Central Africa in the Caribbean



Games, Dance, and Music

pp. 227-263








Musical Instrumentation


{N.B. These dances are notable for dream-yoga features : "spinning turns" (p. 238) of rotating one's dream-body are recommended for transforming the dream-scene; while "trembling vibration" (pp. 238-9) of the body during the hypnopompic state is the praeliminary for projection of the astral body. [Practicing these techniques during the waking-state, during ritual procedures, would facilitate ability to undertake them while dreaming or in hypnopompia; and any prayers undertaken during such ritual procedures would assist in summoning deities (whether for transforming the dream-scene or for achieving projection of the astral body) while dreaming or in hypnopompia.]}






pp. 227-9 mbeele

p. 227

"A game which emerges as a wake activity in the New Galloway district of the Wewstmoreland parish in Jamaica is the beele < mbeele (Ko) 'knife'. ... (Carter 1986, 10). For each game, a team is ...

p. 228

deciding in secret the winning move of each segment ..., whether paabula or bulikisa. The bulikisa is when the two ... thrust out hands on the same side ... . In the paabula, the opposing hands form a diagonal .... . ...

Paabula derives from mphaambula (Ko) 'separation' ..., while the source of bulikisa is mmbudikisa (Ko) 'meeting, joining'... . (p. 11).

Carter considers this game "a descendant of the Koongo mbeele".

p. 229

"the mbeele hand movement occurs in one of the forms of the rumba dance complex of Cuba,

the guaguanco` ["wawanko`"]".

[concerning guaguanco`, vide infra p. 260]

Carter 1986 = Hazel Carter : "Language and Music of Kumina". AFRICAN-CARIBBEAN INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA RESEARCH REV 3:3-12.



Dance Choreography


p. 233 kutumba-wakedance & kalimbe-wakedance

"At Piaye, in the south of St Lucia, a number of dances are performed during the kutumba wake-keeping. Kutumba appears to derive from Mbundu, ... from

kutumba 'to cure, return health to one in sickness ...',

{This may refer to the dead person's soul's as yet needing to be cured (in the land of souls of the dead) of the ailment which had caused the death.}

or kutumbula 'to call to memory',

{When the living call to their memory the person who had just died, this may assist the dead person in obtaining cure (in the world for souls of the dead) of the ailment which had caused the death.}

or kutumbujuka 'to make small and frequent jumps'.

{It may be that making small jumps (in the world for souls of the dead) is the dead soul's participation in obtaining the necessary cure for that soul.}

The cycle of kutumba dances all preserve the circular dance ring".

{The circular dance may be usual among souls in the abode of those who have died.}

"An acrobatic dance performed at wakes in Jamaica, in the town of Jericho in Hanover parish, at Islington in St Mary parish, and at Upper York near Seaforth in St Thomas ..., has been the Kalimbe ... . ... This ... replicates the clatter of the two long poles held horizontally at either end in both hands of two crouching men ... .

A third man jumps atop the two lathes and has to balance on and anticipate the movement of the boards on which he stands".

{These crossed lathes may be intended to duplicate the quandary of the soul of the dead while encountring a variable crossroads along the Otherworld highway to the village of souls of the dead; and thereby to assist the soul in finding the appropriate solution to this puzzle.}

p. 234 bongo-dances in Trinidad

"Like the kutumba and kutumba gwame of St. Lucia, the traditional Trinidad wake dances, generically called bongo, are characterized by sprightly kicking movements. ... A variant, the Bongo Croise'e or Crossed Bongo, highlights a gesture found in the Guyana ya mapele, in that it "maintains a clipped crossing of the feet and legs. ..." (Ahye 1978, 93-94)"

Ahye 1978 = Molly Ahye : Golden Heritage. Port-of-Spain : Heritage Cultures.

pp. 235-41 woman's dances

p. 235

"Secular dances generally had livelier, even erotic, forms. During a dance performed ... by a woman's group in Berbice, Guyana, the leader of the dance circle erotically clapped one hand over her genitals while raising the other hand

to clasp the back of her neck ... . ...

{This may also have been intended as having an erotic signification, for some female animals (such as in cats) are commonly grasped by the nape of their neck by the teeth of the male animal during copulation.}

p. 236

The leader described her action as part of a wedding dance ...; while making her gesture she exclaimed the word bombo, a reference to the female genitals, a word much used in Jamaica ..., and which has several Central African sources ... and, even more to the point, Mbundu mbumbu 'vulva'."

