Edited by Azizi Powell
This post showcases seven examples of the Caribbean song "Jumbie Jamboree" (also known as "Zombie Jamboree" and "Back To Back, Belly To Belly"). Information about this song is included in this post along with the lyrics to Laurel Aitken's Ska version of this song, and selected viewer comments.
The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
Thanks to Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr, the first person to have performed (if not composed) "Jumbie Jamboree". Thanks also to all the vocalists who are featured in this post and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE SONG "JUMBIE JAMBOREE" ("ZOMBIE JAMBOREE")
"Jumbie Jamberee" is a calypso song credited to Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr. In 1953 Lord Intruder released the song as the B-side to "Disaster With Police". The song is also known as "Zombie Jamboree" and "Back to Back". In the introduction to the Kingston Trio's version "Lord Invader and his Twelve Penetrators" are incorrectly credited with the song instead of Lord Intruder.
The oldest versions of the song refer to a jumbee jamboree. Jumbies are evil spirits who were thought to cause wild dancing in their victims. The song's references to Carnival also suggest a connection to the Moko jumbie, a protecting spirit figure represented during Carnival on Trinidad by stilt walkers and dancers. The switch to "Zombie Jamboree" occurred very early with King Flash's version with those lyrics coming out in 1956, only three years after "Jumbie Jamboree" first appeared.
Like many "folk" songs, there is unclear copyright in the song and many lines are variable between versions. While many versions set the song in a New York, Long Island or Woodlawn Cemetery, some place it in Kingston or an island cemetery. The third verse is the most variable with The Charmer's version discussing the local food at a previous jumbie carnival parade while Rockapella's version discusses zombies invading various New York City landmarks. The third verse of King Flash's 1956 version further discusses the female zombie's romantic pursuit of the singer.
Notable cover versions
• Back to Back, Belly to Belly" by The Charmer (Louis Farrakhan) with Johnny McCleverty Calypso Boys recorded in 1954.
• King Flash and Calypso Carnival recorded a version of "Zombie Jamboree" in 1956.
• Jamaican mento singer Lord Foodoos recorded "Back to Back" for his 1957 Elektra album Calypso, an early production by Jac Holzman, who later produced The Doors, Nico and The Stooges among others.
• A version of "Jumbee Jamboree" appears in the 1957 movie "Calypso Joe".
• Jamaican mento group The Wrigglers recorded "Back to Back" for their 1958 album At The Arawak featuring Ernest Ranglin on guitar.
• The Kingston Trio recorded "Zombie Jamboree" on their Stereo Concert album in 1958 and on their ...from the Hungry i album in 1959.
• Harry Belafonte recorded five versions of the song (in 1962, 1964, 1966, 1972 and 1974). It first appeared on Belafonte's The Many Moods of Belafonte and later became one of his signature songs.
• Lord Jellicoe and His Calypso Monarchs recorded a version of "Zombie Jamboree" in 1962.
• Peter Tosh recorded "Jumbee Jamboree" with The Wailers in 1965. It used the original lyrics of the song (not the Zombie ones), and also added a new chorus based on "De River Ben Come Dung" by Edric Connor (a traditional Jamaican mento song). It released as a 7-inch single and was included on the 1996 CD compilation The Toughest"...
Italics are added to highlight the fact that in Caribbean culture "jumbies" are quite different from "zombies". In contrast, a "zombie" is a corpse that has been reanimated, especially by means of a supernatural power or spell.
The summary statement given for Example #5 provides information about the history of "kaiso" (calypso) as well as information about Lord Intruder's 1953 record, the first known recording of this song.
"In Caribbean folklore, jumbies, or jumbees, are evil spirits that can possess people. Sometime around 1953, a calypso singer from Tobago known as Lord Intruder (real name: Winston O’Conner) reportedly performed — and may or may not have recorded — a song called “Jumbie Jamberee,” about finding himself surrounded by dancing jumbies. Note that that’s Lord Intruder, not the earlier, more famous calypso star Lord Invader, who’s occasionally gotten credit for it. (The latter was responsible for writing one of the biggest calypso hits ever, “Rum and Coca-Cola,” an acerbic song about profiting from American G.I.s; here’s his original version.)"
"Calypso, Reggae and Ska also have some excellent seasonal representatives. Zombie Jamboree is a funny story about zombies from across the land celebrating at a cemetery on Long Island and is said to have won an extemporaneous composition contest for Lord Invader and his Twelve Penetrators at Trinidad's Calypso Carnival in 1955. This, according to the Kingston Trio's Dave Guard, who has a knack for entertaining song lead-ins. The song was actually written by Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr. (which is not Lord Invader's real name-he was born Rupert Westmore Grant); Lord Invader's band was known as his Calypso Orchestra. No matter, the Kingston Trio is responsible for one of the most notable versions of this song. Early recordings of Zombie Jamboree (which is also known as Back to Back [Belly to Belly]) are by such Calypso artists as Noel Anthony, The Castaways and The Charmer (The Charmer was Louis Farrakhan's stage name back in the 50s). Harry Belafonte recorded my favorite version of Zombie Jamboree in 1962. In 1990, Rockapella (an acappela group) released a radio only single of Zombie Jamboree (one of the first songs they had recorded as a group) bringing the song to a new audience and making the song hip again."
