arthur Benjamin also popularized the melody of "Mango Walk" as "Jamaican Rhumba" with sheet music published in 1938. He also did the same for "Hold 'Im Joe" and "Two Jamaican Street Songs: Mattie Rag and Cookie".

Jamaican folk music recordings separate from mento began in the early 1950s with a pair of very influential LPs released outside of Jamaica: Edric Connor's  "Songs from Jamaica" and Louise Bennett's "Jamaican Folk Songs". Though influential, Connor's LP would be his last recording of Jamaican music. On the other hand, Louise Bennett's contribution to Jamaican culture would span the decades and multiple mediums. In the late 1950s through the early 1970s,  The Jamaican Folk Singers and The Frats Quintet  carried the torch and produced LPs of Jamaican folk songs. A variety of others would follow.


Video About the Relationship Between Mento and Jamaican Folk

The indistinct line between Jamaican folk music and mento is just one of the topics discussed in the Caribbean Crucible  episode of the 1984 BBC series, "Repercussions". The role of Jamaican folk music in everyday life is also explored by Louise Bennett and others, along with demonstrations of a number of well known folk songs. A fine performance of "Linstead Market" by The T. Miller Band is also included. Fiddle player Theodore Miller's group is a fiddle driven mento band from St. Elizabeth. (Nine years later, Miller appeared on a release by The Lititz Mento Group.) This performance is interesting, as it's rural mento in its most natural form: free of any constraints that could be imposed either by performing for tourists or the need to sell records. Instead, it's jamming mento for performed live for the townspeople.  Additionally, the clip has a fife rendition of "Wheel and Turn Me".

These scenes have been assembled into a 8.5 minute clip that can be downloaded below.

Real file format downloadable files:

Folk and Mento - Real 160x120 (2,186 KB)

Folk and Mento - Real 320x240 (28,393)

Windows Media file format downloadable files:

Folk and Mento - Windows Media 176x144 (3,435 KB)

Folk and Mento - Windows Media 320x240 (22,118 KB)

 

This clip, as well as the information on The T. Miller Band, came courtesy of David Badagnani of Kent State University. David includes mento in his teaching at the university's Center for the Study of World Musics. Below is a very shortened YouTube version that focuses on Theodore Miller's fine performance:



Edric Connor

   

Trinidadian Edric Connor recorded several albums of folk music from the Caribbean. In 1952 (about the same time that the first mento 78s were released), Connor released the LP, Edric Connor and the Caribbeans: Songs from Jamaica on the Argo label. This is a seminal release in the history of recorded Jamaican music, as it contains the first recorded versions of a number of songs that would later appear in mento, ska, reggae and even American folk and pop. It's a safe bet that Harry Belafonte had a copy of this LP.

These are Jamaican folk music recordings, not mento. Connor's powerful voice is accompanied only by sparse piano and backing vocals. The liner notes by Hugh Paget make an earnest attempt to put these songs into the perspective of all Caribbean music. He finds (by 1952), that Trinidadian calypso is already commercialized by the tourist trade. Paget also attempts to explain some of the songs' meanings and defines some of the patios heard in the lyrics. The liner notes also reveal that Louise Bennett was involved in the LPs repertoire. 

Because it's out of print, below are clips from this Edric Connor's "Songs From Jamaica" release of songs that have been covered by other artists. Thanks to Olivier Albot of France for the cover scans and the clip of "Hold Yuh Hand".
[Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]

Chi-Chi Bud O
Cudelia Brown
Day De Light (a. k. a.: "Day O")
De Ribber Ben Come Dung [version 1][version 2] (a. k. a.: "Bamboo")
Fan Me Solja Man
Hill and Gully
Hold Yuh Hand
Judy Drownded
Linstead Market
Mattie Walla Lef (a. k. a.: "Matty Roll")
Missa Ramgoat
Nobody's Business
One Solja Man (a. k. a.: "Wheel and Turn Me")
Rookoombine
Sammy Dead
Wata Come To Me Eye (a. k. a.: "Come Back Liza")

"Folk Songs of Jamaica" Edited and Arranged by Tom Murray, from 1952, with a foreword by Hugh Paget may have the the source for this LP, as the music and lyrics for every song on it is found in this book.

 

 

To the right is a re-release of Edric Connor's "Songs From Jamaica" from 1956 on the NYC-based Westminster label. (A larger image is not available.) The liner notes on the back cover are carried over from the original, as seen above. 

Edric Connor eventually moved to Great Britain and went on to become an actor. He combined both of his talents in the 1956 movie, Moby Dick, staring Gregory Peck. In it, he played Daggoo, a harpooner. In a memorable scene, as a party of whalers pursued  their quarry in a small boat, he sang "Hill and Gully" to the rhythm of the rowing. 

For more on this LP and Edric Connor, visit the Quentin Kean's "Folkcatalogue's Blog" at: http://folkcatalogue.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/songs-from-jamaica-edric-connor-with-the-caribbeans/.