"The yuka and makuta, as danced by women, featured the


{sic! read "shimmying"}

quality of shoulder and breast agitation. ...

Danced in Haiti among other places, Moreau de Saint-Me'ry [1803, 50] was of the opinion that "the black women of the island ... of Curac,ao ... take the honors for their manner dancing the chica".

p. 237

The writer identified the origin of the dance as ... "principally the Congos" (p. 54 ...). ... The dance involved the dancer holding the ends ... of her skirt and agitating the pelvis ... . Certainly, this swaying of the skirt-hems is a hallmark of the bele dance of the Eastern Caribbean, where it is an exclusively female performance. ... The etymology of bele is {instead of Spanish /baile/ 'dance'} ... velele (Ko) '... hip movements' ... (Baker 1993, 142). The case ... resides in ... the Koongo velele, the undulation of the hips : "She gracefully moves her hips ... . This fascinates the audience" (McBurnie 1958, 26)."

Moreau de Saint-Me'ry 1803 = Me're'dic Moreau de Saint-Me'ry : De la danse. Parme : Bodoni.

Baker 1993 = Philip Baker : "Assessing the African Contribution to ... Creoles". In :- Salikoko Mufwene (ed.) : Africanisms in Afro-American Language Varieties. Athens : Univ of GA Pr. pp. 123-55.

McBurnie 1958 = Beryl McBurnie : Outlines of the Dances of Trinidad. Port-of-Spain : Univ College of the West Indies.

pp. 238-41 mixed couples' dances

p. 238

"Now ..., dances such as the chica and kalinda, among several others in black communities in the Americas, include episodes in which the male precipitously advances on the female, makes bodily contact ..., but withdraws, and then dramatically thrusts himself towards her once more. The female leans backwards as if in withdrawal from these advances (Moreau de Saint-Me'ry 1803, 51).

Given that tambu or ntambu (Ko) 'drum' is the name given to ... the dance event it enables, the chica may be ... a version of the tambu performed still in Curac,ao :

[quoted from Lekis 1956, p. 221 :] The tambu is an African "hip dance" ... performed in couples ... . ... The hip swaying is very erotic."

"In Jamaica the tambu ... is associated with residents of the Wakefield district of Trelawny parish in the island's north-west, ... "Congo people" (Baxter 1970, 195). It is also performed in Lacovia, in the island's south-west (White 1982, 22). The dance :

[quoted from Baxter 1970, p. 196 :] ... The woman ... does spinning turns with arms extended at the side[s], and then ... the movement is transferred to the whole body, causing a trembling vibration of every limb to the very fingertips."

p. 239

"Baxter, herself a dancer, recognized this as the chica danced in Haiti ... . ... A successor to the chica is the Congo Paillette, performed in Haiti, which"directs one man to one woman" with "movements ... directly symbolic of pursuit and capture". This dance involves much hip activity (Dunham 1983, 59, 62). ...

Yet another dance is called the Congo Mazonne or "masonic" Congo dance, also known as the Congo Larose ... (Lafontaine 1988, 88 [-- referenced from Courlander 1960, 135]).

There is, too, the Salongo, ... specifying Sorongo sub-ethnic origin ... .

In Puerto Rico ... is ... the candungue` ... . ... Indeed, a sacred dance called kandunga is still performed in the Luanda region".

"Mbundu batuko [p. 355, n. 9:9 : "origin of the Brazilian term batuque ... . Cf. Mendonc,a 1973, 117"] 'a dance event' concerns ... people from Ambriz (Mbiriji ~ Mbirizi). In the vibration of the body, it resembles the Curac,aoan and Jamaican tambu.

p. 240

... The dancers, both men and women, jump with a yell into the ring, and commence ... swaying the body about ..., but at the same time the muscles of the shoulders, back, and hams, are violently twitched and convulsed. ... (Monteiro 1875, 2:136-37)."

"for "the Bunda-speaking natives of Loanda ["Luanda"] and the interior" :

"... two performers jump into the ring at a time, a man and a girl or woman; ... and suddenly advancing, they bring their stomachs {bellies} together with a whack. They then retire, and another couple instantly take their places. (Monteiro 1875, 2:137-38).

