Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Jamaica Farewell" -- a standard from the '50s for this week's Prairieland Strings and Clayville Academy sessions

Back by popular demand --

A few weeks ago at Clayville, we started playing "Jamaica Farewell" by ear, and we didn't do such a bad job with it. After all, it's one our Prairieland Dulcimer Strings group used to play in an earlier incarnation. But we were a little rusty, especially on the words.

I mean, c'mon, what is *akee rice anyway?

So I said I'd find the dulcimer tab and send around a link. Here it is, with standard notation and guitar chords, on Shelley Stevens' website:

She posted it to her tab archives in September 2006.

We have two sessions of the Prairieland Strings/Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music coming up this week:

  • From 7 to 9 p.m. at Peace Lutheran Church (formerly Atonement, Faith and Luther Memoria), 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.
  • From 10 a.m. to noon at Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop, Ill. Rte. 125, Pleasant Plains.

The song was on Belafonte's classic 1956 LP album Calypso. It is credited to Lord Burgess (Irving Louis Burgie), who wrote eight of the 11 songs on Calypso. His mother was Barbados and his father was from Virginia. Wikipedia's article on Belafonte says this about the songs" Many of the compositions recorded for Calypso, including 'Banana Boat Song' and 'Jamaica Farewell', gave songwriting credit to Irving Burgie, Belafonte and his team, but were really previously recorded [traditional] Jamaican mento songs sold as calypso.

Wikipedia's article on "Jamaica Farewell," which is unusually informative even for Wikipedia and is probably definitive, says this:

Though many, including Belafonte himself, have said that the song was popular in the West Indies since long before Burgess, it is believed that Burgess compiled and modified the song from many folk pieces to make a new song, and it is clear that it was Belafonte who popularised the song outside the Caribbean Islands. Burgess acknowledged his use of the tune of another mento, "Iron Bar"

As far as I'm concerned, that settles it. Here's the original verison, uploaded by YouTube user Arup Chakraborty:


* Wikipedia's article on "Jamaica Farewell" has this: "The term "Ackee" from the line "ackee, rice, saltfish is nice" refers to the fruit of a tropical tree indigenous to the Ivory Coast and Gold Coast of West Africa; taken to Jamaica in 1793. It has some poisonous properties, yet if properly prepared the fruit is quite good and is a part of the national dish 'ackee and saltfish'."

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