Grant Money Pimping: Junkanoo Band Key West


There often remains a big divide today between listeners with interests in music from multiple cultures, and this new regular feature will work to try and close that gap. One side of the scales is heavily weighted with the World Music™ end of things–ethnographic studies, field recordings, you know, that grant money shit. The other side is World Music 2.0™ or whatever other ridiculous tag you’d like to insert when talking about what you watch on Youtube. Of course I try and focus more on what kids are doing these days rather than university types with nice microphones or even old Nigerian psych rock records, but the libraries of Ocora, Original, Lychord, and Smithsonian Folkways are essential listening to me as well. A good amount of us blogger dudes have academic backgrounds anyways, so it’s not like we can front that hard. There are plenty of fuck-ups, things that annoy me, and beautiful music in both extremes, and Grant Money Pimping will shed light to recordings most likely funded off government money that I think are important, largely influenced by a dream I had the other night about being in the studio with Alan Lomax and Timbaland making a kuduro album. I will try and only make selections that aren’t super obvious, and often will pick stuff that relates to current music.

Junkanoo Band – Sponger Money (1964)

Junkanoo Band Key West documents the music of a parade who’s roots are questionable. The source of the word Junkanoo has been thought to come from a tribal chieftain on the Guinea Coast, a slave owner in the Bahamas, or from a French word meaning “unknown people” to describe the costumes worn by the masqueraders. Nobody really knows where it actually comes from, but all of the above seem like good guesses. Still to this day the word is associated with a celebration that happens after Christmas in parts of the British West Indies islands, the largest celebration occurring in Nassau. In the early 1800s, many made a living off of salvaging the shipwrecks off the Florida coast, and in 1825 due to an act passed by congress ruling that only American’s could continue this business, many people brought their families and homes from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys. The Caribbean culture and influence is not unlike that of New Orleans, and percussively the music isn’t far off ether. They even share similar funerary rituals, slowly marching to the cemetery and returning in celebration. Most people will know the above tune Sponger Money as Sonny Rollin’s St. Thomas, but clearly its origins deal with the life of a sponge fisherman, a huge part of the islands economy in the first half of the 20th century.

(Information was pulled from the liner notes of Junkanoo Band Key West, Smithsonian Folkways 1964 recorded by Marshall W. Sterns)

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3 Responses to Grant Money Pimping: Junkanoo Band Key West

  1. Raven Mack says:

    Man, I’ve been trying to think of a way to explain the difference between the type of music I dig for and that whole Putamayo type thing. I think that first paragraph covered it.

  2. SAMO says:

    whoa.. so many different sounds in that.. the keys are crazy. i lived down there for a minute when i was 17 and hung with a kid who was always claiming “wrecker blood” – which was a big point of pride for him… but a admittedly a lil fucked.. he would tell stories about how his great-great grandfather would shut down lighthouses during storms to increase chances of ships crashing onto the rocks. there’s a museum for the wreckers too. it’s serious. anyway… such a weird interesting zone underneath the spring break shit.

  3. davequam says:

    Cool, I’m glad some people dug this post, I wasn’t sure if I’d get much of a response…ether way I was gonna do it anyways heh. I’m gonna try and keep these strictly strange places and stuff that relates to current music rhythms like older funana, tambu, ect. Maybe once a week or less.

    I’ve never been to any of the Florida Keys but they really seem strange places, and they have a weird history no doubt. I am really into finding Bahamian music because of Joseph Spence who is one of my all time favorite musicians, but I would never have thought to look in the Keys for cool stuff. The cover of this disc alone made me want to hear it, well and of course the fact that its Junkanoo music. You can download all the Smithsonian liner notes for free on their sites, lots of great information even if there are lots of dated/offensive words in the older titles.

    And great call on the “spring break shit” Samo, that’s a crazy story!

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