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Traditional Folk Forms Alive and Well In Jamaica

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Nestled in the parish of Manchester, the farming community of New Forest is the New Forest Primary & Junior High School which has quietly been creating a storm in the performing arts. The school’s performing arts programme copped eight awards at this year’s National Festival of the Performing Arts, organized by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), an agency of the Ministry of Youth & Culture.

The school won the awards under the direction of its teacher, Mrs. Tricia Lyle who actually introduced Traditional Folk Forms to the school. Mrs. Lyle explained that years ago she received a scholarship from the Ministry of Education to study at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts where she pursued Integrated Studies. This training, she said allowed her to learn all areas of the performing arts. It was this knowledge along with the training from the JCDC workshops that she used to teach the group which has been together for three years.

When questioned about the student’s thoughts about the relevance of traditional folk forms in today’s society, Mrs. Lyle explained that “the students have been excited about learning the various forms and each time they are taught a traditional folk form, they want to learn another. I encourage them to teach what they learn to others. At times we have events at school and the parents are invited to come and share in the programme by performing these traditional folk forms and sharing their experiences of the past. The parents have really been displaying an interest which is due to their children’s involvement in the performing arts programme.”

Mrs. Lyle explained that while it is commendable that Culture Clubs are a part of the national curriculum, more needs to be done in training the teachers. She noted that there are not enough schools that are fully aware and involved in performing arts.

The awards that the school won in this year’s National Festival of the Performing Arts include the Kirby Doyle Award for the Most Outstanding Intermediate School, Most Outstanding Maypole Class 4, Most Outstanding Quadrille Class 4, Most Outstanding Quadrille Class 3, Best Overall Class 3 Presentation, Best Overall Class 4 Presentation and Most Outstanding Teacher Award for Class 3 and 4.  

While many persons are not knowledgeable of traditional folk forms and its importance in our history, Derron Ledgister, leader of the Trelawny based group, Artistry in Motion believes that it is important for Jamaicans to learn and appreciate the forms because foreigners are coming to the island just to learn the forms.

At this year’s National Festival of the Performing Arts, Artistry in Motion copped nine trophies for the Traditional Folk Forms including Best Overall Award for the Class 6 Categories (Dinki Mini, Jonkunnu, Kumina), Best Overall ‘TAMBU’ Presentation, the Hon. Rex Nettleford Award for the Most Outstanding Intermediate Youth Group, the Imogene Queenie Kennedy Award for the Most Outstanding Adult Group, the D. Joyce Campbell Award for the Most Outstanding Traditional Folk Forms Teacher Island-wide, Most Outstanding Teacher for Class 6, Best Overall Class Award for Class 6 copped by Derron Ledgister.

Ledgister explained that the group which consists of 16 members particularly young people show great interest in the performing arts. “We are based in Trelawny and we have members coming from as far as St. Thomas to our weekly training sessions” Ledgister added.

He notes that Tambu, a traditional folk form, was originated in Trelawny but not many persons from the parish are aware. In an effort to increase awareness, the group is planning a school tour in Trelawny, to teach the traditional folk forms to students.

An important part of our rich heritage, Traditional Folk Forms include several categories such as Maypole, Quadrille, Kumina/Congo, Revival, Wake/Set Up, Gerreh, Dinki-Mini, Zella, Tambu, Jonkunnu, Burru Song and Dance, Ettu, Bruckin’s Party, Integrated Song and Dance, Maroon Dance and Mento.

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