Louise Bennett

The beloved Louise Bennett, or Miss Lou, as she is affectionately  called, is Jamaica's foremost folklorist. In the 1940s, she published 5 books of poetry in patios. More than just a Jamaican folk music recording artist, she was a champion of this music. On Jamaican Independence Day 2001, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Merit (OM) for her contribution to the development of Jamaican arts and culture. Miss Lou passed on July 26 of 2006 at the age of 86. Below is an obituary from the Jamaica Information Service. This article describes her many accomplishments  outside of her recording career, a description of which appears thereafter.

Jamaica's beloved cultural icon, the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou), has died. She was 86 years old.

Miss Lou passed away today at the Scarborough Grace Hospital in Toronto, Canada, after collapsing at home early this morning.

Born in Kingston on September 7, 1919, Miss Lou is Jamaica's premier folklorist, poet, entertainer and comedienne. As a cultural giant, she made Jamaica's patois an accepted language through her poems.

Famous for her radio shows which included 'Laugh with Louise', 'Miss Lou's Views' and 'The Lou and Ranny Show', she was also celebrated for her television show 'Ring Ding,' which was popular among Jamaican children all across the island.

Jamaica's Consul General to Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, expressed sadness and regret at the untimely death of Jamaica's Ambassador of Culture.

"Miss Lou was a true leader. Through her courage, she gave a nation a language and a voice with which its people can express its culture. It was not an easy task in those days to challenge the status quo in such a profound way, but this 'tallawah' woman did it. She has contributed to our culture through folklore and acting," she added.

The Consul General called Miss Lou an outstanding daughter of Jamaica, who was loved and respected all over the world and particularly in Canada, her adopted home, where she resided for more than a decade.

She visited the island in 2003, where she was special guest of the government for Emancipation and Independence celebrations.

"Jamaicans everywhere salute Miss Lou for a life well lived. Walk good, Miss Lou," the Consul General said.
Miss Lou received many accolades and awards during her lifetime, including the Order of Merit in 2001; the Order of Jamaica in 1974; the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts); the Institute of Jamaica's Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies.

The cultural icon was slated to add to her numerous awards in a ceremony at the Jamaican Consulate this evening. She would have been presented with the 2006 Jamaica Independence Award Hall of Fame from the West Indian-American Association of New Jersey. Several members of the association were enroute to Toronto from the United States, when Miss Lou passed away.

Miss Lou, who was predeceased by her late husband impresario Eric "Chalktalk" Coverley, is survived by son Fabian and many "adopted" children. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

In 2008, The Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), celebrated its fifth anniversary on Friday with the first induction for the Jamaica Music Hall of Fame. Louise Bennett was an inaugural honoree, along such stellar company as Bob Marley and the original vocal Wailers, Lord Flea, Count Ossie, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, Vere Johns, Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook and "Jah Jerry" Hinds.

In 1954, Louise recorded "Jamaican Folk Songs", an LP on the Folkways label [F-6846]. This release (along with others by Louise Bennett) is still available today on CDR or cassette via mail order from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings at http://www.folkways.si.edu/. As seen to the right, the CDR comes with a black and white Xerox of the original LP jacket, but courtesy, again, of Olivier Albot, a cover scan from the original LP, as well as an alternate jacket from a 10" release can be seen below. "Jamaican Folk Songs" has a number of things in common with Edric Connor's  "Songs from Jamaica ", aside from collecting a number of Jamaica's folk songs. Both albums contain many songs that are part of the mento repertoire. Both included songs that were later made famous by Harry Belafonte. Both albums feature a sparse arrangement, in this case just backing vocals, hand drum and, on some songs, acoustic guitar.
 

1. Linstead Market
2. Chi Chi Bud
3. Hosana
4. Cudeila Brown
5. Day Dah Light [a. k. a.: Day O]
6. Dip Dem
7. Me Want Me Daughter
8. Under The Cocoanut Tree
9. Dry Weather Houses
10. How Do You Come Over
  
(a. k. a.: "De Ribber Ben Come Dung" or "Bamboo")
11. Hol' 'M Joe

12. Towns Of Jamaica

 

In 1951, Louise Bennett and The Caribbean Serenaders recorded one single of dance-band mento on the UK Melodisc label:


"Linstead Market" (which is described on the label as a "Jamaican Rhumba"), backed with "Bongo Man (described as a "Jamaican Christmas Song"). The latter is the "Wheel and Turn Me" melody with additional lyrics.

The label credits the featured trumpet player, Leslie Hutchinson, as well as a supervisor, Denis Preston. This British record of Jamaican music is the same age as the initial Jamaican singles on the MRS label.


Louise Bennett also released at least two other 78 RPM singles in the 1950s on the Tri-Jam-Ba label, as seen below. (Label scans courtesy of Richard Noblett of London.)
 
