Institute of Jamaica Hosts Symposium on Musical Heritage of Maroons


The need to preserve and protect the musical heritage of the Jamaican Maroon community, was extensively discussed at a symposium, held at the Moore Town All-age School in Portland on February 29.
The event, which was sponsored by the Institute of Jamaica and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was attended by representatives of the Charles Town and Accompong Maroon communities in St. Mary and St. Elizabeth, respectively.
Among the presenters were Dr. Ken Bilby, Director of Research at the Centre for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago, USA, who spoke on the topic: ‘The Uniqueness and Importance of the Jamaican Maroon Musical Heritage from an International Perspective’; Frank Lumsden, Colonel of the Charles Town Maroons, who spoke on the commercial aspect and potential of the music and dance of the maroons, and Hazel Ramsay McClune, Field Research Officer at the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, who spoke on the topic ‘Koramante Play: The importance of Maroon Music and Dance to Jamaican Cultural Heritage’.
In his presentation, Dr. Bilby cited the uniqueness, throughout the world, of the musical tradition of the Jamaican maroons, and pointed out that the most outstanding aspect of that tradition was the ability to use the music to communicate through the use of the drum and the abeng.
Noting that this characteristic represented traditions, which spread across the African continent, Dr. Bilby said the fact that this form of communication could have withstood the ravages of the slave trade, and has been able to survive over centuries, has been an extraordinary achievement by the maroons and was a powerful testament to the dedication and respect they had for their heritage.Mrs. Ramsay McClune stressed the important role that maroon music has played in the development of Jamaican folk form, while Mr. Lumsden emphasised the necessity of preserving the maroon culture.
He implored members of maroon communities “to breathe new life into maroon music and culture,” to keep them alive as part of the general culture of the country. During the function, plans for the construction of a cultural centre in Moore Town were announced by the Moore Town Maroon Council. Assistance will be provided by UNESCO for the procurement of a number of artifacts and items of furniture.
Colonel of the Moore Town Maroons, Wallace Sterling, told JIS News that the event should help to sensitize members of the maroon community about the importance of preserving and protecting their heritage.

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