The Maroons and the Abeng

Photo: JIS Photographer

The original Maroons were the indigenous Tainos and enslaved Africans brought to the island by the Spanish, who were set free when the British captured Jamaica in 1655.

During their settlement of the island (1655-1807), the British brought more Africans to work on the sugar plantations. Some of these enslaved Africans ran away to the hills and joined the original Maroons, thereby swelling the group’s numbers.

There were two distinct groups: the Leeward and Windward Maroons. The Leeward Maroons were originally found in the mountains of Clarendon, Trelawny and St. Ann, while the Windward group was located in the eastern mountainous regions of St. George (Portland), St. Mary and St. Thomas. The Maroons settled in largely inaccessible, usually mountainous, regions of the island. They launched periodic raids on the plantations to get food and weapons, and also welcomed runaway enslaved Africans or encouraged them to join their groups.

THE ABENG

The abeng is the horn of a cow which is blown by the Maroons to produce a variety of sounds. This vital instrument of communication would convey complex sets of information over long distances, without the enemy being able to understand the coded message. The codes for the abeng have never been divulged to anyone except the Maroons.

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