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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Jamaican Example Of "Brown Girl In the Ring" Where Children Changed The "Brown" To "White" When A White Girl Was In The Center Of The Ring



JAFSProject, Dec 15, 2018

Traditional Jamaica ring game called Brown Girl In the Ring, performed in Westmoreland Jamaica. For more info on the JAFSP, visit www.jafsp.org

**** Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post showcases a YouTube video of the Caribbean children's singing game "Brown Girl In The Ring" in which the children singing change the word "brown" to "white" when a White girl is the center person in the ring. This post includes the lyrics to that version of the song and also includes selected comments from that video's discussion thread. Full disclosure: I posted three comments in that discussion thread. The content of this post is presented for cultural and recreational purposes. All copyrights remain with their owners. Thanks to all those who are featured in this video. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to publisher of this video on YouTube. -snip- Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/03/is-caribbean-game-song-brown-girl-in.html for a 2017 pancocojams post entitled "Is The Caribbean Game Song "Brown Girl In The Ring" Racist? (information, videos, comments, & lyrics)."
****
LYRICS TO THIS VERSION OF "THERE'S A 'BROWN GIRL IN THE RING" (composer's unknown)

There's a brown girl in the ring

Tra la la la la
There's a brown girl in the ring
Tra la la la la la
There's a brown girl in the ring
Tra la la la la
She looks like a sugar in a plum
Plum plum

And you show me your motion
Tra la la la la
And you show me your motion
Tra la la la la la
And you show me your motion
Tra la la la la
She looks like a sugar in a plum
Plum plum
The you stand and face your partner
Tra la la la la
Then you stand and face your partner
Tra la la la la
The you stand and face your partner
Tra la la la la
She looks like a sugar in a plum
Plum plum
[After other iterations of these three verses, in this video, the girls sing "There's a White girl in the ring- because the girl who is now in the center of the ring is White.]
****
SELECTED COMMENTS THE DISCUSSION THREAD OF THAT VIDEO 1. p caetano, 2019 "the song dates back to the 1940s they say but even hearing the recorded version, i knew it was a kids playground song, and this just helped prove it. the Nadia Cattouse version has a lot more lyrics than other versions, yet Lord Invader is the most complete version.

** Reply
@p caetano, actually there is documentation of a version of this singing game prior to 1904 in Jamaica. Walter Jekyll includes the singing game "There's A Black Boy In The Ring" in his 1904 collection of Jamaican songs: There's a black boy in a ring, tra la la la la, There's a black boy in a ring, tra la la la la He like sugar an' I like plum. Wheel an' take you pardner, jump shamador! (3x) For he like sugar and I like plum. The boy inside the ring chooses his partner, whom he leaves there after the dance. She obtains release by choosing another partner, whom she leaves behind. So there is alternately a boy and a girl in the ring." -snip- This is quoted from the 1904 collection entitled "Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy stories, digging sings, ring tunes, and dancing tunes" by Walter Jekyll. A digital version of this book can be found at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35410/35410-h/35410-h.htm#Page_207 [Actually, this singing game is on page 208] This sentence was given before the words to that singing game: "The tune which follows occurs in the story of Annancy and Screech-owl (No. XIX.)" "Annancy" is a form of the name "Ananse". Ananse the spider (sometimes "spider/man" is a important folk character who came from Ghanaian culture. The term "Jump Shamador" probably refers to a type of jumping or dancing movement. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/03/jamaican-childrens-song-jump-shamador.html for the 2013 pancocojams post entitled "Jamaican Children's Song "Jump Shamador" (Good Morning To You, Mother)".
** 3. Phillip M. Ranglin, 2021 "Did someone stop a girl at the start, saying that she’s not brown?" ** Reply 4. JAFSProject, 2021 "Yes. Right around 6 seconds. I never noticed it
before. I can't say that I'm surprised. Unfortunately there is quite a bit of colorism in the schools, and in society here.
Me , Myself and I, 2021

4 comments:

  1. Notice in that video that a little boy wearing a red shirt is playing near and sometimes standing as part of the ring (the circle) that the girls have formed for this singing game.

    It seems likely that if and when boys play this game along with girls, when a boy was the center person in the ring, the words to the singing game would change to "There's a Brown boy in the ring".

    ReplyDelete
  2. In his notes for the "Black Boy In The Ring" singing game Walter Jekyll wrote ""Shamador" is possibly a corruption of "camerado." [end of quote]

    Here's some information about the old Spanish word "camerado"https://whitmanarchive.org/published/foreign/spanish/vasseur/introduction.html
    “… Camerado is a defunct term borrowed from Renaissance Spanish, and is the root of the English comrade, … A little-used term, camarada is derived from the Spanish cámara, or chamber, and a camarada was originally a group sharing a chamber, or sharing a bed. Hence it first meant bedfellow, then more generally a companion or friend.”…

    "Camerado" may have been the source for the word "shamador", but that word may also have changed its meaning over time. A similar phrase "Jump Shandalay" is found in the 1924 Dictionary Of Jamaican English "edited by Frederic Gomes Cassidy and R. B. Le Page (University of West Indies Press, 2002; Originally published by Cambridge University Press in 1967, and revised as a second edition in 1980):
    "SHANDELAY sb dial; etym unknown — perh [perhaps] no more than a nonsense refrain: cf jump shamador. Some kind of dance or caper. 1924 Beckwith 172 (Song:] "Massa Puss and Massa Rat a jump shandalay, jump shandalay".

    Note that Walter Jekyll's 1904 book on Jamaican singing games also includes a singing game called "Jump Shamador" [on page 211 of thay gutenberg document.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This video's example of "Brown Girl In The Ring" is the first time that I've come aross the verse "Stand and face your partner" in that singing game.

    There are a number of contemporary children's singing games in which the person in the center purposely goes to stand in front of someone who is forming the ring, and that person becomes the new center person. "Little Sally Walker Was Walking Down The Street" is a contemporary example of this type of singing game.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The color change from "Black" in Walter Jekyll's 1904 collection of Jamaican songs to "Brown" that is commonly used in this singing game may not have been because of any profound reason.

    It occurs to me from reading (some) of that 1904 collection, that Jamaicans (and other Black people) were very conscious of skin colors for very real societal reasons, both within the population of people of African descent and outside of that population.

    There's a number of songs in that Jekyll's 1904 collection that refer to skin color. Here's one of them:

    [page] 275 https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35410/35410-h/35410-h.htm

    "Mister Davis bring somet'ing fe we all,
    Mister Davis bring somet'ing fe we all.
    Oh him bring black gal,
    An' him bring brown gal,
    An' him bring yaller gal an' all."
    [end of quote]

    This leads me to wonder if early on when playing the singing game "There's A Black Boy In The Ring", did people change the skin color of the person of African descent to "brown" or "yellow" (meaning light skinned) just like they probably changed the gender to correspond with whether the person in the ring was a female or a male?

    ReplyDelete