various artists,
Caribbean Voyage -- Grenada:
Creole and Yoruba Voices

(Rounder, 2001)

This disc is a piece of history. It was recorded in the field by Alan Lomax in 1962, and is possibly the only recording of Grenadian Yoruba music. Yoruba is a religion that was brought over with the slaves from the Ijesha kingdom of Nigeria. Roughly 1,000 indentured workers arrived in Grenada in 1849, and became close-knit with the other indentured workers there in particular communities. This is some of their music, which was used for work and for prayer.

Accompanying this disc is a fascinating booklet filled with valuable information and documented history of the Yoruba and their music. Each song has at least one paragraph of information accompanying it. The date of the original recording is documented, as is the place and performer. An extensive project for Lomax, but one that was well worth the time spent -- especially since this may well be the only recoding of its kind.

"Roll, Roll, Roll and Go" is the opening track, and one I have heard before. This is a maroon, a song sung by the community when they come together for co-operative labour. A maroon is an occasion for hard work, followed by good food and drink as payment. Work songs tend to make the time pass and the work a little more bearable. This particular piece may very well have begun as a sea chantey. "Roll, roll, roll and go! / Oh, roll and go, lewi (let we) roll and go way / I spend my money and I kyan (can't) get ashore."

Stone passing games were once regularly played at wakes in Grenada, and known as "pound stones." "You Don't Know Tomorrow" is a fine example of such a song. Players sit in a circle passing stones to the rhythm of the song; if they should be slow, the stone would pound them. "Fire, fire! / You don't know tomorrow / Fire, Fire! / Three white horses in the stable / Get them out and cut the navel." One must be quick to avoid being pounded!

"My Love I Lost, Find Her, Away She Go" is a delightful track. Performed by Norris Welsh on the cocoa lute, it is an upbeat rhythm and one which would have the listeners dancing, I'm sure. This lute is amazing; it has only one string, but such a wide variety of sounds can be drawn from it. As the booklet says "Here Norris Welsh develops the rhythmic drive of an entire pan ensemble, all on a one-string instrument." It is a brief but memorable track.

If you appreciate ethnic music in its original pure forms, then you'll enjoy this disc. Come and tour about the villages of Grenada and hear the music as it was in the early '60s. The sun of the Caribbean is carried upon the voices of these singers, and their history will fascinate the listener.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 23 February 2002

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