 
 
Cudelia Brown
b/w:
Matty Rag
 
  Hog Eena De Cocoa
b/w:
Dis Long Time Gal


 
  Here is the first single above, re-released on a 45 on the Ja-Mento label, with the legend, "Authentic Jamaican Folk Songs".
 



With an assist from Laurent Pfeiffer, Olivier Albot has provided these scans for the 1957 Louise Bennett LP, "Children's Jamaican Songs and Games". Like the LP above, this one can be heard and purchased on CDR at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website  http://www.folkways.si.edu/. The accompaniment is acoustic guitar, backing vocals and the occasional hand clap. Olivier also included three scans of the elaborate liner notes, which include information, lyrics, music and diagrams: Liner1  Liner2  Liner3.  Please note that 2 and three are very large.
 
   


 
    Thanks again to Olivier Albot for these scans of "Miss Lou's Views" by Louise Bennett, an LP released on the Federal label in 1967. There are no songs on this LP of good humored cultural monologs, though there is always music in Louise's voice. 

Byron Lee and The Dragonaires provide a few very brief instrumental interludes . "Scandal" from this LP is included on the CD 2006 compilation "Dip And Fall Back".

Scans, once again courtesy of Olivier and Laurent, of "Listen To Louise", a 1968 LP on Federal. Although I have not heard it, it is said to have a combination of music and spoken word tracks.

   


 
  In 1983, "'Yes M' Dear' - Miss Lou Live" was re-released. It's readily available on a 1995 CD re-release on the Sonic Sounds label, but be aware that it's billed as being by Miss Lou, rather than Louise Bennett.

In this live performance of Jamaican folk songs, in addition to singing with an 8 piece band, Miss Lou also performs some songs a capella, sounding like a sweet form of dub poetry. There's even a guest appearance by Linton Kwesi Johnson. So irresistible is Miss Lou's good humor, that it overpowers LKJ's normally serious demeanor, resulting in a funny LKJ! Between songs, she lovingly discusses the language of Jamaica and tells stories, always with great humor.

Below, courtesy yet again of Olivier (with an assist from Laurent Pfeiffer) are photos of the original Island LP release of "'Yes M' Dear' - Miss Lou Live", complete with biographical liner notes.

   

Below is a 45 taken from the LP.

   



In 1987, Louise recited the folk tale "Ribba Muma" on the cassette collection, "Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories".

This release accompanied a book by the same name written by Laura Tanna. The cassette is introduced by Olive Lewin of the Jamaican Folk Singers, who are described below.

   

The 1981 LP on the Boonoo label, "The Honorable Miss Lou" features many songs from Jamaican folk/mento.  I have not heard this LP, but Olivier Albot, who also supplied these scans says that Louise sings and speaks. In 2009, I heard from Peter Ashbourne who produced, arranged and played piano on this album (as he did for the "Yes M'Dear" LP) and has worked with Louise on other project as well. He was kind enough to supply this description of this LP's dance band sound and where it came from:

When the Kingston dance bands were required to play Mento as part of their playlist, it was neither practical nor desirable to have the musicians roll out a Rhumba Box, Banjo, Maracas and Clave in order to play a song. What eventually evolved was a style of playing the Mento with dance band instrumentation - on electric (or acoustic) bass, electric guitar, piano, trap drum set, and whatever other instruments were in that particular group - saxophone, flute etc. Certainly, in some respects, it was a different sound from the traditional mento band, but since it was being played by Jamaicans with similar aculturalization as the traditional players (albeit with the possible 'colouration' of a broader musical vocabulary), the 'feel' would not change very much. If a Jamaican dance or show band plays Mento, this is the type of sound you will get. This sound is nothing strange in Jamaica today. It is this type of treatment that was given to the songs on the "Honourable..." album. The arrangements for the Island Records album ('Yes M'Dear')  are the same arrangements. 



Courtesy again of Olivier Albot is a rare Louise Bennett album released in 1970 on the Federal label:

"Jamaican Anancy Songs"

I have not heard this album.

In 2009, I heard an obscure blank-label Louise Bennett single called "Immunization". There are two renditions at different tempos on either side of the single. The song  is to the "Sweetie Charlie" melody, but with new lyrics. It's a notable find, because it marks the first time Miss Lou is singing to a rural mento backing, complete with banjo, shakers, etc.



The Jamaican Folk Singers
 
The Jamaican Folk Singers were founded in 1967 by Olive Lewin and recorded three LPs. The music is characterized by lush, precise, multipart choral vocals (female and male, but predominately female) and acoustic guitar, though some songs also feature percussion or flute. Their repertoire consists of some songs that would be familiar to mento fans plus other common and less common Jamaican folk songs. They also recorded two singles: two sides with Clyde Hoyte ("Jamaican Noel" b/w "O'er The Blue Mountains"), and a recording of the "Jamaican National Anthem", with Mapletoft Poulle and Robert Lightbourne (two of the songs composers, along with Hugh Sherlock). In 2001 Olive Lewin was awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction. The JFS continued to perform live as late as 2013. But Lewin passed in April of that year at the age of 85.
 