This seems rather similar to the Cuba yuka, ... the man pursues an evading woman ... to stand opposite her when the music "marks the beat". At this moment exactly he gives her the vacunao. ... However ..., she covers her genitals ... and turns around ... . (Jahn 1961, 81-82)

p. 241

Body contact is a constant in several of these Caribbean dances. ... But in the Mumbala or Mbumbakana of the Koongo, there is even more extensive body contact : "Often the dances turn into voluptuous, erotic movements, ending in fornication.

Proficiency in this field

{viz., in combined erotic dancing and consequent choreographed fornication!}

is much admired" (Laman 1968, 4:72). ...

{but only by spectators who appretiate viewing energetic fornication!}

Groin contact, called ... vacunao in Cuba Rumba,

{probably in allusion to "Vacuna ..., the goddess of rural leisure, esp. honored by the Sabines" (LD) : surely in reference to rape of the Sabine women by idle Roman men at the instigation by Romulus, where /rumba/ is a form of /rumble/ 'gang-battle' in reference to the retaliatory assault on the Romans by Sabines}

is a distinctive aspect of several dances in Central Africa. It is repeated in "... the navel-to-navel dance ... among the Pembroke people of Tobago"".

"The early-eighteenth-century kalenda, as danced in Haiti, ... featuring two lines, composed of men on the one ... and women on the other, facing each other.

[quoted from Labat, in Lekis 1956, p. 212 :] The dancers ... locked arms, kissing their partners ..., thighs locking."

Lekis 1956 = Lisa Lekis : Origin and Development of Ethnic Caribbean Dance and Music. PhD diss, Univ of FL.

Baxter 1970 = Ivy Baxter : The Arts of an Island : ... Arts in Jamaica, 1494-1962 .... Metuchen (NJ) : Scarecrow Pr.

Dunham 1983 = Katherine Dunham : Dances of Haiti. Los Angeles : Center for Afro-American Studies.

Lafontaine 1988 = Marie -Ce'line Lafontaine. In :- Sylvie Clidie`re (ed.) : Les Musiques Guadeloupe'ennes ... . Paris : Editions Caribbe'ennes. pp. 71-92.

Mendonc,a 1973 = Renato Mendonc,a : A Influe^ncia africana no portugue^s do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro : Civilizac,ao Brasileira.

Jahn 1961 = Janheinz Jahn (transl. by Marjorie Grene) : Muntu : an Outline of New African Culture. NY : Grove Pr.

{The Sabine women's "rural leisure" is paralleled in the pause in the vinyard-work by the women of S^ilo^, when during their "dance" (S^apat.i^m 21:21) they were "caught" (ibid. 21:23) and forcibly raped by the men of the tribe Bin-yamin, who prided themselves in being very adept at sexually violating ("abused her all the night until the morning", ibid. 19:25) any woman whom they encountred.}

S^apat.i^m 21:21 http://biblehub.com/judges/21-21.htm

S^apat.i^m 19:25 http://biblehub.com/judges/19-25.htm

p. 242 dances which imitate insects & birds

"Among the Koongo, some of the choreography, whether or not intended for erotic purposes, was imitative of the movements of fauna and insect life in the habitat. Tyenge ... involved "rolling the belly in undulating movements, and this was in imitation of the nsombe larva.

Other movements imitate the kimbembe kite quivering its wings in the wood,

or the movements of the kintiku chrysalis,

or of birds like the wagtail (Laman 1968, 4:72)."

{According to Ainu mythology, the typical motion of the wagtail is "intended for erotic purposes," namely to instruct humans how to perform sexual intercourse.}

pp. 242-3 lungondunga-dance

p. 242

"An Nsundi dance described by Laman appears to resemble the limbo, performed in Trinidad and in other parts of the Caribbean ... . ... The description of the lungondunga is also very reminiscent of the manner of dancing the limbo : "The lungondunga or lutanda is danced in a jerky rhythm ...

p. 243

with the whole body quivering (tiita) and the rump bouncing up and down (mwetta-mwetta-mwetta). In their exuberance the dancers may crouch down and bend their shoulders backwards until they are practically lying on the ground" (Laman 1968, 4:71)."


Maureen Warner-Lewis : Central Africa in the Caribbean : Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures. Univ of West Indies Pr, Kingston (Jamaica), 2003.