Jonkonnu is one of the oldest dance forms in Jamaica which was performed on the three holidays allowed to the enslaved Africans in the English-speaking Caribbean – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Also referred to as “John Canoe” by the British, the dance steps had European and English elements mixed with African traditions. The more popular steps of the dance included jigs and polkas, open cut out, one drop and marching tune, among others.
Jonkonnu is a band of masquerades usually performed in towns and villages at Christmas time. The characters included the King and Queen, Cow Head, Horse Head, Pitchy Patchy, red Indians and Belly Woman.
The costumed characters were accompanied by musicians who played well-known traditional songs on the bamboo fife, bass and rattling drums, shakas and graters.
Modern Jonkunno bands are rarely as large as they were in the 19th century. But, their skilful and energetic performances still manage to entertain, or terrify, audiences of all ages.