Jonkonnu: Kome

ambience: Jonkonnu drumming and singing

We’re listening to the sounds of Jonkonnu, an annual celebration in North Carolina that traces its roots from the Caribbean to West Africa. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jonkonnu is thought to have been brought to eastern North Carolina by slaves from Jamaica. But it’s unlikely it started in the Caribbean. Historians believe that Jonkonnu grew, in part, out of West African celebrations like a traditional harvest festival still observed each December in Sierra Leone.

“We call it Kome. The musicians and the dancers start from one place, and usually ahead of this entourage coming down the street, you have the masquerade. Somebody is in a mask and ahead of that person is the leader. They stop at the house, he knocks at the door, the musicians play louder, and the dancers get to work!”

Brayma Moiwai is a storyteller and musician from Sierra Leone, who lives in Durham, North Carolina. Brayma noticed similarities between Kome, and the version of Jonkonnu celebrated in North Carolina. In both cases, the masquerade leader waits for a gift of money from the head of the household; then he orders the dancers off the front steps, and on to the next house.

“So in between houses the music is not so intense at this time because, you know you are walking and playing, but they are like still singing, maybe the chorus of that song. So when they get to the next house they start all over.”

We’ll hear more about the Jonkonnu festival in future programs.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Jonkonnu: Kome

Revelers of the Jonkonnu masquerade sing and dance through neighborhoods, visiting homes where their pageantry might be favored with a gift of money.
Air Date:12/20/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: Jonkonnu drumming and singing

We're listening to the sounds of Jonkonnu, an annual celebration in North Carolina that traces its roots from the Caribbean to West Africa. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jonkonnu is thought to have been brought to eastern North Carolina by slaves from Jamaica. But it's unlikely it started in the Caribbean. Historians believe that Jonkonnu grew, in part, out of West African celebrations like a traditional harvest festival still observed each December in Sierra Leone.

"We call it Kome. The musicians and the dancers start from one place, and usually ahead of this entourage coming down the street, you have the masquerade. Somebody is in a mask and ahead of that person is the leader. They stop at the house, he knocks at the door, the musicians play louder, and the dancers get to work!"

Brayma Moiwai is a storyteller and musician from Sierra Leone, who lives in Durham, North Carolina. Brayma noticed similarities between Kome, and the version of Jonkonnu celebrated in North Carolina. In both cases, the masquerade leader waits for a gift of money from the head of the household; then he orders the dancers off the front steps, and on to the next house.

"So in between houses the music is not so intense at this time because, you know you are walking and playing, but they are like still singing, maybe the chorus of that song. So when they get to the next house they start all over."

We'll hear more about the Jonkonnu festival in future programs.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.