The Granny Nanny Cultural Group
The Granny Nanny Cultural Group is a traditional performing arts ensemble, which consists of master musicians, storytellers, craftspeople, herbal healers and spiritualists from the Maroon settlement of Moore Town, in the parish of Portland, Jamaica. They observed the threats posed to the continuation of their traditions and culture by a combination of factors, including the death of elders, the conversion of community members to non-traditional religions, migration from the community as a result of limited socio-economic opportunities, the lure of the cities in Jamaica and abroad, and the disinterest of many younger Maroons in their traditions.
It is for these reasons why a group of Maroon elders and youth came together to form a cultural collective called the Moore Town Granny Nanny Cultural Group. Their oral traditions, music, dances and songs, in additional to other artistic expressions, represent an important and bold attempt to safeguard the heritage of a way of life that is of global significance.
Their group was also formed to honor the legacy of Nanny of the Maroons. Queen Nanny, Grandy Nanny, or Granny Nanny, as she is also called by the Eastern Maroons of Jamaica, founded Moore Town in 1740 as New Nanny Town on lands granted to her and her people by the British, as a result of the peace treaties signed between the latter and the Maroons in 1739. Their songs are mostly about their struggles against slavery and colonialism and in praise of Granny Nanny who is a National Hero of Jamaica, the only woman to achieve that status to date.
The group appears as actors and performers in the documentary-film Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess (Action 4 Reel Flimworks, 2015), which is produced by Dr. Harcourt Fuller, the Principal Researcher of this project, as well as Director Roy T. Anderson. The film was released in New York City at the United Nations Headquarters and the Schomburg for Center for Research in Black Culture, as well as at the University of the West Indies-Mona (Jamaica) in October, 2015. Members of the group have also appeared on national and international TV and radio programs, and have been featured in academic journal articles, books, and have also been recorded on international music compilations.
The Granny Nanny Cultural Group gives the public glimpses of their ancient culture and natural environment. They engulf audiences in a variety of drumming styles and songs depicting historical events, ceremonies, and festivities, transporting them back into the historical past when their Maroon ancestors waged guerilla warfare against the British to maintain their freedom in their mountainous strongholds.
The Moore Town Granny Nanny Cultural Group has a large and diverse repertoire of musical traditions, covering a range of traditional drumming, singing, dancing and other styles. They usually open their performances with a song called “Abeng a-blow,” in which the Maroon War Horn (the Abeng) is used to pay respect to their Maroon ancestors. During performances, the group is often dressed in camouflage-colored clothing as well as the leaves of the cacoon leafy vine, to commemorate the ways in their ancestors were able to stand still and blend in unnoticed for extended periods of time without being detected by the unsuspecting British.
Since the group also includes talented children from the Maroon community with the aim of handing down their traditions to the future generation, they also incorporate children’s games, songs and storytelling about Maroon history and culture. In the closing section of their performance, the cast will invite the audience to join them in a musical homage to their heroine Queen Nanny and celebration of their Maroon culture.
The core of the group includes the following individuals:
- Charles Aarons (director/master drummer/herbalist/traditional healer)
- Aaron Ireland (lead drummer/artisan)
- Deshawn Robinson (accompanying drummer)
- Anthony Ireland (dancer/singer/spokesperson)
- Annette Aarons (dancer/singer)
- Lomorra Dillon (lead singer/dancer)
- Elaine Anderson (dancer/singer/secretary)
- Carmen Facey (dancer/singer/spokesperson/herbalist/traditional healer)
- Terrian Douglas-Searchwell (dancer)
- Ricardo Robinson (dancer/Fete-man/singer/artisan)
- Joel Bernard (Abeng blower/dancer/Fete-man)
- Richard Francis (dancer/singer/artisan)