Interview with Dat Bumpy Head Gal, Joan Andrea Hutchinson

This month we interview with Dat Bumpy Head Gal, Joan Andrea Hutchinson. She is a well respected writer, motivational speaker, actress, tv/ radio producer; training in radio and television production and news (Jamaica, Holland, South Korea, Japan , the US and Benin).  She has produced a few CDs including her latest “Jamaican Proverb: Pretty & Proud”.  She has performed as a stand up comedienne /storyteller in the US, Canada, the Caribbean and extensively in Jamaica. Ms. Hutchinson has taught adult literacy (volunteer) in Trench Town; taught english to speakers of Dutch, Spanish and French; is a motivational speaker – Very big on self esteem building and personal responsibility. She has been writing poems and stories in the Jamaican Patois dialect for more than ten years. She skyrocketed to fame in Laugh Jamaica and her recordings Dat Bumpy Head Gal.

Q: You do it all expressing the Jamaican culture, from writing to acting to producing. How did you get started?

Creativity was part of my life from very early and I give a lot of credit to my wonderful mother Miss Emma, a full creative being who writes, sings acts and taught us poetry and exposed us to the arts very early. I have two brothers and one sister and we grew up going to watch plays and concerts etc.

My mother also imbued in me this sense of “ I can do anything”. As a result I am always doing new and interesting stuff, and I have this sense of yes I can.

Q: What do you consider yourself? A folklorist?
 I consider myself a communicator. I write, I teach, I do motivational speaking, I act, I design communication campaigns…. Everything hinges on being a dynamic communicator. I have the ability to communicate with different types of audiences, knowing how to pitch the material or the information to the relevant group. Of course my work is laced with wit and humour as I believe these are the proverbial ‘spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down’.

Q: Which Jamaicans inspire your passion for Jamaican culture?
 Of course Miss Lou, I love the work of Amina Blackwood Meeks and Eddie Baugh and I love how Beenie Man uses language.

Q: Aspect of the Jamaica culture are you most passionate about?
    The aspects which make us uniquely Jamaican the positive things which we must strive to preserve so that the next generation can know that it existed at one time. I love the language though, I love the way in which the very dynamic and colourful Jamaican language paints pictures and adds new word so often.

Q: Tell us about your experience producing Miss Lou’s last major recording?
That for me was a total honour. For many Miss Lou is just an icon. I had the privilege of sharing a personal relationship. It was wonderful. We should have gone to studio to do the recording and then Eric Coverley fell ill and she did not want to leave him. So Miss Lou allowed us to move all the furniture in her living room and bring in about 70 people, young and old. Here she was, not just performing, but teaching and explaining the culture. It was a ‘to die for’ event. I will cherish it forever. We also shot about 10 hours of video, the making of the CD itself as well as a detailed and intense interview with her about her life

Q: You have been compared to Miss Lou. Is it a fair comparison and do you take this as a complement?

It is more than a compliment, it is an honour, but I cannot dream of filling Miss Lou’s shoes. She was very gracious and kind to me, and I always had her support. I recall hearing her being interviewed on the radio once and she was asked if she had seen anyone who could take over from her and she said “ Yes, the lickle Hutchinson chile.’ What more could I ask for?

Q: How has Miss Lou inspired you?
   By her pushing the limits at a time when she was told that it could not happen, by her believing wholeheartedly in what she was doing, in the face of criticism, by the importance she placed on promoting the Jamaican culture and language. Like Miss Lou, I have chosen to keep my work ‘clean’ as it is important that children appreciate my work.

Q: Do you think that Miss Lou should be named as a Jamaican National?
 Well there are certain governmental criteria for naming a national hero and I don’t really know what those are so I cannot define a position.

Q: Are there any plans to bring back “Dat Bumpy Head Gal”?
Bring back? She never went anywhere. The poems and stories which existed on that first recording now exist on two CDs called Jamaica Ridim and Ryme and Wild About Jamaica.  We all have to be constantly evolving in an ever evolving world. So she is still here, hair a little longer and now wearing locks, but still the same girl. I know it surprises most people that I am not a ‘country girl’. Many are shocked when they discover that. I am a Kingstonian, but am so in love with rural Jamaica and rural Jamaicans, that my respect and love for them is evident in my work.

