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Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan

24 Feb 13 - 07:16 PM (#3483386)
Subject: Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan
From: Azizi

Since at least the early 1960s, there have been a number of Jamaican Ska & Reggae recordings and church congregational songs about the River Jordan.

I was unaware of those songs until yesterday when I happened upon them while searching for YouTube videos of versions of the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll".

The Jamaican songs that I've found have the title "Roll Jordan Roll", or "Jordan River" or "Roll River Jordan".

There are a number of references online about those songs, several YouTube song files, and at least one video (of a Jamaican Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath church congregation singing & dancing to their rendition). But there's not much information about those songs (including recording dates and composers), and there's not many transcriptions online of those song's lyrics.

I just published a two part series of posts on my pancocojams cultural blog that features a total of seven of those songs. The first post in that series includes information & editorial comments about the religious and folkloric significance of the "River Jordan". That post also includes information about the history of the African American "Roll Jordan Roll" Spiritual which I believe is the inspiration for all of those Jamaican songs. That post also includes two citations of this Mudcat thread: http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=39230.

Both of those posts feature sound files (and one video) of those songs. When I couldn't find any transcriptions of those songs, I added my attempts at transcriptions. When lyrics to the song were already online, I just added a link, though I admit that some online lyrics aren't that accurate.

In most cases, I also added brief information about the songs and/or the singers, or the song's performance genre.

My purpose for starting this Mudcat post is to share the links to those posts as a means of raising awareness of these Jamaican songs. I'm also interested in any information about these songs and any additional examples of these types of Caribbean songs.

Here are the links to my two blog posts:
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/02/jamaican-songs-about-river-jordan-part-i.html Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan (Part I)

The three songs that are featured in Part I of this series are
Laurel Aitken - "Roll Jordan Roll", Wingless Angels -"Roll River Jordan", and a Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath church (Jamaica) congregational rendition of "Roll Jordan Roll".

http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/02/jamaican-songs-about-river-jordan-part.html Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan (Part II)
The featured Jamaican songs in this post are Clancy Eccles with Hersang -"River Jordan", Burning Spear- "Jordan River", The Itals - Roll River Jordan", and Linval Thompson - "Roll river Jordan".

I'll add a transcription of one example of those songs in my next post.

Thanks in advance for any information about these songs and/or any songs like them.

24 Feb 13 - 07:35 PM (#3483392)
Subject: Lyr Add: ROLL JORDAN ROLL
From: Azizi

Here's my transcription of "Roll Jordan Roll" as sung by members of a Jamaican church:

(Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath Church congregation - Jamaica)

[This song is already in progress when the video begins.]

Group- Roll, Jordan, roll
Roll, Jordan, roll
Roll, Jordan, roll
I want to go to heaven when I die
to hear oh Jordan roll

Lead Singer: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Lead: Roll!
Response: One day Jordan gonna roll
Both: For I want to go to heaven when I die to
hear oh Jordan roll.

[The entire call & response portion is repeated multiple times.]
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the video. Additions and corrections are very welcome.

This video is Example #3 in (Pancocojams Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan, Part I).

"Zion Sacred Heart Sabbath Church" is a Jamaican originating Christian denomination. Churches in this denomination are found in Jamaica, in New York City (Brooklyn, Manhattan), in Toronto, Canada and in some other locations.

Most of the examples of these Jamaican songs don't adhere as closely as even this one to the lyrics and the tune of the African American Spiritual "Roll Jordan Roll". And most of those examples would probably not be considered Spirituals in the traditional sense of that word.

24 Feb 13 - 08:30 PM (#3483407)
Subject: RE: Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

How lovely to have you return to our fold.

Welcome Back.


one a penny...two a penny hot-crossed buns
If you have no daughters...give them to your sons.