 
    
 
"Authentic Jamaican Folk Songs" (on Hummingbird, 1969) is the first LP by The Jamaican Folk Singers.  The back jacket describes the formation of this group. The insert gives information on each song performed.  

The back jacket is heavily autographed. It may have been purchased at a JFS performance  at the Florida Center for The Arts in April 1972, as I found three programs inside this used LP:

This six page glossy program below features great photos of the JFS, biographies on the band members and other information. It appears to have been put together before 1971.

The four page glossy below details the night's program and describes how the JFS won first prize at a prestigious international folk festival.

This four page program printed on matte paper repeats some information, but amplifies on the types of folk music being performed. Mento is discussed as a folk form and dance.


 

Below, courtesy of Olivier Albot, is "In A Programme of Jamaican Folk Songs - Vol. 2" (on Hummingbird, 1971, released in the UK on Ashanti.

   

   

"Encore! - Vol. 3" (date and label unknown), by The Jamaican Folk Singers, has a track called "Mento" that is a combination of two mentos: "Iron Bar" and "'Natta [Annatto] Bay Road". These are performed with a full band, complete with banjo. (A few other songs have full band arrangements, but mostly, as is the norm with the JFS, performances are a capella, or with minimal acoustic backing instrumentation.) Incidentally, check the back cover liner notes for the meaning of the song "Iron Bar" -- it's about a racehorse.

 

Because it is out of print, below is a sample from The Jamaican Folk Singers  "Encore! - Vol. 3" LP.
[Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]

Under The Coconut Tree is a well known folk song and one that is well suited to the JFS' sound.

Colin Smith, banjo player of The Jamaican Folk Singers, currently resides in Florida, and is the director of a very popular Mento band in South Florida, The Tallawah Mento Band. For more, see www.tallawahmentoband.com and also on this site, here.


Harder to find are a number of singles that The Jamaican Folk Singers collaborated on that were produced by Clyde Hoyte, probably released in the mid-1970s. Here is an example:

"Golden Horizons", is orchestral music produced and composed by Clyde Hoyte, performed by the Jamaica Military Band, as conducted by Joe Williams.

The un-pictured b-side is "Something More", a non-LP track performed by The Jamaican Folk Singers.

 

 

A 7" single by the JFS, on the WIRL label, with three songs:

"Jane And Louisa"    b/w"
"Come Mek Me Hol' Yu Han'",
and "Fanny"

"Jane And Louisa" is sometimes also called, "Beautiful Garden".

On WIRL, a 7" Christmas-themed single by the JFS:

"John Canoe Medley
     (Christmas A Come; Tenk Yu For De Christmas)"

     backed with

"A Christmas Carol"

 

Probably in 2012 (a date does not appear), The JFS made their CD début with "Tribute To Mother Earth". They are in fine form 35 years after their first release, but the CD is not well promoted and difficult to find.

 

Video of The Jamaican Folk Singers performing "Solas Market" on Canadian TV in 1978 can be seen on the "Mento Video" page.



The Frats Quintet

Formed in 1951, The Frats Quintet recorded three LPs in a similar vein to The Jamaican Folk Singers. The Frats  releases preceded those of the The JFS. At the end of 2006, I heard from Merelene Warner, daughter of Frats Quintet bass, Wilfred Warner, who, she informed me, is the last surviving member. With her brother Patrick, Merelene collected the following recollections from Wilfred:     

None of the Quintet members were formally trained in voice dynamics. They sang for the love and appreciation for the art and a fondness for the songs, the majority of which originated with the slaves, who worked as they sang. Even post-Emancipation songs were composed and sung in the same manner to make heavy work light.

 Before the Frats Quintet, there was the Young Men Fraternal. Their home base was the East Queen Street Baptist Church under the baton of recently honoured J.J. Williams. It was the largest men's choral group I had ever seen to this day and the sound they produced gave me goose bumps.

Sunday nights evensong services in some churches was a treat of the past. As a child I can clearly remember visiting the Baptist Church a few times to hear the Young Men Fraternals sing to a packed house on a Sunday night. They were always elegantly dressed in their vicuna cream jackets, white shirts, black bowties and black trousers.

It was from this group that the Quintet was formed in 1951.  They became a household name in Jamaica doing ads on the radio, notably Ajax, and I can remember once inviting them to a night function at my elementary school and the police was called to conduct order as a stampede occurred outside the school grounds. People were hanging from all vantage points just to hear Jamaican folk music. It was a night to remember. The Quintet also became the musical
ensemble on and offstage for the National Dance Theatre Company dancers with
Prof. Rex Nettleford. One of their most worldwide claim to fame grew from this association when they provided the background acapella music for the recording of the immortal Jamaican classic "Evening Time" with the late soprano Joyce Laylor.

