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Thread: Benna - Antigua

  1. #1
    Debble benjie's Avatar benjie is offline
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    Benna - Antigua

    N A T I O N A L S O N G
    BENNA

    Benna is said to be derived from a song-dance, steeped in African rhythm, that the slaves brought to the plantations from Africa. These songs gave relief and solace to those that toiled in the sugar cane fields. The benna provided the slaves with a voice and a means of expression.

    Benna or Ditti is a type of one verse repetitive song - the original folk-style of calypso. The banjo with no musical variations accompanied it. Benna appears to be peculiar to Antigua and Jamaica. Around the 1940’s and 50’s it referred to all secular or non-church music. It became the Antiguan type of Trinidad’s calypso and was gradually replaced in Antigua by the latter.

    “Quarkoo” was Antigua’s street crier and his lyrics were nearly synonymous with benna, though his style was purely his own.. He sold small items and his printed songs through the streets of St. John’s, as he announced sales or events, everything that radio does today. He not only advertised for a small fee, but he entertained as well - singing folk songs and Benna. Quarkoo composed on the spot, he was “instantaneous”, the lyrics were repetitive. He was fearless, full of satire, often relating the latest gossip, he even landed himself in jail for slander! Benna was also sung in “call and response” with an audience.



    Thomas Joseph’s benna (1924):

    “Man Mongoose dog know you ways.

    Mongoose go in a Forrest Kitchen

    Thief out one of he big fat chicken,

    Put um in he waistcoat pocket

    Man Mongoose”

    NOTE: “Mongoose” was a local scamp, and William Forrest was a merchant of The Parade (Thames Street, St. John’s).

    An example of the straight forward style of Quarkoo’s benna:

    “O, poor Millie,

    Millie gone to Brazil,

    Wire tie up she waist,

    Red ants snap out she face ...”

    Another benna:

    “Maude smell donkey, she smell so funky

    Me gee she water, me gee she soap

    And she still smell funky!”

    or

    “Tuppence hapenny woman lie down pon de Bristol

    The Bristol leggo Bum Bum etc ...”

    “Run Ya Bullah Run Ya” has been played by the Rio Band for 50 years.

    Further recommended reading for a history: “Benna - An Elegy” by GER. IN Antigua Carnival - Calypso Talk ‘84.

    “Burning Flamesia or Today’s Benna” (Anon) in Culture Magazine, Vol 3 #2 July 1993, page 10-11.


    Source http://www.antiguamuseums.org/cultural.htm
    Last edited by benjie; 04-20-2005 at 01:26 PM.

  2. #2
    Debble benjie's Avatar benjie is offline
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    HISTORY OF CALYPSO



    In the 18th century, in the French colonial islands, slaves were barred from taking part in Carnival celebrations. They celebrated secretly in their backyards. African drumming, dance and song depicting their African Culture vibrated from their backyards. "Le vrai"- (singing the truth) was the slaves' hilarious way of mocking their masters in song.



    FROM BENNA 1834 to CALYPSO 1985

    Benna derives from a West African word for song-dance that the slaves brought to the West Indies. It was a lively melody set to simple repetitive lyrics that dealt with a specific topic. Introduced during post slavery life, which was little different from that which existed before, emancipated slaves had to find an outlet, other than through religious song, to express themselves and to forget about the social ills that existed. Music that was simple and free, entertaining yet functional, was an obvious vehicle.



    Benna dealt with the bawdy, the scandalous, the cruel and occasionally the humorous. Benna provided slaves with a common voice. In the 1900's, benna evolved to becoming the newspaper of the people and provided an often illiterate population with rapid transmission of information. The earliest traceable record of Benna song states - "Emancipation day is past, massa done cut naygra ass.



    In the 1940's and 1950's, a fearless character, John Thomas called "Quarkoo", sang "Benna". He composed and sang on the spot. His songs gave details of events ranging from the gruesome murders and courthouse trials to scandalous husband/wife infidelities of the upper and middle classes in the society. Some of the lyrics to his songs landed him in prison.



    Today, calypsos are used as a basis for critique and open commentary, mainly political and social. The use of double language, metaphors and folklore has protected the performer from censorship. In the 1960's, tourism and the influx of North American visitors to our shores recognised the need for organised entertainment in the new hotels.



    The first calypsonians performing in hotels were Dadian, Black Shirt, and Skeetch. Accompanied by a string band consisting of two guitars and a bass made from an empty oil drum with a string attached, they sang about "Slap in han"- a song about a woman being slapped by an unseen hand. Many persons thought that this was a sign of obeah.



    1957 saw the first Carnival in Antigua, and Styler won the first annual Calypso King competition.

    The mid-fifties heralded the emerging national consciousness expressed in calypso. A series of political and union victories against the colonial administration and sugar syndicate were expressed in calypso as patriotism, love of beauty of country.



    The 1967 Calypso competition reflected this with "Beautiful lovely Antigua" by Swallow, "Prosperity" by Lord Lee and "Antigua where land and sea make beauty".



    1957 -1965. Lord Canary and Zemaki performed the best music of this period, whose rivalry laid the foundation for the Swallow/ Short Shirt confrontations fifteen years later.



