Blast From The Past!

Featuring noteworthy events and individuals in Spring Village’s Past

 

 

Burru

 

In past years, Burru has been a vital part of the culture of Spring Village. This occurred every year at Christmas time where these drummers would go from one end of the village to the other (Rockstone to Bottom Pipe) as minstrels to serenade the village with the sounds of Burru.

 

According to the History of Jamaica, the slaves brought a form of drumming from Africa called "Burru". This originated from West Africa and its presence in the Caribbean came as a result of the slave trade of the 1500’s. Burru was often used in arrangements called "talking drums" probably due to their method of drumming, where there is a “call” followed by a response as in a conversation. This drumming conversation can be heard when one drummer plays a series “licks” followed by another drummer’s response of vivacious drum “licks”. Call and response can be seen in virtually any music of African roots.  The early "Jonkanoo" celebrations, which is also a mix of African, European and the evolving Jamaican cultural music of drumming, rattles and conch blowing usually appeared around Christmas time with masquerades.

 

Traditionally, Spring Village Burru would be comprised of drumming (typically three drums including a bass drum) accompanied with singing, instead of just drums. The lyrics of the songs would be made exclusively from village gossips of events which transpired throughout the year and would be sung by the drummers and others who tagged along. The minstrels would go from bar to bar starting from Rockstone to serenade the crowd with their music. They would be given free drinks by the bartenders and usually at the end of the day they would be quite drunk.

 

The drummers comprised of certain key men in the village. The men involved were Albert Bryan known as Sall Cup or Moochu, Gleaner Boy, Rob Blake (Papa Rob), Wilbert and Blood Bath (Richards).

Sall cup was the main organizer, keeper of the drums and composer of lyrics. Wilbert was the main singer and was always very comical when he sang.

 

Burru was an event that was highly anticipated by villagers, in that one would be anxious to hear if their life stories would be part of the songs and hence become part of the annals of the village gossip column. They would breathe a sigh of relief if their story was not spilled. The songs themselves were not meant to be malicious but to bring humor and much gaiety to the community on Christmas day. This was the order of the day as the musicians moved to different locations with a small crowd behind them chiming in and tagging along to help heighten the festivities and sample the free liquor.

 

The event would start at about eight in the morning and end by early afternoon. It would build to a climax by the time it reached the Bailey bar and ended with a crescendo at the last bar at the end of the village.

 

The songs, with their lyrics being the highlight of the occasion, were sung in typical call and response fashion. They would have a general structure where it would be easy to insert names or gossip lines. An example of this is shown below.

 

 

 

Typical Burru song Structure

 

Verse:

Mi know wan bwoy name < fill in name>               ---Call

Maghandeo                                                    ---Response

 

Him come from rown a Rockstone

Maghandeo

 

One day him <fill in gossip>

Maghandeo

Den him fine out seh <fill in gossip>

Maghandeo

 

De poor bwoy <fill in gossip>

Maghandeo

An now him hafi <fill in gossip>

Maghandeo

 

Chorus:

Maghandeo ma ma ghandi

Maghandeo

An now him hafi <fill in gossip>

Maghandeo

 

repeat chorus

 

 

It should be noted, that although Burru can still be found in many parts of Jamaica (especially maroon regions), the concept of minstrels singing during Christmas time is not exclusive to Jamaica. The island of Trinidad has a form called Parang. This occurs every Christmas like Burru but is propagated by Trinidad’s closest neighbor Venezuela. Traditionally, the Venezuelans would go across to Trinidad, moving from house to house to serenade their audience with songs comprised of Spanish and English lyrics and be treated with food and drinks.

 

Burru is generally performed in different contexts. For Rastafarians, it is used as part of their religious chants, in other environs it is used more generally in folk singing, in the Jonkanoo context it is used to accompany dance. The form used in Spring Village however, may be unique to us in that the lyrics are primarily based on village gossip and nothing more. This unique approach is rarely seen elsewhere and could possibly be indigenous to Spring Village.

 

Although Burru has not been performed in the village for many years, vestiges of it can still be seen in village life at events like nine-nights (nightly gatherings at the home of the deceased, also an African tradition). Some of the earlier Burru performers like Gleaner boy, Blood-Bath and Cuttie are sometimes present to grace the occasion not so much with drums as times past but with their voices and sometimes a didgeridoo (A hollow pipe 4-5 feet long, which is being blown into to create a deep resonant bass rhythm).

The action usually comes into full swing after a few shots of rum, where the notes get longer and longer.

 

Sall cup passed on in September of 2003. He has left a spirit in the community that will never be duplicated. For decades he has been the fuel behind the Spring Village Burru tradition. Mucho was a friend of most, if not all Village people. He and his contribution will certainly be missed

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about the origins of Burru and Parang:

Burnin Vernon’s Original Ska Page: http://www.geocities.com/lvbernard/

Rastafarian influence in Jamaican music: http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:iqpb8f4ToQ8J:www.worldbeatcenter.org/media/Newsletter/63.pdf+Burru+jamaica&hl=en

The Story of Jamaican Music: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/features/reggae/history_intro.shtml

Jonkunnu - Meet The Characters: http://www.jcdc.org.jm/jonkunnu_characters.htm

Jamaica Music In depth: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/jamaica/0093020358.html

 

Parang in Trinidad: http://www.tntisland.com/parang.html

Impact of Parang on Language: http://www.nalis.gov.tt/music/t&tHISTORY_Parang-SpanishHeritage.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous editions of Blast from the Past:

 

Trashie –One of Spring Villages Mentally ill individuals.

 

 

 

Back to Main Page