This past weekend, on September 7th, it was a momentous occasion indeed at the Center for the Performing Arts in Coral Springs, Florida as the Jamaican Folk Singers were in town to treat South Floridians to a marvelous musical and theatrical experience in this being the centenary year of Jamaica’s endeared cultural icon — Miss Lou. Referred to as the ‘Miss Lou Full 100 Celebrations’, the South Florida festivities were put forth by the Louise Bennett Heritage Council on what would have been her 100th birthday had she lived to see it. In her lifetime, the much heralded Miss Lou, who was a poet, actress, comedian and activist, still is revered today as a rock solid, fortifying pillar in Jamaican culture and heritage. She played a vital role in popularizing just about every aspect of Jamaican folklore–which consists of songs, musicals, dances, and games for children. What’s more, the Jamaican Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, headed by the Hon. Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, has invited the University of West Indies on the island to spearhead a national discourse on the state of Jamaican patois as we know it today. As it were, Miss Lou was a central proponent of Jamaica’s indigenous dialect.
To add some historical background with respect to Jamaican folk music, its genesis has been traced to West African traditional forms of music while also drawing from influences mento — a distinct form of Jamaican song, dance, and drum laden instrumentals. As for the Jamaican Folk Singers, they have garnered not only international recognition and acclaim, but also a bundle of accolades throughout their existence. Going further, the Folk Singers have a vault of more than 200 songs and boast a wide vocal range complimented nicely by an assortment of musical instruments, such as the flute, guitar, rhumba box and, of course, drums. And I would be remiss not to mention the moving choreography that accompanies the performances of the Jamaican Folk Singers.
As it happened, watching them perform on Saturday night was an unforgettable experience that will leave an indelible imprint in my mind. Aside from their show in Coral Springs, the Jamaican Folk Singers also praised and sang out for Miss Lou the evening before, on September 6th, in Palm Beach, Florida. And in Jamaica, Miss Lou’s native homeland, there have been many special activities, held across the island over the course of 100 days starting from September 1, 2019. Aside from the the Jamaican Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Miss Lou 100 Celebration events in Jamaica have also been organized by various agencies, including the National Library of Jamaica, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission and Bureau of Gender Affairs. And as a personal message from myself to Dr. Louise Bennett-Coverly: I just want to say, “Big Up and thank you Miss Lou for all that you gave to Jamaica. What a life.”
Photography by Nick Ford , who lives and works in South Florida.