Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Our 20th Jamaican Christmas Fantastical 12-11-2016

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.


Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Jamaican Halloween Reggae And Ska 10-27-15

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Halloween Without King Horror? Never!


Happy Halloween Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!

Truthfully, back in 1996 when I put together my first Jamaican Halloween radio show at WMBR, I couldn’t find more than a couple of sets  spooky reggae and ska from 1955 to 1975 but year by year just like the lost souls rising from the beyond, we have found a coven of rare Jamaican cuts to make a two hour show of eerie sounding reggae, ska, mento, and rocksteady happen!  This year’s show was a blast as we mixed those cuts that feature horrifying screams, corpses rising out of graves, and heavy rhythms with some haunting sounds of our own, and Lily’s explanations of the different types of undead apparitions which was pretty mind-blowing!   In years past we always did a half-hour spotlight of the enigmatic vocalist known as King Horror but being that Mixcloud does not allow so many tracks glued together from one artist, we played a greater variety of Halloween reggae and ska than ever before!

Of course, we did start the show with King Horror with what could be the most bizarre organ intro of any track we will play this evening…The Joe Mansano produced 1969 classic, “Dracula Prince Of Darkness!”  In fact, the first set of four songs was a tribute to the former Vlad The Impaler and his urban counterpart, Blacula!  We followed  King Horror with a creepy one from the Crystal label house band, The Crystalites with “Blacula” from 1973, The Vulcans 1973 cut for Trojan, “Dracula,” and The Upsetters ending that set with their homage to our fanged friend, “Dracula” from 1970.  We had a mento set that began with an appropriate selection from Chin’s Calypso Sextet, “Woman Ghost Fool Man” and ending with the classic “Zombie Jamboree” performed by Lord Jellicoe in 1966.  We ended the first hour with a ska set that included such holiday wonders as Byron Lee and The Dragonaires “Frankenstein Ska” from 1964, and our favorite dark ska cut, Lloyd Clarke’s “Living Among The Dead” which Lloyd recorded in 1964 at Federal.

The second hour featured a six reggae tribute to satan with a highlight being “Dr. Satan’s Echo Chamber” by Rupie Edwards from 1974, and a nine song version to version laden set of “duppy” (Jamaican for ghost) including four versions of Bob Marley and The Wailers Duppy Conqueror performed by The Wailers, Dennis Alcapone, and The Joe Gibbs All Stars.

You can hear our full show from October 27th, 2015 HERE. Subscribe to our show on Mixcloud, it’s free and you’ll get an email every Tuesday when our new show goes up.

Happy Halloween!!! Please help us and spread the word and repost if you liked the show! Repost anywhere you see fit.

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Generoso and Lily