Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Go Down Manuel Road, Part I (lyrics & stone passing videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on the Jamaican Mento (folk song) "Go Down Manuel Road" (also known as "Emanuel Road" and other titles).

Part I provides information about this song, provides song lyrics, and showcases three videos of the stone passing game that is traditionally done while singing this song. A video of a Ghanaian object passing game is included in the Addendum to this post.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases five videos of "Go Down Manuel Road", including Mento, Ska, dancehall versions, as well as a rendition by Harry Belafonte.

The content of this post is provided for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remains with their owners.

Thanks to the composers of this song, and thanks to all those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

"Go Down Manuel Road" is a traditional Jamaican stone (rock) passing game song. This song originated in the early 20th century if not before as a recreational song by men relaxing from their strenous work building roads. Although this song is probably more widely known as "Manuel Road", it's likely that the ealiest title of this song was "Emanuel Road".

Here's a comment about this game from
"There are many different Jamaican folk songs, and all with different or sometimes similar tempo. They evoke different moods and feelings within the listener. Some of the songs call for people to engage in a session of fun and games. One such song is "Guh Dung Emmanuel Road Gal an Bwoiy" (Go Down Emmaneul Road Girls and Boys) which sees players in a ring trying to move the stones placed before them before it piles up. Moving the stones is all about timing or else, "Finga mash nuh cry gal an bwoiy. Memba a play wi deh play gal an bwoiy" (If your finger gets smashed don't cry. Remember we that we are playing)"
The likely African origin of these games
Stone (rock, sticks, or other objects) passing games can be found in various African and Caribbean nations. Read the comment found under Example #1 from a Nigerian blogger who indicates that Jamaican and othe Caribbean rock passing songs have their source in Nigerian Igbo songs. Also, read another comment after the Example #1 video from a person from Surinam who indicates that that South American nation also has traditional rock (stone) passing songs.
A comment about the Ghanaian stone passing game song "Obwisana" which was posted on provides one explanation for these types of games:
"Susan Arnold wrote me:

"I know this song as an Akan song from Ghana. 'Obo asi me nsa, nana, obo asi me nsa' which is sung in a circle by children. The Akan place great importance on co-operation and this circle game can't be played without that and a high degree of accuracy when placing the stone, especially as it gets faster and faster and more intricate with 2 stones tapped together or going round in the opposite direction."
Click for Part I of a pancocojams post on the Ghanaian rock passing song "Sansa Kroma".

As noted earlier, a video of a Ghanaian object passing game is included in this post's Addendum.

The lyrics to "Emmanuel Road" are given in this comment exchange from Patois Games (given below as video Example #1)

lfrancis18, 2007
"someone please my 80 year old mother and father told me they played this game in the 30's in jamaica. does anyone know the exact words?"

King Ackee, 2008
in reply to lfrancis18

Go dung ah Manuel Road galang boy
Fi go bruk rock stone
Go dung ah Manuel Road galang boy
Fi go bruk rock stone

Bruk dem one by one...Galang boy
bruk dem 2 by 2...Galang boy
Finga mash nuh bawl
Rememba ah play wi a play...
Here's the Standard American English translation of those Jamaican Patois words (with the exception of the last two words which may indicate that you are suppose to continue singing in that same pattern)
Go down Manuel Road, gal and boy
[you've got] To break rock stone
Go down Manuel Road, gal and boy
[you've got] To break rock stone
Break them one by one (gal and boy)
Break them two by two...(gal and boy)
if your finger gets mashed, don't cry
Remember this is just a game*
* Remember we're just playing (so don't get angry or upset)

These videos are presented in chronological order based on their publishing dates on YouTube with the examples with the oldest dates presented first.

Example #1: Patois games

brandeely Uploaded on Jan 15, 2007

This is the stone game. It's a traditional Jamaican childhood game played in rythm to a patois song.
Selected comments from this video's viewer comment thread:
angelastuger, 2007
"we play a simular game in Surinam ( South Amerca),it's about a hot stone that is going to burn you. It's related to the painful expericiences of african slaves on the dutch plantations. The hot stone symbolizes the pain and suffering the slave did not want to think about . Why are playing it we sing : faya ston , no burn me so , no burn me so aging masra Dantjie kiri soma pidgin. It means:Hot stone do not burn , because master Dan has killied somebodies child again."

lfrancis18, 2007
"someone please my 80 year old mother and father told me they played this game in the 30's in jamaica. does anyone know the exact words"

chung1chu, 2010
"Another indication of how Igbo the Jamaicans (and many other carribeans) are. This is a Traditional Igbo game for kids which you will hardly find these days. We used sticks mainly (but it could be any object). The song would have changed as the original language is lost and a new one adopted. We used to sing: Okereke okereke ... Okoroafor okoroafor... Kedu ebe oga na aga? Oga na aga nga Oga na aga Oga na aga nga... (continues until somebody whacks your hand with his stick)"

Example #2: Manuel Road vid 0001

Tony Tyrell, Uploaded on Oct 6, 2009

Example #3: Go Down a Emmanuel Road

LearnVision2010's channel, Uploaded on Feb 23, 2012

Staff and Students of the JFLL St. Catherine AEC with the popular Jamaican Folk Song


Ghana, Ayenyah, children's game after school

Tetsublackstar, Uploaded on Jan 8, 2010

My friend Michi shot this children's (maybe especially girls) play in Ayenyah village, Ghana.I seriously loved watching thier playing and listening to their singing. I want to go back to Ghana sooner and see my students again.

This is the end of Part I of this series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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