Saturday, 8 December 2012

JOHN CROW, BRER ANANCY, BRER TOCUMA, ABNA DUPPY (JAMAICAN ORAL & FOLK TRADITIONS)

JOHN CROWS
Instead of writing this, I should have my nose buried in copious notes feverishly attempting to brand certain key points that had been covered over the past semester in a course I am taking at York University in preparation for a mid-term exam that is to be held tomorrow afternoon! On a Sunday!!! In Jamaica where I grew up, Sundays are hallowed days! Even for people who are NOT regular church goers! Even the most dedicated farmer or low-life lay-a-about in the district would take the occasional bath and put on some decent clothes and look respectable on Sundays.

In Belfont where I am from, I don't even think anybody even got drunk on a Sunday! In fact, I don't even think any rum bars were opened on a Sunday. Even the shops that were grocery shops and bars combined shut down the bar part of the business even if they did open half day to sell pounds of chicken, rice, sugar and other things necessary to make the traditional rice and peas and carrot drinks Sunday dinners that were the highlight of every week in those days. As a matter of fact, on Sundays, the shops never used to really open of such, just a one window where the shopkeeper would sell the few items that would be purchased on Sundays.

Cheese Trix , suck suck and sweety (most times purchased with part or all of we collection money). And Serve-mi-Long and sandwich biscuit on the way back to bolster our waning strength for the long treks that it usually required to get us to church and back in clothes that looked and felt good when we did put them on in the morning. But by the time church over and every body had seen you in you pretty dan dan and you were on your way home, you couldn't wait to come outta the scorching sun fi go teck dem off and put on yuh judging clothes, eat yuh Sunday dinner and wait pon the fudge man fi come chug chugging up the road pon him bike.

Sundays were sacred! Trust mi! I could never imagine writing an exam or doing anything strenuous pon a Sunday back home. But here, having voluntarily transferred myself to a foreign land, I must confront the glaring differences in culture, lifestyle, grammar, syntax and practices and while it is a process I am learning and growing from, it takes much getting used to.


I remember doing a double take a few days ago when I walked into the lobby of my building and saw a very nicely decorated Christmas tree. I was like... go Jetta! (the name of the Superintendent of the apartment building in which I live) as I was impressed with the obvious effort to make the common area festive and warm and welcoming. (It is obviously my first Christmas in the people dem building or I would have known that Jetta does these things for the holidays! LOL So don;t judge meee! LOL) I might have taken a clue from the fact that around Halloween mimi-ghouls made from cotton peeked through the glass of her office which sits in a corner of the lobby and that miniature orange pumpkins and other rubber creepy, crawly things were also added to create a kind of Halloween theme but to be honest, the Christmas tree threw me. But most importantly, the next evening when I arrived home, I did a double take when I saw a festive sign stuck on the glass partition of her office that wished everyone 'Happy Hanukkah' HUH? In my head, I had been carrying around Merry Christmas and had associated the holiday decorations with Christmas! But like I said, different cultures and I live in a Jewish neighbourhood. So there you go.

Now back to Belfont. This morning as I posted on my Facebook status my dismay at having to sit an exam on Sunday, it evoked memories of a well known Jamaican folk song that decreed that John Crow, the bird (Carrion) that in rural Jamaica where no official, municipal waste disposal was in place, nature took care of dead animals. In our case, John Crows; some very large birds of prey that looks as if they are from the eagle family swoops down and feast on any animal carcass that was big enough for it's aroma to be carried on the wind to their nostrils. Smaller rodents and such, ants tool care of those and natural deterioration into the soil.

And as I was doing dishes and singing the song with my daughter, I remembered the oral tradition from which such a song evolved. I also recalled that that particular song had originated from the African slaves that had been uprooted and taken to Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean in sub-human conditions to be raped, exploited and robbed of their human dignity and cultural clingings. I believe the song might have come about due to the slave's defiance at being compelled to work seven days a week and they insisted on at least one rest day: the aforementioned hallowed Sunday.

In my very next chapter, I will talk about Brer 'Nancy, Brer Tucoma and Apnea (Abna duppies) as well as a touching email I received a few weeks ago from a man and his wife who have early ties to Belfont and who now live in the UK and found my blog online while they were doing research into their shared background. They said my blog resonated with them and was a kind of HOMECOMING. But I do have an exam tomorrow (Sunday) and do have to go study. But this, I just had to get off my chest immediately. Thanks for listening.


"John Crow say him naah wuk pan Sunday!

Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!
John Crow say him naah wuk pan Sunday!
Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!

Tink a lie mi tell!


Kill yuh Mawga Cow!
Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!

John Crow say him a study fi teacha!!

Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!

John Crow say him a study fi lawya!!
Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!

John Crow say him a study fi parson!!
Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!

John Crow say him a dry lan' touris'!!
Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!

Tink a lie mi tell!


Kill yuh Mawga Cow!
Naah wuk! Him naah wuk pan Sunday!



THE REGGAE VERSION

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. AS USUAL A VERY GOOD READ AND THIS ONE REALLY HITS HOME. I WAS IN SHOCK TO SEE HOW VERY LIGHTLY SUNDAYS ARE TREATED HERE IN THE USA. CHURCH ACTIVITIES AND TIMES ARE PLANNED AROUND PEOPLE. MY GREATEST SHOCK IS MY CHURCH HAVING A SERVICE ON CHRISTMAS EVE INSTEAD OF CHRISTMAS MORNING AS IT IS ALL ABOUT OPENING PRESENTS AND CELEBRATING WITH FAMILY. THANKS FOR TAKING ME BACK DOWN MEMORY LANE.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Enjoyable read...Nice :) Love the folk song too. First I am hearing it. Only familiar with Tenor Saws version.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks SWANlex. Culture and history are curious things. ALWAYS, it is in the KNOWING. Happy I can share and spread some KNOW-ledge. Thanks for stopping by to read and especially for leaving a comment. Much appreci-love that. BLESS

    ReplyDelete
  5. Give thanks Sharon. The DIFFERENCES are STARTLING for real.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Culture shock indeed is strange and I experienced it when I move to the US... Like you coming from JA where if you didn't get all your groceries from Saturday evening, good luck on a Sunday morning getting what you need...one probably had to walk a bit to find a shop window as you so realistically put it, open to purchase what you need...then I'm here in the US and every supermarket and corner shop is opened ... Like wow!! Enjoy your post!! Brought back lotsa memories...

    ReplyDelete