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Jamaica's Freedom Song
Music ties slave descendants to their ancestors

For the African slaves who escaped Jamaica's Spanish plantations in 1655 and found refuge in the island's interior mountains, music was more than a salve for their souls. It meant freedom.
The escaped slaves, called Maroons, communicated with music to plan attacks against British colonists who sought to reenslave them. After almost a century of fighting, the Maroons won independence in 1739.
UNESCO has now proclaimed the living traditions of one group of Maroon descendants, those from Moore Town, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
"This music was part of the liberation struggle," says Vivian Crawford, executive director
of the Institute of Jamaica. "The rhythm to which a Maroon lookout beat a drum or blew
the abeng, an instrument made from a cow's horn, communicated coded messages to the rest of the group."
Today Maroon descendants play the music for events such as weddings, funerals, and healings. Hearing the music, says Moore Town Maroon leader Wallace Sterling, "you feel a sense of belonging. You feel elated to know that this kept our foreparents together."

—Cassandra Franklin-Barbajosa

Web Links

UNESCO Masterpieces of Intangible Heritage

Here you can learn more about the Moore Town Maroons and UNESCO's 46 additional Masterpieces of Intangible Heritage.

Institute of Jamaica
The Institute's site offers an overview of Jamaica's natural history and cultural history.

National Library of Jamaica
This site contains pages about Jamaica's history and culture, along with links to government websites, sites of international agencies working in Jamaica, and dozens of local island-based sites covering everything from butterflies to
youth scouting programs.


Listen to the traditional sounds of Jamaican Maroon music.


Mason, Peter. Jamaica: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture. Interlink Books, 2000.
Mordecai, Martin, and Pamela Mordecai. Culture and Customs of Jamaica. Greenwood Press, 2001.


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