They performed at Expo '67 in the Jamaican Pavilion and before world dignitaries in Montreal.. They also performed at the Eistedfod Music Festival in Wales 1958 I think, gave two command performances for HM QE II and HRH Prince Phillip, as well as another for Princess Alice, the then Chancellor for the University of the West Indies.  As Jamaica's musical ambassadors they performed for visiting dignitaries at state functions and dinners, and in many other places around the world.

The Frats Quintet:
R. Henry Richards, Winston White,
Wilfred Warner,Sydney Clark and
Granville Lindo in the front.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


From The Daily Gleaner, April 2, 1957,
an ad for The Famous Frats Quintet
and other acts (including
The Shaw Park Calypso Band)
at the Shaw Park Hotel.
 

   

The first of these was "Authentic Jamaican Folk Songs" in 1958. The original (?) jacket as released on the Ritmo label is above. The back of the jacket is blank. Also pictured is the retitled re-release on the NYC-based Request label. 

In June of 2009, I heard from Kelly Grotke of Evanston, Illinois, USA, who has a different edition of this LP:

My lp cover is different, however, and does have text on the reverse side, by Edward Seaga. 1955 is the last date mentioned in the text. Unlike your cover [above left], this one is only b&w, no color, and also has "Hi Fidelity LP collectors item" in the upper left corner. Also Ritmo Records No. 506. Unfortunately, the accompanying song-sheet is missing! The reverse side says that it was printed by Guardian Commercial Printery, Port of Spain, Trinidad WI. The line up for this record does not include Wilfred Warner. It's different from the pic you have. The listed members of the quartet were:

Sydney Clark - 1st tenor,  Granville Lindo - 1st tenor,  Altamont Wilson - 2nd tenor
Winston White - Baritone,  Ludlow Dawes - Bass

Courtesy of Kelly, the back jacket with interesting liner notes about Jamaican folk music and label scans can be seen below.

   

In August of 2009 I heard from Colin Escott from Tennessee in the US. Courtesy of Colin, here is the aforementioned lyrics sheet.

   

Frats released another LP with the same name, but different recordings. Above, courtesy of Olivier, is "Authentic Jamaican Folk Songs" on the Kentone label.
 

Because it's out of print, below is a sample from The Frats Quintet's  "Authentic Jamaican Folk Songs" LP.
[Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]

Mamma Me Wan Fe Work features a familiar melody, as it was later used by Peter Tosh for his track "Fire Fire" as described on the Wailers page and other reggae artists thereafter, as can be seen on the Covers page.

   

Seen above is the third Frats release was "West Indian Sing-Song", released in 1966 on Columbia, complete with biographical liner notes. 

Like The Jamaican Folk Singers, Frats vocals were smooth and lush. Unlike the female dominant JFS, Frats was an all male group. Another difference is that Frats was strictly choral, without the accompaniment of acoustic guitar and drum heard on the JFS LPs.

Because it's out of print, below is a sample from The Frats Quintet's  "West Indian Sing-Song" LP.
[Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]

Shine Eye Gal is, of course, well know to fans of Black Uhuru. But if you're expecting to hear anything that sounds like Uhuru's minor-key dread reggae in this 1966 folk rendition, you're in for a jarring experience.


 
 

From 1966, a 7" single by
Joyce Lalor and The Fabulous Frats Quintet,

on the uncommon Airbourne Records label:

"Evening Time"   

The unseen b-side is called

"Caribbean Child".

The Cudjoe Minstrels

Olivier Albot shared with me a copy of an article in the Jamaica Journal from 1972 written by Augustus Brathwaite about The Cudjoe Minstrels. Formed in 1935, The Cudjoe Minstrels were perhaps the first to perform concerts consisting of a program of Jamaican folk music. They crossed over Jamaican class and cultural lines that existed at that time, performing for aspects of Jamaican society that would not typically hear the country's folk music. This is exemplified by the reconstituted group performing for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. (The Cudjoes had broken up in 1950 after a 15 year run.) Another notable show, this one staged twice in 1938, included two sets of folk music by The Cudjoe Minstrels, plus ring games, Anancy stories, Jonkunnu, and "songs of today" performed by mento's first stars, Slim and Sam.

The four featured folk songs from the 1938 Cudjoe Minstrels sheet music seen right gives us a sample of their repertoire. The selections are quite familiar as mento songs. The article reproduces the music and lyrics for "Teacher Lick De Gal", as seen below. When Arthur Knibbs recorded his mento version in the 1950s, he was quite faithful to these lyrics. Edric Connors' 1952 folk version was a bit different. In the 1990s, The Jolly Boys recorded this song as "Bitter

Cassava Killed Joe Brown". They emphasized  the last couplet and dropped the first stanza.
 

From the Jamaica Journal article:

Above: An ad for a 1940 performance.
 

Above: Cudjoe Minstrels sheet music, 1938.

