Last Friday, The Little Theatre roared with excitement as various schools and community groups vied for the coveted class titles. The event being held was the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC)’s Traditional Folk Forms National Finals. The Traditional Folk Forms Competition recaptures Jamaica’s cultural past and sets new directions for cultural growth. It has heightened our regard for the indigenous activities recovering Jamaica’s ancient dances such as Kumina, Gerreh, Dinki Mini, Revival, Bruckin’s Party, Tambu and Jonkunnu. This is a significant competition as it allows Jamaicans to rediscover the importance of our rich intangible heritage and historically defined personality of Jamaicans.
Countless factors, ranging significantly from country to country, influence our culture. From a young age, people are shaped by their culture and the people who raise them. One aspect that influences them is folklore. The Oxford Dictionary defines folklore as “the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through generations by word of mouth”.
Jamaican Ring Games are fast-paced, interactive, and fun for all. They usually start spontaneously whenever enough children are in one place for some time. Games usually include Dandy Shandy, Bull Eena Pen, One and Twenty, What Can You Do Puncinella Likkle Fella, Brown Girl in the Ring, and Bend Down Stucky. While variations abounded, the rules of each game were simple and easily communicated, encouraging participation from the very young to adults. Several groups entered this category, but the Winners were White Horses Primary: Class Two and Marlie Mount Primary for Class Three. Below is a video of the stellar performance by White Horses Primary:
The Maypole, also known as the Long Ribbon Pole in rural areas, was an outdoor social festival performed at fairs, garden parties, and picnics in old England and Jamaica. It entails plaiting different coloured ribbons in three fundamental traditional designs, beginning with the grand chain or “basket weaving,” which wraps the ribbons around the pole from the top. Maypole comes in a variety of styles, the most popular of which are the Spider Web, Flair, Dome, and Umbrella. There were six entrants across three categories. The winners are as follows:
- Maryland All-Age School: Class 2
- Liberty Learning Centre: Class 3
- William Knibb Memorial: Class 6
Quadrille is a Jamaican paired (male and female) dance popular during enslavement. The Ballroom Style, the Camp Style, and the Contra Style are the three styles. The Ballroom Style (or Square) of Quadrille evolved from French and English popular dances in the 18th and 19th centuries, emphasising the elegance and mannerisms of these cultures’ elites. While the Camp Quadrille, also known as the long way set formation, has African characteristics. It is recognised as the Afro-Jamaican variation of the Ballroom Quadrille. The winners of this category were Seaforth Primary School and Hatfield Cultural Group.
The Tambu dance got its name from the “tambu” drum. During the dance, partners face and move towards each other, utilising the Shay-shay and Mabumba sequence. The shay-shay involves hip rotation and shuffling with one foot on the ball. This category was a crowd favourite! The performers left the audience begging for more after each performance. Unfortunately, there could only be one winner per class. The winners were Hastings Primary School for Class 3 and William Knibb Memorial for Class 7.
The Gerreh originated in Africa and performed the night after a person dies with the intention of comforting the bereaved. It is similar to the Dinki Mini and Zella, but with a greater emphasis on hip movements performed primarily by female dancers. Gerreh’s instruments are identical to those used in Dinki Mini, with pot covers replacing the benta. William Knibb Memorial High School were the only entrants in this category, and they did not disappoint. They amassed more than the 40 points required to win this category.
Between 1860 and 1861, Jamaica had a revival as part of the Great Revival religious movement. It is a synthesis of African pagan ideas with Christianity, and it takes numerous forms, the two most prominent of which are Revival Zion and Pocomania. To attract possession, the Revival ceremony includes singing, drumming, dancing, handclapping, foot-stomping, and groaning, as well as using prayers. It also includes orthodox religious music and songs. The parishes of Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. Elizabeth, and St. Ann are the most affected by revivalism.
The trophy for the Revival category went to the Port Antonio Theatre Group. Watch their spectacular performance below:
Dinki Mini originated in the parish of St. Mary on the island’s eastern end. It is often conducted after a person’s death until the ninth night. Both men and women dance with very provocative pelvic movements. The male dancer bends one leg at the knee and leaps high on the other foot throughout the performance. The use of the benta instrument is an important part of this dance.
The Islington Culture Group came on a mission to secure the trophy. This could be seen in their performance.
Jamaican Folk Forms, the essence of our nation’s culture, are rooted in the ceremonies and traditions of our forefathers. Thankfully, the JCDC is serious in its commitment to preserving Jamaica’s Folk Forms.