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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hill And Gully Rider (General Information & Folk Lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a three part series on the Jamaican song "Hill & Gully Rider" (also given as "Hill 'N Gully Rider"). This post provides general information about Jamaican music, with an emphasis on information about Mento music and Ska music. This post also includes general comments about the song "Hill and Gully Rider" and three examples of folk lyrics for that song.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/12/lord-composer-hill-n-gully-ride-sound.html for Part II of this post.

Part II showcases a sound file of and lyrics for Lord Composer's Mento version of "Hill 'N Gully Ride". Information & comments about that song are also included in this post.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-charms-jamaican-ska-hill-and-gully.html for Part III of this series.

Part III showcases a sound file of and lyrics for The Charm's Ska version of "Hill 'N Gully Rider". Selected comments from that YouTube sound file's viewer comment thread are also included in that post.

The content in this post is presented for folkloric, historical, and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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DEFINITION OF THE WORD "GULLY"
From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gully
"deep ditch or channel cut in the earth by running water after a prolonged downpour."

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GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT JAMAICAN MUSIC
From http://www.mentomusic.com/WhatIsMento.htm
"Mento music had its beginnings in Jamaica in the 19th century, and was uniquely Jamaican fusion of African and European musical traditions. In mento's recorded history pre-history, from the 1920s through the 1940s, a number of Jamaican songs were put to wax by Caribbean jazz artists. In the 1930 and 1940s, Slim and Sam, a mento group who performed in Kingston, gained renown and are recalled today. They're remembered for their originals, and sold "tracts" -- printed lyrics -- at their performances...

But it wasn't until the early 1950s that true mento recordings first began to appear on 78 RPM discs. This decade was mento’s golden age, as a variety of artists recorded mento songs in an assortment of rhythms and styles. It was the peak of mento's creativity and popularity in Jamaica and the birth of Jamaica's recording industry.

These recordings reveal mento to be a diverse musical genre, sometimes played with reckless abandon and other times with orderly precision...

Some styles of mento would evolve into ska and reggae. (As a matter of fact, some mento songs are still being recorded inna dancehall stylee today.) Other styles, while purely mento, seem to have done less to contribute to the development of later Jamaican music...

Recording more than one vocal performance to the same musical backing is a quintessentially reggae practice. But it appears to have originated in mento, where this was not uncommon. Old folk and mento melodies would sometimes acquire altered, or an entirely new set of lyrics. (The melody from "Rucumbine" proved to be especially reusable.)... The lyrical content and vocal style couldn’t be more different, but the music is essentially the same. Or compare the two Lord Composer clips, Galag Gully; Matilda and Hill and Gully Ride; Mandeville Road. As in reggae, this practice does nothing to take away from the enjoyment of these recordings...

Some mento artists followed the calypsonian practice of adding a title such as "Count" or "Lord" to their name. But make no mistake, mento is a distinctly different sound from calypso, with its own instrumentation, rhythms, pacing, vocal styles, harmonies, and lyrical concerns."...

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From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mento
"Mento is a style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced ska and reggae music. Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rhumba box — a large mbira in the shape of a box that can be sat on while played. The rhumba box carries the bass part of the music.

Mento is often confused with calypso, a musical form from Trinidad and Tobago. Although the two share many similarities, they are separate and distinct musical forms. During the mid-20th century, mento was conflated with calypso, and mento was frequently referred to as calypso, kalypso and mento calypso; mento singers frequently used calypso songs and techniques. As in Calypso, Mento uses topical lyrics with a humorous slant, commenting on poverty and other social issues.[2] Sexual innuendos are also common"...

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From http://www.mentomusic.com/1scans.htm
..."By 1957 the popularity of Mento began to fade and “sales were not there anymore in Jamaica. And…. by the time the decade drew to a close, interest in Mento was almost non-existent in Jamaica. As the sixties opened Emil Shallit would go on to found the hugely influential Blue Beat label licensing Jamaican Rhythm &Blues and Ska recordings for U.K. release."

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GENERAL COMMENTS
From the editors of Mango Spice - 44 Caribbean Songs
"Hill an gully is a call and response work song which used to be sung by workmen constructing new roads. In its topical way it refers to the uneven and hazardous terrain through which the new road had to be cut. folk song which was sung as a work song (a digging song that was sung while building roads)"
-snip-
Multiple Mento and Ska versions of "Hill And Gully [Rider"} have been sung and recorded for social dancing. It appears to me that many if not all Mento and Ska versions of "Hill And Gully Rider" are dance instruction songs (songs whose lyrics for the most part or entirely consist of directions for dance moves.) It seems to me that the words to the song given below as Example #1 meets that definition of a dance instruction song. I'm not as certain about the lyrics to Example #2 and Example #3 below.

I believe that it's important to emphasize the fact that many folk songs were or are also used as social [or religious] dance songs since people in the United States often try to separate the experience of singing and playing instrumental folk music & other genres of music from the experience of dancing to that music.