      "Teacher Lick De Gal" by traditional, as performed by The Cudjoe Minstrels

     One shift me have ratta cut i'                          ['ratta' means 'rat', so she has cut out the ratty portion]
     Same place I cut Muma patch i'                       [then mommy patched it, but...]
     Same place I patch fire bun i'
     Teacher lick the gal i' tun right over               ['lick' meaning 'hit' or 'strike']

     One fine gal over Linstead
     Teacher lick the gal i' tun right over

     Hold 'im round 'im waist Moder Tracy
     Teacher lick the gal i' tun right over

     Tan, tan, tan, tan, Make me tell you                   [the sheet music notes that 'tan' means 'stand', specifically
     A bitter Cassada kill Joe Browne                                'hold still']          ['Cassada' = 'cassava']

Books

The best book I've found so far on the topic is "Mango Time - Folk Songs of Jamaica" by Noel Dexter and Godfrey Taylor. This 2007 book from Ian Randle Publishers has the lyrics and music to nearly 80 Jamaican folk songs. There is also a helpful glossary, as all they lyrics are phonetic.

From The Grass Roots of Jamaica

   

Released in the late 1960s on Dynamic and in and out of print since (though never on CD), "From The Grass Roots Of Jamaica" is a well named LP. It's a folk music collection in the most literal sense of the term. Rather than a collection of well known folk songs performed by professionals, it's a collection of field recordings that shows the diversity and ubiquity of music in day-to-day Jamaican life. The recordings were selected and made by Olive Lewin, the leader of The Jamaican Folk Singers with liner notes by Edward Seaga, then the Minister of Finance and Planning, and later the Prime Minister of Jamaica. The jacket lists 12 types of Jamaican music, but the notes are very general and do not help the listener match the genre to the 18 tracks.

Side 1

1. You Tell Lie    Accounting for the Mento listed on the jacket, this track consists of vocals that end half way though the song, a harmonica and an acoustic guitar player, plus two others knocking something wooden and something metallic. The feeling is of coming across the corner mento band in a small rural town.

2. Ziambey    An a cappella call and response song between an adult male and youths. Perhaps it was recorded in a school.

3. Done Baby, Done Cry    This is the lullaby mentioned on the jacket. An a cappella solo vocal, accompanied by hand claps, explaining, "Don't baby, don't you cry, for your mother went to the fountain. Drinking water never dry, Drink it out of fountain." Louise Bennett briefly visits this song on her CD, "Yes M' Dear". 

4. Dig Under Mine    Another a cappella song between two men. This may be the work song mentioned on the jacket.

5. Mary Gone A Rose Hall    A chant backed by drums. I believe this is from a church movement, but unfortunately I am unsure as to which one.

6. Fife And Drum Band    A fine Jon Kunnu track, as promised on the jacket, with instrumentation as described by the song title.

7. Cuban Lady    A chorus of what could be school girls sing this a cappella song.

8. Jubilee    A drum and youth vocals

9. Jo Jo    A single male voice sings this chant.

10. Ku Kah Yan Yah    Similar to the above track, with hand claps.

11. Martilda    The old Anancy folk song "Matilda", not the popular Harry Belafonte song of the same name. An excellent example of Rastafarian music, all chant and drums. The uncredited vocalist sounds a great deal like the groundbreaking Rastafarian recording artist, Count Ossie. Compare this performance to Ossie's well known track, "So Long Rastafari" and draw your own conclusion.
 

Side 2

1. What A Wonderful Thing    Multipart choral music with tambourine and hand claps. A joyous church sound. 

2. Keyman    A multipart chant backed by drums.  I believe this is from a church movement, but I am unsure as to which one. A Rastafarian version of this song can be heard on the self-titled 1997 LP by Wingless Angles as produced by Rolling Stone Keith Richards.

3. Bethlehem Schoolroom    An endearing solo vocal of what sounds like a school theme song.

4. Malid A Leddi    A chant backed by drums and shakers.  Probably from a church movement, but again I am unsure as to which one.

5. Moore Town A Fe Me    A solo vocal so heavily accented, that the lyrics are very difficult for my ears to understand.

6. Bam O Say/
7. Take Us Back To Ethiopia   
Two continuous songs by the same Rastafarian group that closed out Side 1. Excellent drums and vocals throughout.


Jamaica Broadcast Corporation

 

 

 
 

 

In the latter part of the 70s, the state run Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, working with Jamaica's  Ministry of Education collaborated on "Music and Youth", a series of 8 films and 4 LPs. As the liner notes explain, "The series explores the Jamaica's musical life and presents young Jamaicans as they experience music... 70 musical events that involve 120 schools, colleges and groups, over 600 teachers and some 20,000 young performers from all over Jamaica." Some professionals pop up too, such as Eric Donaldson and The Ranny Williams Band

The music covers a wide variety of Jamaican folk styles and songs in arrangements that range through choral, folk, Jonkanoo, mento, quadrille and marching band. In this, the series has the breadth of "From The Grass Roots Of Jamaica". But whereas that LP makes its case with field recordings of informal musical  performances by young and old, "Music and Youth" is primarily recorded at staged performances by young people.

