Our Past Presented

Jamaican culture has gone through a lot of changes many of which seem to be unknown to her people. One of the forgotten pieces of history is dance and its musical forms. Many fail to recognize the “African-ness” found in our movements. Even if it is acknowledged it is not fully appreciated. Dance forms like Jonkunnu (John Canoe), Kumina, Dinki Mini and Revival have played their parts in the caressing of Jamaican dance culture.

Never forget, with dance there must be music and, in many of these dance forms, music is the main character of any story being told. A most popular form is Dinki Mini; filled with sharp pelvic movements, dips, spinning and call and response. Unlike many of the similar set-ups, Dinki Mini celebrates life rather than mourning death.

This form is used to invariably cheer those in grieving. The dance begins with the leader and dancers (alternating sexes) in a straight line walking until they meet in a circle. Stooping, the group pats the ground in order to ‘get the attention of the group of dancers and for them to make contact with the earth’ (Mr Doyle-1982). Now in the middle, the leader dances solo, one leg placed before and behind the other being held stationary. This is done without moving from the middle. Then he [the leader] moves to a woman, dancing in front of her to bring her in the circle. This goes on with each dancer moving to the opposite sex. This movement is then used to create the rest of the dance in couplets. But, from the one simple movement described, there is many a dance move that have been used in this age.

For example, the foot movement can be seen in a recent dance called “Rum Ram”, by the Jamaican artist, QQ. The hip movement, pelvic action and sharpness of the movements are reminiscent of or “whining” today; even more so the “daggering” phenomenon.

But other than its movement and music, it had its religious value. This form helped to instil the cultural commodity of ‘Nine Night’. This has made deaths a lot easier for a lot of persons, especially since the event brings people together to remember the life of the deceased.

So, what does that have to do with today’s Jamaica?

One can go as far as to say that Dinki Mini is need in today’s society. It can provide entertainment, like all other things, but also ‘western-Africans’ can learn about themselves and customs. This dance form could even keep us westerns in some sort of spiritual connection with our ancestors.

But does Jamaica see the value in its ancestors’ retained culture?


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