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From http://www.jamaicans.com/music/articles_reggae/50-years-of-unforgettable-jamaican-music~print.shtml "50 Years of Unforgettable Jamaican Music" by Margaret Juliet Bailey

[comment about Mento music]
"The most heart warming form of music that brings back memories of yesteryear for Jamaicans is Mento music. Mento music is comprised of folk music, mento instrumentation and calypso. The first presenters of Jamaican mento music were the "Cudjoe Minstrels". However, the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverly turned mento into an International art form with songs such as "Wheel and Tun Me" and "Long Time Gal Me Nevva See You".”...

[comment about Ska music]
"The first popular music was Ska or Julian Jingles which was created in the early 60's. Ska is described as a fusion of Jamaican mento rhythms, R&B and American Music. Ska became very popular due to the middle class, a dance called "the ska" was eventually developed. Vocalists such as, Lascelles Perkins, Laurel Aitken, and Clancy Eccles were instrumental in promoting ska to the top of the music charts. Groups like the Skattelites were formed; however, their fame was short lived due to another type of music [Rock Steady] emerging [in the late 1960s]".

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From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=9627&messages=60 [hereafter given as Mudcat: Hill And Gully Rider"], posted by Gibb Sahib, 30 Sep 10

[[comment #1]
"FWIW "Hill and Gully," from my experience with Jamaican music (I am not Jamaican) "Hill and Gully" is extremely well known, to the point that it functions as a sort of "standard reference"... maybe something like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in North America. As such, the song been recycled in various genres... However, beyond that, I have heard the melody "quoted" by instrumentalists in other genre contexts, and have even heard the phrase "hill and gully" used by at least one toaster/dj/rapper... "Hill and Gully" has also been adopted by people in the names for other things...I can't point to any examples, but perhaps you'll take my word for it that they are there, eg. a jerk chicken shack might call itself "Hill and Gully Jerk Centre" or something of that sort.

[comment #2]
..."I don't know where it [the song "Hill And Gully Rider" originated but I know that this was a very popular Jamaican folk song in the early-to-mid 1900s. It had been sung in Jamaica for decades before anyone there ever recorded it (as they didn't have a recorder until Times Records started recording and sending them to Decca in the UK to be pressed).

The earliest recording I know of "Hill And Gully Ride" is a Mento medley on a Jamaican 78 on the MRS label (#31). Considering this label started in '51 or so, this record was probably released in '53 by Lord Composer... the side B was "Hill And Gully Ride / Mandeville Road" Ironically, Belefonte also borrows from the second song on this medley in his version of "Emanual Road". He did not use "Hill and Gully Ride" in his version of Day-O. That was the version released by the Tarriers called "Banana Boat Song"."

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THREE FOLK LYRICS FOR THE SONG "HILL AND GULLY RIDER"
[As is the case with all folk music, there are multiple versions of the song "Hill N Gully Rider". All of the versions of that song that I have heard use the same tune (melody), but the tempos of different versions of that song may differ.

The spelling in the first example leads me to believe that that version is the oldest of the examples in this post. I also believe that that version-and probably the other two versions as well- are older than the Mento & Ska lyrics that are showcased in Part II of this series.]

Example #1:
From Mudcat: Hill And Gully Rider, posted by Long Firm Freddie, 09 Feb 04
"In a book called Mango Spice - 44 Caribbean songs chosen by Yvonne Conolly, Gloria Cameron and Sonia Singham, published by A & C Black of London, it gives the following:

HILL AN GULLY - Words and Melody Traditional Jamaican

Hill an gully rida,
(Hill an gully)
Hill an gully rida,
(Hill an gully)
An ah ben dung low dung,
(Hill an gully)
An a low dung bessy dung,
(Hill an gully)
Hill an gully rida,
(Hill an gully)
Hill an gully rida,
(Hill an gully)
An yu better mind you tumble dung,
(Hill an gully)
An yu tumble down yu bruk yu neck,
(Hill an gully)

The notes say Hill an Gully is a call and response song which used to be sung by workmen constructing new roads. In its topical way it refers to the uneven and hazardous terrain through which the new road had to be cut.

The response can be sung in unison or in two part harmony.

The thud of pick axes driven into the ground provided the accompaniment to the song... as the leader sang out his call, the pick axes were raised for the next downward swing.
-snip-
Mango Spice - 44 Caribbean Songs was published in 1981. Here's a comment about the lyrics of that song from that book [p. 23]:
"Hill an gully is a call and response work song which used to be sung by workmen constructing new roads. In its topical way it refers to the uneven and hazardous terrain through which the new road had to be cut.

bessy dung-bend down

The response can be sung in unison or in two part harmony.