SONG LYRICS: JUMBIE JAMBOREE
(as sung by Laurel Aitken)
Oh what a jumbie jamboree took place in a Kingston cemetry
Oh what a jumbie jamboree took place in a Kingston cemetry
Jumbies from up north of the island
Some of them are great calypsonians
Since the season was carnival
They ska together in Bakanal
And what they singing
And what they singing
Back to back, belly to belly. I dont care a damn
I dun dead already
Back to back, belly to belly that a jumbie jamboree
One female jumbie wouldn't behave
Look how she jumping on the grave
In one hand'e holding a qwart of rum
The next hand shes beating congo drum
The lead singer starts to make his rhyme
while othe jambies rock their bones in time
One bystander started to say
It was a sight to see jumbie break away
And what they singing
Back to back...
Left to right things was getting sweet
A bystander mash a jumbie feet
One jumbie raise his finger to one
He said mister take care you mashing me corn
The funniest thing I have ever seen
To see jumbie eating salt fish and ackee
I never see more marpy or gingerbeer
That took place at a jumbie parade last year
What they singing
Back to back...
These examples are given in chronological order according to their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest dated example given first.
Example #1: LAUREL AITKEN-Jumbie Jamboree
therotatingchinmen, Uploaded on Apr 23, 2009
Example #2: Lord Jellicoe & His Calypso Monarchs - Zombie Jamboree
Steve, Uploaded on Nov 9, 2009
According to a comment on http://www.ska-talk.org/forum/index.php?topic=12714.0;wap2, Lord Jellicoe's version is actually a Mento and was recorded in 1966. A lot of Mentos were advertised as "Calypso" songs since that was the term for Caribbean music that people in the United States were most familiar with. Calypsos originated in Trinidad and Mentos in Jamaica..
Example #3: Calypso Joe - Zombie Jamboree.wmv
roger Ramirez, Uploaded on Jan 4, 2010
Calypso Joe sings "Jumbie Jamboree" and not “Zombie Jamboree”.
Example #4: THE WAILERS - JUMBIE JAMBOREE
CASSOUNET1, Uploaded on May 6, 2010
SKA - VOCAL
Example #5: Jumbie Jamberee Calypso Performed by Antigua Joe
acoustcarchive, Uploaded on Aug 24, 2011
Heres Calypsonian Antigua Joe performing "Jumbie Jamberee" Jumbie Jamberee is a calypso song credited to Conrad Eugene Mauge Jr. In 1953 Lord Intruder released the song as the B-side to Disaster With Police. The song is also known as Zombie Jamboree and Back to Back. In the introduction to the Kingston Trio's version "Lord Invader and his Twelve Penetrators" are credited with the song instead of Lord Intruder.
Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots. The roots of the genre lay in the arrival of African slaves, who, not being allowed to speak with each other, communicated through song. This forged a sense of community among the Africans, who saw their colonial masters change rapidly, bringing French, Spanish and British music styles to the island of Trinidad.
It is thought that the name "calypso" was originally "kaiso," which is now believed to come from Efik "ka isu" 'go on!' and Ibibio "kaa iso" 'continue, go on,' used in urging someone on or in backing a contestant. There is also a Trinidadian term, "cariso" which is used to refer to "old-time" calypsos. The term "calypso" is recorded from the 1930s onwards. The word was bastardized into "Calypso" when the early European settlers put the word into print. (Best known from Homer's epic, the Odyssey, Calypso was a nymph who enticed Odysseus into a cave for seven years.)
All rights are reserved on this video sound recording copyright Jim Clark 2011
Example #6: Back to Back, Belly to Belly [10 inch] - The Charmer with the Johnny McCleverty Calypso Boys
TheRealDJGIBS Published on May 8, 2012
Digital archive of Monogram / Rhythm 78RPM single M-930 B;
Back To Back, Belly To Belly by The Charmer with the Johnny McCleverty Calypso Boys
℗1954 Monogram Records Inc. (USA) / Phonodisc Ltd. (Jamaica)
Selected comments from this sound file's discussion thread:
""Jumbie Jamboree" (aka Zombie Jamboree) was first performed by Lord Intruder at the 1953 Carnival in Port-of-Span, Trinidad. This is the first recorded version I am aware of. It was later covered by such artists as Lord Foodoos, The Wigglers, Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte and others..."
Bikey Hendricks, 2013
"Big man chune...Louis Farakhan dis meh boy."
"The Charmer was Louis Farrakhan ! True. Look it up."
in reply to silverderf
"Ya that's a pretty well know fact, at least those who knew him as The Charmer. He was born Louis Wolcott and joined the NOI in 1955. He was later appointed the Muslim surname Farrakhan by Elijah Muhammad himself."
Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is the leader of the Nation Of Islam, an African American religious group. Here's the summary statement from another sound file of this same record:
"Lord Charmer (Louis Farrakhan): The Charmer Back to Back, Belly to Belly Louis Farrakhan mento", vinyhilist, Uploaded on Sep 10, 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SDoHciRlok
"Louis Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Walcott in the Bronx and was raised in Boston's Roxbury West Indian community. His mother immigrated from St Kitts in the Twenties. His father was a New York Jamaican cab driver. Louis showed musical talent from an early age, became an accomplished violinist and performed on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. And here is Mr Farrakhan, tearing it up on violin. http://youtu.be/7xvJlxqHh28
Example #7: Harry Belafonte - Zombie Jamboree (Back to Back)
Jose Alfonso Del Rio, Published on Oct 20, 2014
Artist: Harry Belafonte
Album: The Essential Harry Belafonte
Release: October 4, 2005
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