Q: What about Laugh Jamaica. Are there any plans to bring the team back together?
Oh yes. We are all now in different countries, but we recognize that Laugh Jamaica was so strong that it wold be a sin not to do a follow up. Tony, Bello, Blakka and I are in the planning stages for Laugh Jamaica 2

Q: Do you worry that the next generation will abandon many of the aspects of our rich Jamaican culture?
    A little, and this is why I do the work that I do. When I do a CD of Jamaican proverbs or Anancy stories, I do it because, young people no longer have the time to sit around grandma’s fee to hear about the culture. Therefore we have a responsibility to marry technology with the traditional culture to make it available to the next generation and also to the Jamaicans in the Diaspora who are out of touch, and others interested in doing research on Jamaican culture. We have to ensure that we package the material in exciting and creative ways for them. But then if you listen to what is happening with dance hall music you will see a number of elements of traditional culture represented.

Q: What advice would you give parents to keep the culture alive?
The Jamaica Cultural development Commission does a fantastic job of preservation and promotion of the culture. Take your children to the events an let them ask questions and read. You have to point them to the stuff as they do not know it is there.

Q: If you had the power to implement a cultural program in Jamaica what would it be?
Teaching about what our grandparents and parents used to do, and teaching the other side of our history, celebrating the triumphs of our forefathers, from our perspective

Q: Have you visited any African countries?

 Yes I have to been to Benin

Q: What are some of the African influences on Jamaica culture that you learned about while in Africa?
Well I was closely associated with Ghanaians and I realize that many of our tradidions have their roots there. Even when you look at Anancy stories, we have no lion and tiger in Jamaica, but the stories have Bredda Tiger, Bredda Lion etc them… why? African retentions

Q: What aspect of Jamaican culture you most appreciate?
The beauty of the language, the spirit of the Jamaican people and our resilience, how we laugh at ourselves and kin teet kibba heart bun.

Q: Tell us about your new CD “Jamaican Proverbs … Pretty and Proud.”?
I like this one, I think it is my most important work so far. This one positions me as the ‘cultural educator, which is part of how I want to be seen. As I said, I am Kingstonian and spent all my life in Kingston. My mother however would use proverbs in her daily speech and I so I started to appreciate them from very early. I remember whenever I was messing up she would say ‘ Fire deh a muss muss tail, him tink a cool breeze.”

So there are 38 tracks on the CD, and each proverb is explained, which makes it useful for young Jamaicans, Jamaicans in the Diaspora and those doing research on Jamaica.

Q: Who is the audience for this CD?
Everybody. Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, first second and third generation, those who marry into  Jamaican families, those who live and work with Jamaicans and those who want to learn about Jamaica and Jamaicans.

Q: How long did you take you to record it?
The research and preparation perhaps took six months, but the actual production took about a month.

Q: What is your favorite Jamaica proverb from the CD?
Parrot Meck Noise dem say a him nyam banana. If something bad happens to someone, and you were not the person who did it, if you run up yuh mouth too much about it, then very often you are the one who gets blamed, so kibba yuh mouth.

Q: Do you have any other projects on the horizon you can tell us about?

I am working on some books, one which celebrates the creativity of Jamaican poor people. I am also working on some material for children. I am always up to something.

Q: This month many people around the world celebrate Bob Marley day (February). What is your favorite Bob Marley song?

Q: Thanks for the interview. Do you have any closing thoughts?
We all have a responsibility to raise the next generation by setting the right example. They will not know about their history if we don’t bring it to them. Also, don’t be controlled by young people, yu have a responsibility to guide. I leave you with two proverbs 1. before pickney bruck fight, puppa meck groun sipple
2. If yuh no tie bad dawg, him tun roun nyam yuh same one supper’

Listen to clips from “Jamaican Proverbs … Pretty and Proud.” – fiya deh a mus mus tail and  dry stump a cane piece no fi laugh

About the author

Xavier Murphy