Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jamaican Dinki Mini Dancing

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a three part series on Jamaican Night Nights music and dance. Part II provides information and videos of dinki mini dancing.

Part I of this series provides information about Nine Nights and videos or sound files of actual Nine Nights wakes. Click for Part I of this series.

Part III of this series provides videos of staged Nine Nights music & dance performances. Click for Part III of this series.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, folkloric, and aesthetic purposes. This series is not meant to be a comprehensive portrayal of Dinki Mini or Jamaican Nine Nights (Set Up) traditions.

What is Dinki Mini and Gerreh?

Both dances are of African origin of the wake tradition usually performed after the death of a person, and up until the ninth night after the death. These sessions are usually held to cheer the bereaved.

Dinki Mini originates from the Congolese word ‘ndingi’ which means lamentation or funeral song. Dinkies are celebratory occasions. Although associated with death, the music is lively, joyous, and exciting, intending to cheer the family and friends of the dear person. Dinki Mini was practised openly throughout slavery but is now done mainly during our annual Festival celebration.

However, it is still performed in the parishes of St. Mary, St Ann, St Andrew and Portland, while Gerreh is found in the parishes of Hanover, Westmoreland and St. James. Its popularity came about from the death of Tacky, a hero of the Maroons, as it was performed during his funeral celebrations.

Popular at set-ups or nine-nights, the first few nights consist of singing and dancing to Mento music. The sixth to the eighth night is dominated by ring games, role playing, riddles and Anancy stories. On the ninth night, a ritual to send off the ‘mature’ spirit to begin its journey ‘home’ is performed. The family of the deceased will ‘turn out’ the spirit by turning over mattresses and rearranging rooms.

The aim of the ritual is to properly send the spirit on its journey. Hymns such as “Rock of Ages” are sung.

Included in the activities, is the feeding of the dancers and singers who will not hesitate to remind the householders of this duty. This is done in song.

While refreshment is provided at the set-up, a mini feast is prepared for the Ninth Night. This consists of fried fish, coffee, or chocolate tea, crackers and bread. In some parishes curried goat and rice with mannish water (i.e. goat had soup) is served.

Instruments associated with Dinki Mini are shakas, katta sticks, condensed milk tins, grater, the tamboo (cylindrical shaped drum) and the benta. The benta is an accident stringed instrument – a fret board made of bamboo and a gourd resonator.

The Dinki Mini dance focuses in the pelvic region, as it is performed in defiance of the death that has occurred. The dancers, male and female together, make suggestive rotations with the pelvis in an attempt to prove that they are stronger than death, as they have the means to reproduce.

The lyrics of the songs associated with Gerreh are also suggestive. Gerreh however had another dimension – the bamboo dance – that is dancing on elevated bamboo poles and between four bamboo poles brought together and pulled back by four crouching players.
From Jamaican Folklore: What is dinky-mini?
Dinky-mini is a group dance and song ritual held to cheer the family of a dead person. Dinky-minis, African-derived traditions, were an integral part of the mourning process in rural communities. Nowadays, however, dinky-minis are performed mainly at cultural stage shows.

Example #1: Dinky Mini Dancing

Uploaded by Derrick Hunter on Jan 4, 2011

Islington Dinky Group

Example #2: Dinki group 2.AVI

Uploaded by Kaerykaye on Jun 4, 2011

Islington Dinki Mini Group In Trelawny

Example #3: Jamaican FOLK DANCES explained

Uploaded by VIBESJAMAICAJTB on Oct 21, 2009

Jamaican Early Religious and Folk dances such as ring games, maroon songs, quadrille,
A brief clip of dinki-min is shown at 1:10-1:31

Example #4: Cascade Primary Dancers - "The Dinky Mini"

Published on Jun 29, 2012 by dgoode75

As a means of thanking the mission team from Mc Dill AFB and Going To Serve for holding an after school Bible Club for four days, the students of Cascade Primary School honored us with a concert to display their skills in Jamaican cultural dance and verse...

An example of dinki mini dancing and gerreh dancing is also shown in the video re-posted as Example #3 of Part I of this series. That link is given above.

For more video examples of Caribbean folk dances, click this page of my cocojams website: A link on that page leads to a cocojams page on Caribbean folk songs.

My thanks to the musicians, singers, and dancers who are featured in this post. My thanks also to those who provided information about dinki mini which is quoted here and thanks to the producers & uploaders of these featured videos.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. what r the costums used

    1. Thanks for your query.

      I have no other information about the clothing worn by performers of dinki mini dances other than that which I've posted in this series.

      It appears that people are wearing clothing that was traditionally worn by residents in those locations where those celebrations were held. Because it was a celebration, my guess is that they wore their best outfits.

      Notice that I'm purposely using the word "outfits" rather than "costumes" as I think the clothes that were traditioanlly worn for dinki minis weren't actually costumes.

  2. Thanks for this most appreciated article. At least with dinki mini, unlike other "traditional" dance I can see the relation to the continent