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Podcasts

Key West Junkanoos

Key West Junkanoos

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(25:17, 23.1MB; S1576 T83-178, T83-179)

This month we will explore some of the music that grew out of the Bahamian Junkanoo parades as we listen to the Key West Junkanoos.

Transcript of the Introduction

Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida. Florida’s close proximity to the Caribbean islands has introduced a variety of rich cultural celebrations to the state. This month we will explore some of the music that grew out of the Bahamian Junkanoo parades as we listen to the Key West Junkanoos.

Employed by the City of Key West, the Junkanoos were led by bassist Bill Butler, pianist Lofton “Coffee” Butler, and featured percussionists Charles Allen, Kenny Rahming, Joe Whyms and Alvin Scott. They appeared often at the Florida Folk Festival from 1977-1991.

The origin of the name Junkanoo is still a matter of debate. Some say it is derived from the name of 18th century African Gold Coast leader John Connu. Others have looked to similar sounding phrases such as the French for “masked people,” gens inconnu. Bahamian Junkanoo parades can be traced back to the 1800s when African slaves would gather, don masks, and celebrate with music and dance on Christmas Day. The parades have evolved to become huge tourist attractions and occur in two stages or rushes: the first on Boxing Day and the second on New Year’s Day. This tradition was carried over in Key West and Miami by Bahamian immigrants of African descent.

The Key West Junkanoos have distilled the sounds of the parade’s marching bands into their own repertoire of original material, as well as classic Calypso tunes such as “The John B. Sails,” “Island in the Sun” and “Yellow Bird.” So take the conch shell from your ear, and turn your attention to the island rhythms of the Junkanoos as heard at the 1983 Florida Folk Festival Main Stage.


Bibliography

DeCosmo, Janet L. “Junkanoo: The African Cultural Connection in Nassau, Bahamas.” Western Journal of Black Studies 27, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 246-257.

Stearns, Marshall W. Liner notes to Junkanoo Band — Key West. Key West Junkanoos. Folkways Records FL 4492. LP. 1964.