I have always admired traditional Jamaican music. The sheer quantity of songs is amazing and seemingly out of proportion with the size of the island. Additionally, many of these songs are of high quality and amply show the talent and wit of their creators.
When my good friend, soprano Dawn-Marie Virtue-James asked me to “arrange a few folk songs” for her in 1999, I immediately said “yes, certainly”, put this request on my bucket list, and forgot about it. It took another year of her nagging, but I finally scored “Banyan Tree”, “Liza”, and “Nobody’s Business” for a recital Dawn-Marie was having in 2001. Over the next year “Fi Mi Love” and “Long Time Gal” were also scored for her. I am now glad that Dawn-Marie insisted I work on those folk songs.
My approach to these folk songs is to avoid making too many radical changes to the original melody, but everything else – harmony, form, style is a potential point of departure. I hope you find these pieces an enjoyable taste of Jamaican folk music.