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CC 2014 #1 The Journey Begins

Senior Producer, Commonwealth Connections

Lindsay Pell, Senior Producer of Commonwealth Connections kicks off a series of blogs charting the World on 3 journey around the Commonwealth, ahead of the 2014 games in Glasgow...

The Journey Begins

Can you name all fifty-three member countries of The Commonwealth spanning Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific? Eh no, neither could I before embarking on this wide-ranging Radio 3 series without the help of a map, a quick internet search and the occasional assistance of a magnifying glass for some of the smaller countries.

For our Radio 3 team in Glasgow and in London, the Commonwealth Games 2014 is an exceptional opportunity to portray the rich diversity of the Commonwealth countries and explore each culture through their indigenous music.

We’ll be making five trips around the globe, travelling to Southern Africa, East and West Africa, the West Indies, Malaysia and the East as well as Australia and the Pacific, bringing you vivid encounters with musicians and their communities and the music which has grown from their unique cultures. We’ll also be speaking to athletes past and present whose lives have been shaped by their upbringing and experiences and where music has often plays a key role for them.

My own first trip with sound engineer Kris McConnachie, was a whistle-stop tour to the West Indies....Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St Lucia, Dominica, and Barbados and a variety of different music styles rooted in the legacy of the African slave trade but transformed by the humour and personality of the people who live there today.

BBC sound engineer Kris McConnachie records the Jolly Boys beside the sea shore in Port Antonio, Jamaica

Jamaica

An exuberant cheer went up from the mostly Jamaican passengers as the pilot neatly landed on the runway in Kingston. As we piled off the plane I noticed one large Jamaican girl emerging, chrysalis-like from her furry leopard-skin ‘onesie’ into something rather cooler for the 28 degrees centigrade outside. This is winter, Jamaican-style.

For this first Commonwealth Connections special feature for World on 3, we drove over to the north-east side of the island to Port Antonio, crossing the mountains and travelling through rural areas of rainforest filled with coconut or banana plantations. It rains frequently in the mountains and did when we were there which was a surprise after the stifling, dusty heat of Kingston and must be the reason it is all so lush and green.

Port Antonio is a sleepy little fishing village with one street running alongside the coast, a few scruffy fishing boats moored in the bay, goats and chickens grazed on rough ground by the side of the road and people getting on with their daily tasks of mending roads, building walls and houses, shopping, loading lorries and painting boats.

This is the home-town of the Jolly Boys, three old boys who maintain the tradition of 'mento' songs in Jamaica. ‘Johnny’ the rumba box player who is the oldest in the group told me how he used to entertain Errol Flynn and other Hollywood stars when they holidayed there in the 1950s.

As you can see from the photos, we found an idyllic spot by the beach in Port Antonio and the ‘boys’ had a great twinkle and child-like streak in them as they sang about everything from back-breaking road building to ‘not-so-pc’ songs about beautiful girls with big ‘bumpas’!

I recommend the delicious Sorrel and fresh ginger drinks but might avoid the goat stew on another occasion!

Commonwealth Connections is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as part of World On 3 (Friday 11pm-1am) the series begins on Friday 31 January and runs until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.

Derrick 'Johnny' Henry sits on his beloved rumba box

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