    1964-1988 King Short Shirt and Swallow battled for the Calypso King of Antigua honour. King Short Shirt had won the crown fourteen times including three hat tricks.



    1985 saw the emergence of The Burning Flames winning the road march with their composition of "Styley Tight". An electronic band made up of four persons, playing standard calypso rhythms associated with the three-note bass-pan of the early steelband.

    Source - http://www.antiguamuseums.org/cultural.htm

  3. #3
    Debble benjie's Avatar benjie is offline
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    This whole Benna involves a fife from an earlier post was confusing the hell out of me. I have to contact the site and have them make a change. It appears to be a bit inacurate.


    http://www.culture.org.ag/activities/r_D.htm

  4. #4
    Paradise! Professor Abughani's Avatar Professor Abughani is offline
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    Hey thanks for that info...I had a good friend from Antigua when I was growing up an when he play calypso soca music in the house his mother used to tell he turn off that Benna music dey
    Quote Originally Posted by benjie
    N A T I O N A L S O N G
    BENNA

    Benna is said to be derived from a song-dance, steeped in African rhythm, that the slaves brought to the plantations from Africa. These songs gave relief and solace to those that toiled in the sugar cane fields. The benna provided the slaves with a voice and a means of expression.

    Benna or Ditti is a type of one verse repetitive song - the original folk-style of calypso. The banjo with no musical variations accompanied it. Benna appears to be peculiar to Antigua and Jamaica. Around the 1940’s and 50’s it referred to all secular or non-church music. It became the Antiguan type of Trinidad’s calypso and was gradually replaced in Antigua by the latter.

    “Quarkoo” was Antigua’s street crier and his lyrics were nearly synonymous with benna, though his style was purely his own.. He sold small items and his printed songs through the streets of St. John’s, as he announced sales or events, everything that radio does today. He not only advertised for a small fee, but he entertained as well - singing folk songs and Benna. Quarkoo composed on the spot, he was “instantaneous”, the lyrics were repetitive. He was fearless, full of satire, often relating the latest gossip, he even landed himself in jail for slander! Benna was also sung in “call and response” with an audience.



    Thomas Joseph’s benna (1924):

    “Man Mongoose dog know you ways.

    Mongoose go in a Forrest Kitchen

    Thief out one of he big fat chicken,

    Put um in he waistcoat pocket

    Man Mongoose”

    NOTE: “Mongoose” was a local scamp, and William Forrest was a merchant of The Parade (Thames Street, St. John’s).

    An example of the straight forward style of Quarkoo’s benna:

    “O, poor Millie,

    Millie gone to Brazil,

    Wire tie up she waist,

    Red ants snap out she face ...”

    Another benna:

    “Maude smell donkey, she smell so funky

    Me gee she water, me gee she soap

    And she still smell funky!”

    or

    “Tuppence hapenny woman lie down pon de Bristol

    The Bristol leggo Bum Bum etc ...”

    “Run Ya Bullah Run Ya” has been played by the Rio Band for 50 years.

    Further recommended reading for a history: “Benna - An Elegy” by GER. IN Antigua Carnival - Calypso Talk ‘84.

    “Burning Flamesia or Today’s Benna” (Anon) in Culture Magazine, Vol 3 #2 July 1993, page 10-11.


    Source http://www.antiguamuseums.org/cultural.htm

  5. #5
    Debble benjie's Avatar benjie is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by De Mangla
    Hey thanks for that info...I had a good friend from Antigua when I was growing up an when he play calypso soca music in the house his mother used to tell he turn off that Benna music dey
    That's what my older cousin used to tell me too. He used to sing and his mother would always tell him to stop singing all that Benna.

  6. #6
    Gray's Farm Gyal Antiguan Sweetness's Avatar Antiguan Sweetness is offline
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    On Sunday no BENNA was allowed to be played. Lawd I could still member dem days

  7. #7
    Lucy-furrr yanktiguan's Avatar yanktiguan is offline
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    yep. those were the days... gettin in trouble fuh lissenin benna.

  8. #8
    Registered Member VINCYPOWA's Avatar VINCYPOWA is offline
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    Like I have said, over and over, no SINGLE island can lay claim to the CREATION of this art form.

    As long as you had AFRICAN slaves in your country of birth, this art form was PRESENT.

    Calling it by WHATEVER name doesn't take away from the FACT that we're referring to the same music.

    The END.

  9. #9
    Debble benjie's Avatar benjie is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by VINCYPOWA
    Like I have said, over and over, no SINGLE island can lay claim to the CREATION of this art form.

    As long as you had AFRICAN slaves in your country of birth, this art form was PRESENT.

    Calling it by WHATEVER name doesn't take away from the FACT that we're referring to the same music.

    The END.
    Of course it's all the same thing. There can be no argument against that or the creation of the artform.

  10. #10
    Registered User small_island_descent's Avatar small_island_descent is offline
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    That's hype. Thanks for the info. Now, my next question is, where can I find benna music as in getting music tracks ?

    Also, is benna the same thing as fife-string band music or a different thing ?

    Last thing, Benjie, I remember a long time ago I was talking about big drum music and if they have it in Antigua and u told me about some music that involved heavy drums and lots of iron, what's that called ? Or is it just called an iron band too.

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