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KUMINA!!, is a Jamaican expression of drumming, dance and songs. An honoring of the ancestors and a festive and buoyant way of sending on the dearly departed onto their new home. Kumina is played regularly at wakes (set up or nine nights), and this is still done in Africa today, which only goes to show that mama Africa is always with her children still teaching. The main instruments used in Kumina are the playing khas or caste, the kbandu, and the cattah tick (scatter stick). The Playing Khas is the smaller drum, but it is the story-teller, it weaves all sorts of complicated rhythms, and depending on how skilled the drummer is, will captivate the attendees so much that the atmosphere will seem like something out of this world, charged by the sound of the drums, people will be moving in a frenzied state, doing things that they would not be able to do other wise in their daily lives. The kbandu, which is the larger drum, is low pitched in its accent and gives a steady beat, very hypnotic, and sensual almost seductive. The scatter stick player kneels or sits behind the kbandu drummer and with sticks in each hand steadily knocks from right to left in synchronicity, creating a captivating sound. Both drums are made from Goat skins, and the drums has to be fed (sacrificed on and given blood and rum to entice the spirits to come) and consecrated before they can play kumina.
Under a spiritually prepared shed (the ground is concecrated) the two drummers face each other, with cattah tick man seated behind the kbandu drummer, someone playing a greater with a knife will also be there and also a shakas player (shake shake), all these players along with the songs creates a vibrant and magnetic sound that can call people to come from miles. Whenever Kumina is Played in any area all dances are locked off, they cannot compete. The drummers and dancers are usually barefooted. In the eastern part of Jamaica, Saint Thomas, Kumina which is said to have come through the middle passage with the slaves who came from Zaire or what is known as The Congo’s today, is played very often and there are people there who has, even until today retained the original Kikongo language. The opening Songs to Kumina are most often sung in this language and it is something to be heard.
Spirit possession is always present at Kuminas, the hypnotic rhythm along with the knowledge of the drummer who is in command of the playing khas to invoke and dispel the spirits, ignites a atmospheric spiritual energy that rivals the sounds of nature in all its glory. Lightning and thunder lighting up the skies, while the sea rushes up to shore in one big whoosh!..the wind lifts up her skirts and dances with the people who interacts through songs and dance with the ancestors. Jamaican white rum is spewd in the air to welcome… Tata Benjamin, Count C, Mama Lay, Melda Minott, Queenie, Engie Scobie, Uncle Papa, Bongo Roy (mi know him), Congo Tony, Bongo Carl, Bongo John, Bongo Brown, Bongo White, Sheppie, Massa Smitty, Bongo Earl Bongo Walters, Bongo Whittingham, Bongo Wallace….and many more..these are some of the names of spirits who are regulars on the Kumina scene, and as you can see the Bongos are popular among them.
Often times the Kumina will become so intense that the possessed will “Tek Grung”, fall to the ground and possibly stay there for days or months, while they are being taught spiritual things by the spirits that chose them. People attends to them and care for them until the spirits decides to leave, this almost happened to me but I to plead with them to release me, It could never happen to me again. Kumina is very much a part of our Jamaican culture, and has been for a very long time, it is misunderstood and the practitioners do not discuss it with non practitioners, but it is something that we should be proud of.