Monday, November 8, 2010

Traditional Christmas Entertainment - Jonkunnu in Jamaica

"Jonkunnu a Come"

In Jamaica, up to the fifties and sixties, at Christmastime masked Jonkunnu bands (masquerade) could be seen roaming the streets of towns all over the country playing their lively music, dancing and prancing to entertain the crowds which would quickly assemble, as a prelude to collecting money. 

Although a few straggling groups may still come out in the rural areas, sadly, Jonkunnu bands no longer roam the streets of our towns and they are now seen mainly as entertainment at cultural events. Today's children are missing out on the heady feeling which a Jonkunnu band could add to the already magical Christmas season. The fear inspired by Horsehead snapping at you or the Devil trying to jab you with his trident cannot adequately be described. Both adults and children would run when they started their antics. I don’t think anybody actually got hurt. It was great fun all around.

And the music !!!!  Fife and drum which immediately set your feet and body dancing . I have very fond memories of the excitement created when the first strains reached my ears and the cry of “Jonkunnu a come!” started up. 

My favourite character was Pitchy - Patchy. In his costume made of pieces of brightly coloured material, he would dance up a storm twirling and twisting every which way. I didn't like the 'policeman'
who would wield his baton in attempt to 'control' the band and the onlookers. and as for the Devil - "RUN!"

Incidentally the band was made up of all men, even bride and belly woman whose exaggerated pregnant belly seemed to have a dancing life of its own, separate from her body. All the characters wore a mask of some sort.

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