JIS News

A double-CD, featuring recordings of Jamaica folk music, will be launched today (March 2) at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts. The launch comes some five years after a project was undertaken with 82,000 Euros in funding from the German government, to digitise taped recordings of indigenous Jamaican folk music such as ettu, mento and bruckins.
The project was initiated by Dr. Markus Coester, a German university researcher and lecturer, who spent 10 months combing through catalogued reel-to-reel recordings done by Dr. Olive Lewin and Marjorie Whylie during the 1960’s and 1980’s respectively, when they headed the Folk Music Research Department at the Jamaica School of Music.
The recordings documented Afro-Caribbean and Indian-Jamaican music as well as oral history that ran the gamut from kumina, tambo and set-up to burru, jonkunnu, gerre and rastafari.
German Ambassador, Volker Schlegel, speaking at a press conference held on February 28 at his Waterloo Road offices to announce the launch, observed that “the (Jamaican) nationality is to a great extent influenced by music, and music plays an important role in life, the society, and in your history,” and expressed pleasure that his government was able to facilitate the project to preserve Jamaican folk music.
Dr. Wolfgang Bender, a university professor at the African Music Archive at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, who offered guidance in the archiving of the music, explained that a key objective of the university’s programme was to “make sure that African music produced anywhere does not disappear and is preserved for the future generations .and to make sure that the sound carriers of African music that exist all over the world, are not disappearing into dustbins, but are collected and kept and also used for teaching purposes.”
He noted that, “in Jamaica today, there is hardly any existing sounds carriers of African Caribbean music on the market.it is very hard to find anything besides the popular music of today,” and “this could possibly prove an obstacle for teachers seeking to educate students in historic musical forms, which are unique to their culture”.
Meanwhile, Dr. Coester, who devoted almost a year carrying out work on the digitising project, explained that following the closure of the Folk Music Research Department in the 1980’s, research ceased on Jamaican folk music forms.
He recalled that upon visiting Jamaica in 1999 to begin his masters research on Jamaican music, he was informed that there were many tapes existing at the School of Music. Upon being directed to them, he said, he realised that some of the tapes were “in a problematic state, some of the tapes were already sticky and some of them had started to disintegrate.”
He noted that given the reality of further deterioration of the tapes, “it was really overdue to start a project to preserve these collections.” The digitisation project was soon pursued, culminating in tomorrow’s release of the double-CD.
As part of the launch, a symposium entitled: ‘Tambo Today – Jonkunnu Tomorrow – Perspectives on the Relevance of Traditional Music, Dance and Performance Culture on Modern Jamaica Culture,’ will be held in the School of Music auditorium, beginning at 9:00 a.m.
Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Rex Nettleford, will chair the discussion forum, which will include presentations from Professor Barry Chevannes of the University of the West Indies; Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, and Dr. Coester.
A total of 500 copies of the CD would be distributed to schools and selected libraries across the island.

Skip to content