Set up, now and then

Treasure Beach Forum: Dem Good ole Days : Set up, now and then
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By LoveTB on Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 07:33 pm: Edit Post

The following is an article from The Daily Gleaner.

'Set-up' then and now
published: Thursday | October 26, 2006

Andre Jebbinson, Staff Reporter

Members of the St. Ann's Senior citizens group doing the piece 'Nine Night' at Heritage Fest 2006 at Ranny Williams entertainment centre on Monday, October 16. Traditionally, persons who attend nine nights often mourn the dead with folk songs and make music using pots, pans and other cultural items. - Nathaniel Stewart/Freelance Photographer

Coping with the heartbreak of losing someone dear is difficult but it is always made easier with support and solace provided by well-wishers.

When a person dies, members of the community congregate at the house of the deceased for what is called a 'set-up', or a wake. Songs are sung and refreshment served.

But the set-up in times past is quite a different one from today's trends.

The first night of the set-up occurs the first night after the passing. Friends and neighbours bring food and drinks and assist in planning the funeral.

"There was always the religious connotation. As you know, Jamaica is quite a religious country," said Hazel McClune of the Institute of Jamaica.

Nightly gatherings culminate with the main event, the Nine Night.

On that night, neighbours usually gather in a booth built from coconut boughs.

A table is placed in the middle of the booth with salt, sugar, rum, water, coffee, 'sanky' and at times a Bible. And as in the popular nine-night song, well-wishers stream in one by one, two by two and three by three.

According to McClune, those in attendance would participate in dances such as Dinki Mini and the Gerreh as a symbol that life goes on.

Ring games were not strictly for children, as adults frolicked to the tune of 'Zachie Yuh Knee Caan Ben', which cajoled them to "ben it like a leaf pan tree, ben it dung" .

Nothing came in the way of having a good time. Musical instruments could be a fife, bamboo and the benta, a one-stringed instrument.

Contributed meals

The all-night event meant that some people brought hot chocolate or coffee to keep them up all through the night. Meals consisting of fish and bread or other forms of sandwiches were contributed by those who came.

The tracker read the lines of the song from the sanky after which others around the table would erupt into long but melodious intoned versions. Those days seem long gone, as other practices have gained prominence.

"It nuh nice again, a dance dem a have nowadays. I prefer the old time ting. It really lose it flava now. I don't even bother to go most of the times," said Yvonne Clarke, who is disturbed by the changes.

"People are now using jukebox and the whole village knows what is going on," McClune said. "In days gone by, people had respect for the dead."

"I remember in those times you would go with somebody, you couldn't ask them if they were ready because duppy would hear yuh and follow you home," Clarke recalled. "When you remember those things yuh just seh, 'boy things have changed'."

But some traditions are, however, still intact. Men and women still carouse to play dominoes and other popular nine-night games. While it is prohibited to carry out burials in family plots without permission from the parish council, families in rural areas continue to practise the unsafe tradition.

"The last set-up I went, I didn't like what I saw. Me always like hear the chanting and natural sound but now it drown out with all the noise from drum set and guitar," said Sally.

"The larger part of nine nights depended on home-made instruments and, more importantly, the voices of the villagers," McClune said. "We need to get back to the days when we went to nine nights because we genuinely cared."