The series consists of :
Vol. 1: Heritage, part 1 & 2
Vol. 2: Religion, part 1 & 2
Vol. 3: Folk, part 1 & 2
Vol. 4: Folk, part 3 & Pop, part 1.

The "pop" side is encompasses some ska, reggae and some calypso too.

 

The JBC also released a double album called "heritage - Authentic Jamaican Folk Music Recorded On Location." Mostly drawing from Jamaica's religious folk traditions, the inner jacket contains some musical notation and lyrics.

Keith Stewart 
 

In 1961, Keith Stewart, along with Enid Cumberland) recorded a number of tracks for Chris Blackwell's new label, Island Records. (Ernest Ranglin acted as musical director and played guitar.) These contributed to the Keith and Enid LP seen to the left. With the inclusion of "Yellow Bird"  and "Come Back Liza", Keith Stewart would begin the practice of including folk/mento songs on his LPs. This LP had a relaxed, easy listening dance band mento vibe. Keith and Enid would soon move into ska, after which, Keith released a series of solo LPs in the HK/Kalypso label.

Jamaican folk songs and songs from other sources are featured, often performed folk style. "Yellow Bird" (1965) and "Jamaica Farewell and Other Caribbean Songs" (1967). These LPs feature little more than Stewart's smoothly polished vocals and acoustic guitar. "Take Me Back To Jamaica" and "Jamaica Calling" features a bigger band. On the former, the inclusion of banjo and flute on some tracks further blurs the lines between mento and folk recordings. On the latter, are few familiar Jamaican folk songs, though there is a Clyde Hoyte song and a self penned track.
 

             


I haven't heard these LPs, and I don't have any details, but these LPs show that the "Yellow Bird" franchise moved from Keith Stewart to Billy Vernon and His Band.



Other Jamaican Folk groups and recordings 
 
The Jamma Rhythmers is a group that pre-dated both the Frats Quintet and The Jamaican Folk Singers. They do not appear to have recorded and I have not been able to learn anything about this group other than the fact that the member on the right, Keith Johnson, went on to be Jamaica's ambassador to the United Nations.



A 1972 LP on the Dynamic label by The NDTC (National Dance Theater Company of Jamaica) Singers, that is reminiscent of the Jamaica Folk Singers.
 
     


 
The Cari-Folk Singers are keeping alive the tradition of Jamaican folk music performance with a sound that is reminiscent of The Jamaica Folk Singers and The Frats Quintet .

For more on The Cari-Folk Singers, visit their web site. Also, their MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/thecarifolksingers, has several complete songs


 

In 1992 Cedella Marley Booker
(Bob's mother) recorded
"Smilin' Island of Song", a
Jamaican folk music CD for
children, on the Music Little
People
label. Cedella is backed
by full pan-Caribbean
instrumentation. A later release
features a different cover.
1. Introduction
2. Tingalaya
3. Chi Chi Buddo
4. Elena
5. Sweet Guava Jelly
6. Matty Roll
7. Banana Boat Song
8. Ooey Gooey The Silly Worm
9. Colon Man
10. Jah Wanna Dance
11. De Buggy Bruk
12. Brown Girl In The Ring
13. Three Little Birds
14. Instrument Identification


 


In 1999, Ernie Smith released "Folk Songs Of Jamaica" on the
Sprat Music
label. Like Cedella's CD, the music instrumentation and musical style is best described as pan-Caribbean. The CD was later re-released with a different cover, as seen below.

  1. Day Oh
  2.  Come Back Liza
  3. Long Time Gal
  4. Rookumbine
  5. Woman A Heavy Load
  6. Slide Mongoose
  7. Mr Caafee
  8. Hill And Gully
  9. Judy Drownded
10. River Ben Come Dung
11. Chi Chi Bud Oh
12. Man Peabba
13. Sammy Dead
14. Evening Time

Recorded in Sweden where it was released on the Polydor label is a 7" EP from 1957: "Calypso Medley" by Sandra Ward. A Jamaican, Ward was first discovered in JA by a visiting Swedish music enthusiast ten years earlier and brought to Sweden a decade later to record. The songs are familiar from the Jamaican folk music with the expected Harry Belafonte influence of the day. The arrangement by the Swedish Karl-Olof Finnberg Calypso Band is better than one would expect with prominent hand drum and flute over rhythm guitar.  

   


 
A 1996 UK cassette, "Jamaican Folk", by Sam West on his own label. Sam, who possesses a fine singing voice, shares vocals with other West family members. The instrumentation (almost all by Sam) is acoustic with some drum programming. Liner notes include lyrics for all the songs, along with explanations of some songs.

1. Dip Dem, Bedward
2. Jane and Louisa
3. Dis Long Time Gal
4. Ol' Mas Charlie / Tinga Layo
5. Under the Coconut Tree
6. Let Us Break Bread Together
7. Nobody's Business
8. Sammy Dead Oh
9. Missa Potter
10. Dumplins
11. Hill An Gully
12. Day Oh

(Tinga Layo is a variation on "Hold Em Joe" .)

