A wonderful Gospel from 1969 done by Gloria Bailey and The Joy Bells
Hopefully you all are enjoying this holiday season. Last week, Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Radio Show did our 20th Annual Christmas Fantastical, and this week, Lily and I have done a show for the holidays that is a bit different… All of the ska, rocksteady and reggae cuts from 1955-75 are sung for the Lord like The Heptones classic, “Hands of the Lord,” and Alton Ellis’ “Lord Deliver Us.” Keeping with that theme, our spotlight will be on the Jamaican gospel label run by Lenworth Henry, HENRY’S (1969-1975).
On the fourth week of advent, we thought it was only appropriate that we spotlight a gospel label for this week .The Henry’s of The Church of Jesus Christ label was run by Lucien Henry. The label was quite prolific, and it did have a range of artists, but there were four big stars on the label: Gloria Bailey, Myrna Tingling, Evangelist Higgins, and Lucy Myers. Unfortunately, there is very little documented about Lucien Henry or the major artists of his label.
We do know that Myrna Tingling would become Lucien Henry’s wife, and we do know that the label had at its headquarters at 35 West Avenue in Kingston, the primary location of The Church of Jesus Christ. It is possible that Henry’s is a subsidiary of Studio One that focused, like Coxsone’s own Tabernacle label, exclusively on gospel. There was one collection of Henry’s productions released on Tabernacle, but for the most part, all of Henry’s productions were released on the Henry’s label. We’re going to kick off this spotlight with the recordings of Mrs. Henry, that is Myrna Tingling.
A 1965 Christmas miracle from The Maytals on Rolando and Powie
Merry Christmas Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!
For the twentieth year in a row, we played some of the greatest and occasionally rarest Christmas ska, mento, rocksteady, and reggae for you to put you in the holiday mood. We also kept our long-standing tradition of sharing with you all some of the holiday traditions of Jamaica.
There are many Christmas traditions that celebrate the holiday in Jamaica. We’ve talked about the treats at the Christmas market in the past. We’ve also extensively discussed the outrageously delicious treats served at Christmas time, including the Christmas fruit cake and sorrel. And this year, we’re going to focus on a Christmas time tradition that has seen a little less prominence recently but has a rich history that deserves some attention: Jonkonnu!
With its origins from Africa, the Jonkonnu has transformed over the centuries that it has been performed. It is mentioned in Jamaican history accounts as early as the 18th century, and it also has variations on the performance and characters in its different versions in the Caribbean and in various diasporas from the Caribbean. The modern day format seen in the major cities in Jamaica blends the original African tradition with English theater and music, but the original tradition still has remnants in Nassau and St. Elizabeth. At a high level, the Jonkonnu performances involve a group of ornately masked and costumed dancers who dance and play music.
Originally, the key instrument of the Jonkonnu was a box drum known as the gumbay, and the ceremony has a ritual and spiritual purpose. However, the modern day incarnation of the dance is usually performed with a fife and drums and additional percussion instruments such as rattles, bottles, and graters, and it is more of a secular tradition to be performed during the Christmas season. There are many characters in Jonkonnu, and we’ll learn more about them throughout the show
- King & Queen – The King and Queen symbolize two forces that had in power in Jamaica: the English royalty and the English aristocracy.
- Devil – The Devil is an original character who dances and pokes at the crowd with a pitchfork.
- Pitchy-Patchy – Specific to Jamaican Jonkonnu, Pitchy Patchy is the crowd control character whose costume is made of many colorful strips of fabric. He is masked, and he often uses a whip to make sure that the crowd does not get too rowdy.
- Belly Woman – The Belly Woman is a pregnant woman who dances and shows off her curves to the crowds.
- Cow Head – The embodiment of the rolling calf duppy that is said to haunt Jamaica.
- Policeman – The Policeman originates from the days when the Jonkonnu performances were prohibited. Originally, it is believed that a policeman would arrive to a performance, but he would get lured into the music and join the dance. Consequently, the policeman over time became a fixed character in the Jonkonnu.
- Horse Head – The Horse Head teases the audience with a lance. The origins of when he appeared is uncertain, but given the allusions to jousting, we could guess that Horse Head is a newer character to the Jonkonnu cast who was added as the performance took on some European influence.
- The Wild Indian can be male or female, and the character is responsible for providing a specific rhythm and dance. They stomp in an arched posture, have a cane and bow & arrow, and are often clad with pieces of mirror and a silver heart on a necklace.
- House Head – House Head is one of the original characters of Jonkonnu and is consistent in most versions of the performance. House Head tends to be the leader of the group of dancers.https://www.mixcloud.com/bovineska/generoso-and-lilys-bovine-ska-and-rocksteady-our-20th-jamaican-christmas-fantastical-12-11-2016/
A very early Jamaican R&B tune from Jimmy Cliff on Sir Cavelier’s Hi Tone Label
On a challenge from our old friend Chris McBride, we started off the December 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of Jamaican Beatles covers that we feel are not cheesy in the way that so many Beatles covers can be. Our favorite from the two sets was Jackie Mittoo’s super cool rendition of Eleanor Rigby for Studio One. After our Beatles reggae homage, we did a frantic mento set, and a long set of Jamaican rhythm and blues to put you in the mood for Sir Cavelier’s Hi Tone Label.
There are so many early sound system operators that we hope to shed some light on here on the Bovine Ska. Early sound system operators such as Count Boysie The Monarch did not open the labels while others did. Others such as Prince Buster, King Edwards, and Lloyd Daley made the full transition into recording business. And some, had short lived labels that had gems on them. Earlier this year, we spotlighted Mike Shadeed of the Sir Mike the Musical Dragon Sound System. And on this night, we highlight the Hi-Tone label, the short lived label of Sir Cavalier, the head of the sound system that bore the name of its operator.
Very little is documented about Sir Cavalier, but we do know quite a bit about one person who recorded for the label. Jimmy Cliff recorded his debut single for Cavalier, and when Generoso spoke to Jimmy Cliff, he spoke further about that single entitled, “I’m Sorry.” We then played the clip from Generoso’s interview with Cliff, and then the track immediately afterwards to kick off the spotlight on the Hi-Tone label.