25 Feb 13 - 12:38 AM (#3483437)
Subject: RE: Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan
From: Gibb Sahib

From my perspective as a long-time listener to Jamaican music (but as a non-Jamaican), the Clancy Eccles track is the one that stands out most as "the" song about River Jordan. I'd say -- without being able to cite any statistics -- that River Jordan / Jordan River is mentioned in "a lot" of Jamaican songs. As you're probably well aware, Azizi, you're just scraping the surface of all this, and it might be wise to find out a bit more before posting anything that sounds *too* "official." The "Sankey" hymns that permeated Jamaican singing culture, the various religious "cults" of Jamaica (e.g. Kumina), and how these all filtered into the creation of popular music need a broader explanation, I think.

Anyway, I'd recommend this particular YouTube upload as a better recording of the Clancy Eccles:

The differing lyrics I hear (and which you may wish to amend) are:

Sinners better repent and pray
Because it will be a terrible day

Remember Noah build a ark, an' they mock him
Even doubt the storm

The musical style of the track is not ska, although it was produced in the ska era and employs the same musicians that invented ska. This rhythm is something I tend to refer to as the "bolero" rhythm. Some Jamaican artists have called it "buru," but that is highly confusing because "buru" actually refers more properly to the rhythm that ska was based off of. It really does seem to be some variant of the bolero that drummer Lloyd Knibb adopted (i.e. from Cuban music, perhaps), however, the songs it was used on tended to have a rather "deep" sentiment to them. It almost sounds like something more coming out of one of the African traditions being continued in Jamaica. It's complicated. And this stuff is not "common knowledge" that you would find somewhere on the Internet. To put it as simply as possible: the rhythm is very distinctive yet relatively uncommon among the recorded tracks of the ska era, and though it seems to be based on a bolero rhythm, it took on certain "spiritual" connotations in the Jamaican contexts, along with connotations of "deepness."

Please I ask that you don't quote me directly from the preceding paragraph. This stuff is complicated and really needs a lot of study and verification (and I am speaking from memory only). I think quoting and comparing these items to one another on the basis of the "river jordan" lyric, at *this* point, may be doing a disservice to the complexity of the topic.

A good introduction to the subject is Kenneth Bilby's chapter on Jamaica in the book _Caribbean Currents_ (ed. by Peter Manuel).

25 Feb 13 - 02:33 AM (#3483446)
Subject: RE: Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan
From: GUEST,Azizi

Greetngs, Gibb and thanks for your comment.

The primary purpose of my Pancocojams blog-and my Cocojams and Jambalayah websites-is to raise awareness of various examples of African American, African, and other African Diaspora music & dance forms. Particularly on Pancocojams, I feature an eclectic mix of music & dance forms from the USA and other parts of the world. I don't purport to be an expert or even a very knowledgeable about any of those music genres & dance forms on that blog or on my websites.

In addition to raising awareness of those specific music/dance examples and their music genres, if known, my goal for that blog & those websites, and my goal for this Mudcat thread is to encourage persons who are experts and are very knowledgeable about those examples & genres to add online information (including correct lyrics), sound files and/or videos.

That said, with regard to those Jamaican river Jordan examples I should have been clearer that I am uncertain about their genre of music. I will correct that.

And as to your desire that I not quote your comments about the musical style of Clancy Eccles' song, I won't do so.

However, given your transcription suggestions, I intend to add an update in the body of that post that includes those lyrics of Clancy Eccles' song. I'll credit those suggested lyric transcriptions to your Mudcat screen name. However, I'm able to change that attribution if you prefer that I credit those amended transcriptions to "Anonymous" or some other name.

Prior to your comment on this thread, I intended to add a comment to both Part I and Part II of those particular posts that lets readers there know about this Mudcat thread. I still intend to do that.

Therefore, please be aware that people who read one or both of those Pancocojams Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan posts may also read your entire comment/s, and they may also read any other comment that is written on this Mudcat thread.

Thanks again, Gibb.

Best wishes,

Azizi Powell

26 Feb 13 - 10:56 PM (#3484116)
Subject: RE: Jamaican Songs About The River Jordan
From: GUEST,sami


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