Jamaica Folk - A Medley for String Quintet (Or String Orchestra) Based on Jamaican Folk Melodies




The origins of Jamaica Folk lie in the first Jamaica Festival (Festival of the Arts) of 1963. There was a requirement for the Violin Solo category of that festival for the performance of a Jamaican folk song. I devised a medley of folk songs with an improvised piano accompaniment for that occasion. This was to become my first composition to be performed in public.

Over two decades later in 1985, when my ‘Pimento String Quartet’ needed a Jamaican piece for its repertoire, I revisited the folk song medley of 1963, updated it, re-arranged it for string quartet, and called it Jamaica Folk. There is also an adaptation for string quintet or string orchestra, which was first featured in a performance by a visiting Venezuelan group.

This medley incorporates some of the better-known Jamaican folk songs including ‘Long Time Gal’, ‘Linstead Market’, ‘Jane and Louisa’, ‘Fan Me Solja Man’ and ‘Mango Walk’. There is also original material in the piece’s opening and closing, which has the flavour of traditional Jamaican music.

From my perspective, Jamaica Folk is a pleasant piece that joyfully flutters along in the abundant sunlight and has consistently delighted audiences every time it is performed.


Peter Ashbourne

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