Favourite Book: A Brighter Sun
Favourite Author: C. Everald Palmer
Enjoys reading books that: "Teach me something whether it is a work of fiction or not. I have to take something away that I didn't know before."
Mango Time: Folk Songs Of Jamaica, despite its name, is more than just a music book.
Of course, the majority of its pages are filled with the lyrics and music of popular and not-so-popular folk songs that have been passed down through generations.
Written by Noel Dexter and Godfrey Taylor, the work is also very much a history book as it traces the evolution of Jamaica and the peoples that have inhabited its shores. This is captured in the introduction to the songs which is just about the most text/rhetoric you are going to get for the rest of the work. With its chronicling of the island's formation from a volcano to the interaction of the Ciboneys, Tainos, Spanish and eventually the English, the book resembles Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate textbooks on Caribbean history.
Music is not forgotten
But even in its history mode, the music is not forgotten. The recounts of the attempted suppression of the African folk forms such as drumming and singing gives, a new appreciation for how long these forms have survived in the island.
For those alien to Jamaica and its history, the book provides insight into the different folk forms of the island. And for those who might think reggae is the be all and end all of Jamaican music, the book is an eye-opener. But just as importantly, the work also provides every reader, local or foreign, with an idea of where Jamaican folk music is now.
At the very core of it all, the book is all about the songs. While admitting to not being an exhaustive list of songs, there are still 76 songs in the work; some of which are being scored and published for the first time. The folk songs capture every aspect of Jamaican life from love, hate, hustling to make a dollar or just enjoying life with friends. There's at least one song that everyone can relate to. Easily recognisable works include Day Oh, Woman A Hebby Load and Fan Mi Solja Man plus the title song Mango Time.
Also helpful for the reader is a glossary at the end of the text that provides terms. Let's face it, even those who have never left 'the rock' for even a couple of days will not understand all the words in some of these songs. For those more up on the folk vernacular, the songs are easy to grasp. The only concern with the book is that not everyone can read sheet music and even though the lyrics are there, if you've never heard the song before, you won't get the rhythm. Recommendation: if you're getting this book for somebody, ensure they know music!
But overall, the historic value and the colourful illustrations to go with every song make up for any deficiencies, of which there are few. An enjoyable read for the whole family.