The thud of pick axes driven into the ground provided the accompaniment to the song and this could be imitated by bass drums or tambours striking the first beat of each bar sung by the chorus. As the leader sung out his call, the pick axes were raised for the next downward swing."
-snip-
"An ah ben dung low dung" = And I been down low down
"An a low dung bessy dung" = and a [or "I"] low down bend down

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Example #2
From http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/folk-song-lyrics/Hill_and_Gully_Rider.htm
"I have a version in one of my ABC (Australia) school song books
and it has appeared in the past more than once. It's listed as traditional Jamaican and has
four verses as shown:

Took my horse an' comin' down,
Hill an' gully
But my horse done stumble down
Hill an' gully Hill an' gully
An' the nighttime come an' tumble down
Hill an' gully

The refrain appears between each line of the following verses too.

Oh the moon shone bright down,
Ain't no place to hide in down,
An' a zombie come a ridin' down

Oh, my knees they shake down
An' my heart starts quakin' down
An' I run 'til daylight breakin' down.

That's the last I set down,
Pray the Lord don' let me down.
Ain't nobody goin' to get me down.

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Example #3
From http://www.harptabs.com/song.php?ID=17522
[Editor's note: This site gives the same lyrics as found in Example #2 as "1st "pos" [possibility] for the words to "Hill And Gully Rider".

HILL AND GULLY RIDER 2nd pos
Jamaican folk song
Hill an’ gul-ly rid-er hill an’ gul-ly
Hill an’ gul-ly rid-er hill an’ gul-ly

I was walk-in’ real slow down hill an’ gul-ly
When I break my toe down hill an’ gul-ly
Ma-ma told me don’t go down hill an’ gul-ly

All the boys walk the road
down hill an’ gul-ly
Wom-en car-ry all the load
Down hill an’ gul-ly
Grass too green to be mowed
Down hill an’ gul-ly

Hill an’ gul-ly rid-er hill an’ gul-ly

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This completes Part I of this series.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

9 comments:

  1. Seems to me Hill and Gully as evidenced by the lyrics in example 3 has a strong sexual undertow. Where hill and gully refer to a woman's body hence the line
    "Wom-en car-ry all the load " One can imagine a certain tension amongst the all male work crews finding some relief in singing the song.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for you're comment, anonymous.

      I find your theory interesting, but I doubt that it's true.

      Delete
  2. Joel The Country Gentlemen do a version of this song, it's on their Album "The Early Rebel Recordings, Disc Two. Very nice, a bluegrass version. Thanks for your work in compiling knowledge. I was looking for the lyrics to play the song and discovered your website. Sorry about the anonymous, don't know what my URL is.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Joel for sharing that information about The Country Gentlemen performing this song.

    And you're welcome for your compliment. I enjoy learning information and love many of the renditions of songs that I've found as a result of doing research for these blog posts.

    I know that posting comments on this blog isn't easy. It took me a while to figure out how to do it. Here's a link to a post that I wrote explaining the steps for adding comments http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/09/adding-comments-to-pancocojams.html.

    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What about the adapatation of Hill and Gully Rider in the movie showing the "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" in Moby Dick? Has it ever been used at sea on the old whalers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Anonymous, thanks for your query.

      From what I've read about the Jamaican song "Hill & Gully Rider"- mostly from reading online discussions such as http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=9627), that song was adapted for the movie Moby Dick and not actually sung on old whalers.

      Read for example this quote from that discussion that was posted in 1998 by Matthew Edwards:
      "Melville, as Lighter correctly noted, never mentioned "hill and gully" in Moby Dick, nor is it in the least a nautical phrase.

      The story of how Edric Connor, in the role of Daggoo, introduced the song into the film of Moby Dick is quoted from an interview with his widow Pearl Connor Mogotsi in the book Black in the British Frame by Stephen Bourne:-

      'Hill and Gully Rider' is about the undulating land in Jamaica, but it was the undulating sea of Moby Dick, the ocean where they were looking for the whale, where Edric introduced the song. And it is a lyrical, lilting song, a beautiful thing that the director John Huston loved straight away. And Edric was always trying to do that, introduce Caribbean music into the films he worked on, and letting people know about our songs. So Huston allowed him to have an input, which was very good for Edric, and good for the film, also, I should think."

      -snip-
      That said, several participants in that discussion pointed out that an old shanty song entitled "Little Sally Rackett" has the same tune and the same call & response pattern as "Hill & Gully Rider".

      Delete
    2. Thank you, very much. When I saw it on Huston's film my reaction was -- "You might be able to throw a pick to that tune, but you can't row to it." But it did fit well into the scene. Again, thank you.

      Delete
  5. Little Sally Rackett is amazingly similar to Hill and Gully Rider, but I think it was used by British (Liverpool) Seamen to haul anchor, not row on choppy seas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Anonymous.

      I know very little about shanties. You've motivated me to do some online research on the song "Little Sally Rackett" ("Haul Her Away") and I'll probably publish a pancocojams about that song. If so, I'll publish a hyperlink to that post here.

      Delete