Join us for Jounen Kweyol

We travel to the Caribbean for one of our favorite holidays — Saint Lucia’s Jounen Kweyol.

Saint Lucia’s Jounen Kweyol is a festival that celebrates the island’s multicultural Creole heritage that mixes British, French, African and Caribbean influences. At the festival, which takes place every year on the last Sunday of October, you’ll see, according, “men displaying how they used to saw wood, the making of Creole bread using wood to heat the oven, making of cassava bread, bakes and fish cakes made out of Cray fish, the making of certain tantalizing dishes that were prepared long ago that has lost its popularity in recent times; crab callaloo, pemie, roasted sardines eaten with breadfruit, and more.” As you’ll see in this video, at that time of year Lucians wear madras, the national form of dress, and you’ll hear them speaking the local French-based Creole language.

The Kwadril is not “square”

Let’s square up and dance the Kwadril!

The St. Lucian Kwadril (“Quadrille”) is highly choreographed Creole folk dance and accompanying music style based on the European quadrille. In both dances, as we see in this video, four couples dance in a square, following intricate moves, like American Square Dance. Lucians accompany the kwadril by playing, as says Wikipedia, the cuatro, a rattle, the chakchak, bones called zo, a violin, banjo, mandolin and guitar.

How You Keepin’?

We leap at the occasion of our visit to St. Lucia to celebrate Antillean Creole.

English is the official language of St. Lucia, but about 80% of the population speaks Antillean Creole, which is a Creole based on French and mixed with vocabulary from African languages and Carib. Each year on the last Sunday in October St. Lucians celebrate “Jounen Kweyol” to express pride in Creole language and culture. (We’ll learn more about Jounen Kweyol later this week.) Enjoy this video of the St. Lucia National Youth choirs as you say learn to say hello and goodbye as one might in St. Lucia: hello (how you keepin’?) is “Ka ou fè?” and goodbye (see you later) is “Ovwa.”

Sweet St. Lucia

All Around This World map of the Caribbean featuring St. Lucia

This week in our online class we go LOW — down deep into the so-called “Lesser Antilles,” a stretch of delightful islands in the southern Caribbean. We start today with a visit to St. Lucia, where the first inhabitants of the island, the Arawak who lived there for hundreds of years before the Caribs came in the 800s and pushed them out. Europeans settled until in the 1550s when a feared pirate known as Wooden Leg used it as a base from which to attack Spanish ships. For 150 years the British and French fought over the island; it changed hands between them fourteen times before the British finally pushed the French out in 1814. The island became an independent nation in 1979 but is still part of the British Commonwealth.

Rocking Steady with Phyliss Dillon

Jamaica’s Phyliss Dillon is as steady as rocksteady gets.

Rocksteady is a form of ska that arose in the rough urban neighborhoods of Kingston in the mid-’60s. Slower in tempo than ska, running contrary to the optimism that gripped must of the rest of post-independence Jamaica, rocksteady formed a bridge between boisterous dancehall ska and the more rootsy, political grooves of reggae.  In this video we meet Phyliss Dillon, the groovin’ “Queen of Rocksteady.” We let the Queen sing us out on the last post of our Jamaica week. Onward!


The Jolly Boys happily make Mento

Let’s meet Jamaica’s treasured mento icons, The Jolly Boys.
Mento” is Jamaican “country” played initially in rural areas with a simple guitar/drum/sax and/or banjo accompaniment in which vocalists sang mainly humorous lyrics about rural life. In the 1950s, Mento’s “Golden Age,” the style embraced Trinidadian calypso (though it remained distinct) and become popular in urban dance halls. The Jolly Boys have been at the heart of Jamaican mento since their formation in 1945. Though they continue to tour and record, they remain loyal to their main local gig as the house band at GeeJam, a Port Antonio, Jamaica, hotel. As of their appearance in this video, they’re sure at the top of their game.

Kumina in Jamaica

We start our week of music of Jamaica with Jamaican Kumina, an early Afr0-Caribbean religious folk music that paid, and still continues to pay, homage to “the spirits” through communal drumming, chanting and dance. We begin here because most subsequent genres of Jamaican music can trace its roots back to kumina, and through kumina, back further to Africa. Jamaican Kumina is an ancestor of Nyabinghi music, which itself intertwined with ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, dancehall and beyond. This video will start you on your way.

Jammin’ in Jamaica

All Around This World -- The Caribbean featuring Jamaica

This week in our online class we’re fortunate enough to travel to Jamaica, a small island nation that has had a disproportionate influence on global music and culture.  Jamaican musicians have either originated or advanced so very many musical styles such as, in roughly chronological order, Kumina, Nyabinghi, Mento, Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dub and Dancehall/Ragga. Though we’re going to meet a few of these genres over the course of the week, there won’t be enough time. We’ll leave wanting more, and more, and more….