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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan (Part I)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part series that presents some information about, and a very small sample of Jamaican songs about the river Jordan. These posts also include transcriptions of those song lyrics when those lyrics aren't found online, or links to those song lyrics if those lyrics are already found online.

Part I of this series also provides some information about the religious and folkloric significance of the Jordan river, as well as some information about the much older African American Spiritual "Roll River Roll".

The three songs that are featured in Part I of this series are
Laurel Aitken - "Roll Jordan Roll", Wingless Angels -"Roll River Jordan", and a Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath church (Jamaica) congregational rendition of "Roll Jordan Roll".

Among the songs about the river Jordan that I've found on YouTube, these three songs are closest to the lyrics of- and in the case of the Wingless Angels song, closest to the tune of the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll". An online article that I have found about Laurel Aitken's song [citation given in a quote below that sound file] describe that song as a "spiritual". While that descriptor is probably also appropriate for the Wingless Angel's rendition of "Roll River Jordan", I would probably categorize the Zion Sacred Heart church song as a Jamaican Gospel song.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/02/jamaican-songs-about-river-jordan-part.html for Part II of this series.

The featured Jamaican songs in Part II are Clancy Eccles with Hersang -"River Jordan", Burning Spear- "Jordan River", The Itals - Roll River Jordan", and Linval Thompson - "Roll river Jordan".


DISCLAIMER: I am not Jamaican. Nor am I an expert of or highly knowledgeable about Jamaican music.

The primary purpose of this Pancocojams blog-and my Cocojams and Jambalayah websites-is to raise awareness of various examples of African American, African, and other African Diaspora music & dance forms. Particularly on Pancocojams, I feature an eclectic mix of music & dance forms from the USA and from other parts of the world.

In addition to raising awareness of those specific music/dance examples and their music genres, if known, my goal for Pancocojams & those websites is to encourage persons who are experts and are very knowledgeable about those examples & genres to add online information (including correct lyrics), sound files and/or videos.

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The content of this post is presented for historical, religious, folkloric, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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PART I - JAMAICAN SONGS ABOUT THE RIVER JORDAN

RELIGIOUS AND FOLKLORIC SIGNIFICANCES OF THE JORDAN RIVER
The Jordan river has numerous Old Testament Biblical significances. Among those significances ares
1. The New Testament states that John the Baptist baptised Jesus and other persons in Jordan river.
2. The New Testament speaks several times about Jesus crossing the Jordan during his ministry...and of believers crossing the Jordan to come hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases ... When his enemies sought to capture him, Jesus took refuge at Jordan in the place John had first baptised.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan_River#Symbolic_importance

From the Wikipedia article whose link is given above:
"The Jordan is a frequent symbol in folk, gospel, and spiritual music, or in poetic or literary works.

Because the Israelites made a difficult and hazardous journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in The Promised Land, the Jordan can refer to freedom. The actual crossing is the final step of the journey, which is then complete."
-snip-
In numerous African American songs, the Jordan river is used as a metaphor of the line that separates earth from the promised land, heaven. Besides "Roll Jordan Roll", another example of this use of the Jordan river as a metaphor is the African American Spiritual "Deep River" ("Deep river, my home is over Jordan/Deep river, Lord/I want to cross over into camp ground".)

I don't agree with the notion that every African American Spiritual contains coded references. Nor do I agree with the notion that those Spirituals that may sometimes contain coded references contained those references everytime that they were sung. My position is that sometimes the word "heaven" or the words "the promised land" was sung in a Spiritual, those words did mean "the North, or Canada, that is a place where enslaved people could be free." But sometimes the words "heaven" and "the promised land" just meant "heaven", the promised land.

COMMENTS ABOUT THE SONGS "JORDAN RIVER" AND "ROLL RIVER JORDAN"
Given the known dates of the first publication of the African American Spiritual "Roll River Roll" that song is clearly a source of the Jamaican songs "Jordan River", and "Roll River Jordan". The first publication of the African American song Roll Jordan Roll is given as 1862 ["Roll Jordan Roll" was the second African American Spiritual to be published. The first African American Spiritual that was published -in 1861- was "Go Down Moses". http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=39230#556886 ].

