Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two Jamaican Mento Songs That Mention John Crow

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a three part series about the Jamaican character/symbol "John Crow". This post provides excerpts of two Jamaican mento songs that mention John Crow.

Part I of this series provides information about the cultural meaning of "John Crow". Click for that post.

Part III of this series features the Jimmy Cliff song "John Crow".
Click for that post.

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.


LONG TIME GAL [excerpt]
(traditional Jamaican song)

Dis long time, gal, me never see yu,
Come mek me hol your han.
Dis long time, gal, me never see yu,
Come mek me hol your han.
Peel head John Crow sid upon tree-top
Pick off de blossom,
Mek me hold your han, gal, mek me hol
your han.

Reposted from

Also, click for similar Jamaican words and a standard American English "translation" of those words.
I believe that "peel head" means "bald headed" (having no hair on your head).

Here's a video of the Jamaican mento song "Long Time Gal":

"Long Time Gal"

uploaded by BajanBloom on Jan 13, 2011

"Miss Lou -- Dr. Louise Bennett Coverley has made a distinguished contribution to the development of Arts and Culture in both in Jamaica and the Caribbean region at large. Through her skillfully penned prose in Jamaican patois, Miss Lou has been able to raise the folk dialect to an art level now accepted and appreciated by all Jamaicans."

(traditional Jamaican song)

Verse 1
One solja man come fe court me,
Me sey me no ha' nobody,
Him gimme one shillin' an' quatty.
Me tek i' buy silk an' satin.

Verse 2
Me wash i' me starch i' me iron i',
Me pred i' pon pingwing macka,
An one ole un-conscionable John Crow
Come fling i' eena crevice an' corner...

Verse 3
No tear i' Jeremiah, no tear i',
No tear i' Jeremiah, no tear i',
No tear i' Jeremiah, no tera i',
No tear up me silk an' satin.

Verse 4
A weh yuh dah weel an' tun me,
A weh yuh dah weel an' tun me,
Yuh mussa wan' me fe go fall dung,
An' lick me belly pon tambourina.

Solja- Soldier

Ha'- Have

Quatty- Penny halfpenny

Pred- Spread

Pingwing macka- Cactus

John Crow- Jamaican scavenger bird, but here used in a derogatory sense, alluding to 'Jeremiah'.

Eena- In

Weh- Why

Mussa- Must

Fe go fall dung- To fall down

Tambourina- Tambourine

Also sung as 'One Bungo Man', Bungo meaning an African.
*May be sung as: 'Him gimme one cock-y'eye fourbit', 'fourbit' being one shilling and sixpence.

Pp. 58-59, With music for voice and piano.

Tom Murray, Ed. and arr., 1951, Folk Songs of Jamaica, Oxford University Press.

[These lyrics & notes are were posted on by Q on October 4, 2011]
In Jamaican tradition "John Crow" is commonly referred to as a "disgraceful" bird. The adjective "unconscionable" means the same thing as "disgraceful".

In the context of this song, "John Crow" is used as a derogatory referent to a dark skinned Black man. The phrase "An one ole un-conscionable John Crow" doubles down the derogatory meaning of the description (an unconscionable dark skinned Black man"). That meaning is substantiated by the note that the song is also sung as "One Bungo Man", Bungo meaning "an African."

For another Jamaican mento that refers to "bungo", click for the song "Bungo Moolatta".

Thanks to the unknown composers of these two songs. Thanks also for those who collected these songs, and those sand them, and those who posted them online.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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