 

The cassette is rounded out with instrumental versions of 10 of the tracks. If you are interested in buying a copy of this cassette, contact Sam West at sam@samwest.co.uk.

Ten years later, in 2006, this collection was released on CD with an additional track, "Water Come A Me Eye". The CD is rounded out with 8 instrumental versions and 4 a cappella versions. The lyrics and notes that enriched the cassette are also included here.

It can be purchased at http://www.samwest.co.uk/page4.htm
 

   

"Jimmy Tucker Sings of Jamaica", an LP on the Reliance label, from 1982. This isn't really exactly an album of Jamaican folk songs, but it is a collection of Jamaican songs about Jamaica, sung by Jamaican tenor, Jimmy Tucker. Many of these songs were written by mento artists.

On the first side are patriotic songs, with Tucker backed by The Jamaican Military Band, conducted by Captain Joe Williams. One of the selections was written by Clyde Hoyte  and two more were co-written by Mapletoft Poulle, including the national anthem. The second side has more songs in praise of Jamaica, including three more written by Clyde Hoyte and two by Baba Motta. The songs on this side are often reggae, featuring the playing of Cedric Brooks, members of Third World and Count Ozzie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.

This LP is autographed and reads, "Anne, In 1938 Jamaicans called from[?] an equal gate. Do come again. Jimmy Tucker". 

Though I have not heard this 1968 LP, here are some images of "From Jamaica With Love (Calypso & Folk Music)" from Harry Sweeting on the Studio One label.

   

Lili Verona is an obscure figure,
who recorded a 10" LP and a
sub-set 7" EP release of
Jamaican folk songs for
RCA in 1959. Most are
familiar from the Edric
Connor
LP. The accompaniment
includes percussion, bass and
electric guitar.
 

The LP, "Jamaica Sings",
courtesy of Robin D. Rich of
Brighton, UK, is above.

It's contents are to the right.

The EP, "Traditional Songs
of Jamaica", is below.

Side 1:
  Cordelia Brown
  Bongo Man
  Fan me Sojerman Fan Me
  Solas Market
  Sly Mongoose
  Day-O
  Sammy Dead
  Hosanna!
  Ada
 

Side 2:
  Miss Majorie
  Belly Lick
  Mattie Rag
  De Ribber Been Come Dung
  Long Time Gal
  Judy Drownded
  Hedow Hedow
  Pocomania Song
  Rattah Madnalah
  Dallas Gone A Cuba

   


 

Caribbean Folk and blues singer Sunnie Dae  has a voice reminiscent of Louise Bennett. In 2012, she released an iTunes album in celebration of 50 years of Jamaican independence. Its called:

 "Linstead Market, Dandy Shandy & Other Jamaican Folk Songs".

Below are her comments on three of the album's songs:

Me Donkey waan wata/Hold ‘im Joe
The opening song on the album is described in the Jamaican Song & Story book by Walter Jekyll & Alice Werner (published 1904 The Folk-Lore Society) as a work song. The fragment coming from this period is at the final verse at the end of the song. The bridges and preceding verses are a composite from other versions with the 2nd verse written by Sunnie Dae. A much loved call and response song, typical of the genre.

Linstead Market
Louise Bennett called this song a ‘Dinky’. Meaning a sad song played in a merry mood. One of the better known Jamaicanfolk songs in Europe often played in the Mento style of an upbeat calypso. A mother’s sad tale of woe, she walks a long way to market with her ackee, (probably upon her head in a basket), hoping to sell enough that she can bring food back for her children. She says, ‘Mi carry mi ackee go a Linstead Market, Not a quart me done sell...’ In this version, the mood is captured as a prayer rising dynamically with layered harmonies.
 

Dandy Shandy
The closing song on the CD, Sunnie came across the chorus of this strident tune noted by Olive Lewin in her book Forty Folk Songs of Jamaica, (published 1973 The General Secretariat of the Organisation of the American States). Sunnie then asked elders in the Caribbean community in London if they knew the song and was able to find one other verse, Sunnie wrote Verse 3 to extend the songs arrangement. The lyric sits on a 12/8 dance feel with an English Music Hall influence about the plight of a mother who has lost her one room in which the family live and will only be consoled with alcohol. In this case a mix called Dandy Shandy. The chorus ‘Mi lok up mi room las’ night sake a rent’ Sake means ‘because of’ so she had to hand over the keys because of no money to pay rent. However she is comforted by her daughter who buys her Dandy Shandy’s.

Released on Pennsylvania's Illick's Mill label in 1967 is a folk LP called "Jim & Jan" by Jimmy Tucker of Jamaica and Janet Brackbill of the US.

   

 

The repertoire consists of Jamaican folk songs, songs written by Jamaican Clyde Hoyte, who Tucker worked with in 1954, and traditional spirituals, some of which are familiar as having been adapted by reggae performers.

Also see...

 

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