In contrast, Jo-Ann Greene, the author of a review of the 1983 Itals record "Roll River Jordan" writes that "The Jordan River has inspired countless Jamaican artists over the years - Clancy Eccles was one of the earliest, and recorded an exuberant "Jordan River" in 1961, which was followed by a deluge of similarly themed singles." http://www.allmusic.com/song/roll-river-jordan-mt0011956470.

I'm not sure when the Jamaican song "Roll Jordan Roll was first composed, but it's likely that it is much newer than the African American Spiritual with that same name. However, it may predate the Reggae Jordan River songs.

Except for the words "roll","Jordan", and "river", the lyrics to the Jamaican religious song "Roll Jordan Roll" and the Jamaican secular (Reggae) songs "Jordan River" & "Roll River Jordan" are completely different from the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll". Like the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll", the Wingless Angels recording and the Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath church song includes the lyrics "Roll Jordan Roll, and "I want to go to go to heaven when I die to hear oh Jordan roll", though significantly, the Wingless Angels replaces the word "Heaven" with the word "Zion". However, with exception of the Wingless Angels recording, the tune and structure of each of those Caribbean songs which are featured in this post also differ from that African American Spiritual.

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FEATURED EXAMPLES

Example #1: Laurel Aitken - Roll Jordan Roll


RudeeStomper,Uploaded on Jan 7, 2011

Extraido del Album: The Blue Beat Years
-snip-
Here's information about this Ska Spiritual from http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1422115/a/Blue+Beat+Years.htm:
"Blue Beat Years album by Laurel Aitken was released Jan 01, 1996 on the Moon Ska label. THE BLUE BEAT YEARS features new recordings of Laurel Aitken classics. Blue Beat Years music CDs In ska history, "Bluebeat" is a description akin to "Motown." A record label, in this case one licensing Jamaican singles in the UK for West Indian immigrants and adventurous youngsters, becomes a generic term for a type of music-peppy ska tunes with romantic and occasional social commentary lyrics. Blue Beat Years songs Laurel Aitken was possibly the biggest solo singer of the Bluebeat years. Blue Beat Years album Those expecting a slice of ska history will be somewhat disappointed by this misleadingly titled CD, as it consists entirely of 1995 re-recordings of vintage early '60s ska singles."
-snip-
According to this article http://ricorodriguez.wikia.com/wiki/Laurel_Aitken, "As early as in 1957 Laurel Aitken started to play music with so called "conscience" content or biblical lyrics and using burru drumming to underline the song's messages...Barrow and Dalton see the source for those biblical themes not in the Rastafarian movement but in the strong influence of revivalist churches in Jamaica."
-snip-
Unfortunately, I also haven't found any lyrics for this song online. I'm not Jamaican & am not familiar with patois and therefore have difficulty transcribing this song. However, here's a small portion of the song that I understood:
"Roll Jordan Roll
Response: River Jordan
Roll Jordan Roll
Response: River Jordan
I want to go to heaven when I die to
hear river Jordan roll
I don’t come here to make to botheration
I come here to read revelation

Roll river Jordan roll.
Response: River Jordan Roll
-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell from sound file. Italics mean that I'm unsure of this transcription. Additions and corrections are very welcome.

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Example #2: wingless angels ~ roll river jordan



Uploaded on Jan 22, 2010
-snip-
This recording combines Nyahbingi drums with the familiar tune for the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll".
Here's a quote from that group's website http://www.winglessangels.com/explorethemusic-volume-1.htm

"The original Wingless Angels album was released in 1997. The liner notes, written by Vivien Goldman, are available below:

The nyabinghi Rastafarian drummers. Wingless Angels live in Steer Town, a village perched vertiginously high above Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and the cobalt Caribbean The Nyabinghi, to which Wingless Angels belong, are a strict Rastafarian sect: Old Testament, dreadlock devotees who worship the Emperor Haile Selassie by drumming and chanting down Babylon-the forces opression. Such grounation sessions create a spiritual force field audible in these chants' potent magic, invoking Biblical cosmology to heal and inspire..."
-snip-
Here's another quote about Nyabinghi:
From http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/migrations/rasta/terms.html
"Nyabinghi (Ni-uh-bin-gee) This term has a series of overlapping meanings within the contemporary Rastafari Movement. It refers variously to the island-wide religious gatherings of Rasta brethren and sistren at which communicants "praise Jah" and "chant down Babylon," to the three-part drum ensemble on which chants are composed, to the African-derived dance-drumming style performed at these events, and to the corpus of chants themselves. It also refers to the most orthodox organization within the broader Rasta movement variously known as the House of Nyabinghi or the Theocratic Government of Emperor Haile Selassie I. The term Nyabinghi entered the movement in late 1935 during the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and is actually derived from an African secret society which operated in the Congo and Ruwanda during the last quarter of the 19th century."
-snip-

LYRICS: ROLL JORDAN ROLL
(Wingless Angels)

Roll , Jordan Roll,
River Jordan
Roll, Jordan, Roll
I want to go to Zion when I die
To go hear river Jordan roll.

River Jordan.
Roll , Jordan Roll,
River Jordan
Roll, Jordan, Roll
I want to go to Zion when I die
We go hear river Jordan roll.

Rastaman said
Roll Jordan Roll,

(repeat entire song multiple times, and end with)

I want to go to Zion when I die*
We go hear river Jordan roll.

I want to go to Zion when I die
We go hear river Jordan roll.
-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell from sound file. Italics means that I'm unsure of this transcription. Additions and corrections are very welcome.
-snip-
The words "I want to go to heaven when I die fi hear river Jordan roll" are at the beginning of an article about Jamaican dance in this pdf file: catherine-hall-MAGAZINE-3.pdf , Article title: Africa's Dance.] I think "fi" means something like "for to".

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Example #3: Zion Sacred Heart - Roll Jordan Roll

111 videos

msmillions4, Uploaded on Oct 15, 2011
-snip-
“Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath Church” is a Jamaican originating Christian denomination. Churches in this denomination are found in Jamaica, in New York City (Brooklyn, Manhattan), in Toronto, Canada and in some other locations.
-snip-

LYRICS: ROLL JORDAN ROLL
(Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath Church congregation - Jamaica)

[This song is already in progress when the video begins.]

Group- Roll, Jordan, roll
Roll, Jordan, roll
Roll, Jordan, roll
I want to go to heaven when I die
to hear oh Jordan roll

Lead Singer: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Both: For I want to go to heaven when I die to
hear oh Jordan roll.

[The entire call & response portion is repeated multiple times.]
-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the video. Additions and corrections are very welcome.

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RELATED LINKS
Click http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=39230#555375 for the standard lyrics to the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll".

Click http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/roll-jordan-roll-the-slave-song-lucy-mckim-taught-the-world for historical information about Lucy McKim, the transcriber of the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll" (1862).

Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcwRja6F0uQ for a link to a video of the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll" as recorded by The Fairfield Four.

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UPDATE: Feb. 17, 2014

Night Fall In Zion [10 inch] - Laurel Aitken




TheRealDJGIBS, Published on Feb 17, 2014

Digital archive of Caribou 78 RPM single 159B;
Night Fall In Zion - by Laurel Aitken
℗1958 Caribbean Recording Co. Ltd.
-snip-
Hat tip to TheRealDJGIBS for posting this recording on YouTube and apprising pancocojams of it in a comment to this post.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to the Wingless Angels for their musical legacy. My thanks also to the Zion Sacred Heart congregation that was featured in a video in this post. Thanks also to the authors of the articles that are quoted in this post, and to the uploaders of these featured sound file and video.

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Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

3 comments:

  1. Here's a link to a Mudcat Cafe discussion thread that I started about Jamaican songs about the river Jordan:

    http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=149681&messages=5.

    Mudcat is an international Folk and Blues music forum.

    Visitors to this Pancocojams posts may want to also read that thread. Comments to Mudcat threads can be added by members and by guests.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, the Laurel Aitken song you have posted here is a newer ska version. The original was recorded in the late '50s and was called 'Night Fall In Zion'. The lyrics are the same but the music is completely different. I will post the original record on YouTube now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, TheRealDJGibs!

      Thanks for this information.

      I added this recording to this post and commented on the YouTube thread.

      Delete