Akinsanya & Mauma G - Kween Naanii - reggaerootsreview.com

Gaama Akinsanya Palmer
Kween Naanii (feat Mauma G)
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This was not the Sunday morning I was expecting. My usual coffee, toast and Match of the Day was interrupted by an email promoting a simple but very jaunty Ska track. The press release piqued my interest, it talked about ‘The Queen of the Maroons’, this was not a phrase I had encountered before, and something that sounded so exotic certainly needed investigating.

Greed and Money

I am not naïve enough to think that the history we are taught in school gives you the whole account. Indeed the notion that ‘history is written by the winners’ is in part something I believe, and that we are fed the lines in childhood those in power want us to hear. In England we are taught about the great accomplishments of our country, but the downside of Imperialism and Colonialism were brushed under the carpet.  

So reading about the Maroons gave me a lesson into Jamaican and British history that I was not familiar with. Forgive me if I start to tread on a subject that is uncomfortable and as a white English middle class guy am I qualified to comment on a culture that is not mine? There is no way I can feel the depth of anger over the horrendous slave trade that those with African roots do. But as a fellow human being I feel empathy of course, I share the horror over the abhorrent way Africans were treated and I do feel some guilt over what my ancestors were capable of. Although money and greed is not just a historical failing of course, exploiting peoples' lives for personal gain permeates this modern time like a cancer. Just think human trafficking, poaching endangered animals, destroying the rainforests, fracking, the list goes on and on…...

The Maroons

I haven’t got room here for a complete history of the Maroons, but as a potted guide (thanks Wikipedia) of how the group started; in 1655 the British captured Jamaica from the Spanish colonists. Many slaves and former slaves used this as an opportunity to escape and settled in Jamaica’s mountainous interior. Over the next few decades there were several slave uprisings and it was a rebellion in 1690 involving 500 slaves from the Sutton Estate in Clarendon Parish that led to the formation of the most organised Maroon group. Although some were killed, recaptured or surrendered, more than 200, including women and children, remained free after the rebellion was considered over.

Jump forward to 1720 and over the years a strong community had developed around the culturally Africanised group of three villages known as Nanny Town.

Queen Nanny

This is where Queen Nanny, Queen of the Maroons, spiritual leader of the group comes in. She was born into the Ashanti tribe which is now part of Ghana. With very little written evidence, different stories explain how she arrived in Jamaica, some say she arrived as a slave, some say she arrived as a free women of some influence. But despite her origins it is fair to say Queen Nanny was an exceptional woman and together with her compatriots, Accompong, Cudjoe and Quao, they escaped their plantations and were instrumental in forming their own Maroon communities. Cudjoe went to Saint James Parish and organised a village, which was later named Trelawny Town; Accompong settled in Saint Elizabeth Parish, in a community that came to be known as Accompong Town; and Nanny and Quao founded communities in Portland Parish. Add in Scotts Hall in St Mary and there are now five Maroon villages in Jamaica.

Akinsanya & Mauma G
Akinsanya & Mauma G

Nanny became a folk hero and despite attempts from the British to take back the area, by 1720 Nanny and Quao had settled and controlled about 500 acres in the Blue Mountains. It was given the name Nanny Town and after the First Maroon Wars the land was granted to the refugee slaves by the government under the 1739 treaty ending the war. Over the next thirty years Nanny was credited with freeing more than 1000 slaves during raids on plantations, helping them to resettle in the Maroon community. Due to her historical standing Queen Nanny is the only woman honoured as one of Jamaica's National Heroes.

This piece of history is not something popular media seems to promote (or at least in the UK). My cynical side feels that their agenda does not highlight the black empowerment, self-governance and independence that the Maroons brought to parts of the island. Perhaps it is because over the years the British rulers could never break and disband these determined groups? It doesn’t seem to fit with the accepted course of history of Britian being an invincible military power. 

Kween Naanii

History lesson over and back to the point of this article, which is to promote this new single. The track itself is a very infectious piece of Ska and features Akinsanya on vocals with former Soul Syndicate man Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith on guitar. But centre stage goes to Gaamang Gloria Simms aka Mauma G, who was the first woman to be named ‘Gaaman Paramount Queen of the Maroons’. In modern parlance Gaamang means ‘king or queen’ and for those of you who want to understand more you can see her installation at this YouTube link. Her husband Gaamang Akinsaya is at her side and this joint leadership comes from an African balanced approach, where the male and female union is one. This helps with the governance and leadership although Mauma G is the custodian and office holder. 

Mauma G chants in African ‘Kromanti’ language, the lyrics are a homage to the original Queen Nanny and the struggles she faced and the victories she won. I have added the lyrics below, as I think this is particularly important for a track with deep social feeling.

Gaama Akinsanya Palmer

The track is released by Japanese label ‘Junior Wize Production’ and is available to buy on their bandcamp site and all the usual outlets, ReggaeRecord, Amazon, iTunes etc. A full album will follow next year. Researching this piece has opened up lots of new music for me, always a nice by-product of promo emails. Check out Akinsanya’s page as well, he has released some excellent dub poetry. He is a man with lots to say and it is worth listening.

Akinsanya
Akinsanya

I hope this piece has informed, maybe educated a little and has opened up some new music for you. Special thanks to the Blessed Gaamang Mauma G and Gaama Akinsanya for checking the historial side. There is a wealth of Maroon history out there to uncover and document, I hope someone will take this on.   

Feel free to leave a comment or two, all are appreciated. Give it a social media share if you can, blogs need to be read! Bless, Paper Lion

Kween Naanii (L. Palmer/G. Simms)

Honour InI first lady Kween Naanii (a yankipo saasi Dee) woman of the Ashanti
Salute for your bravery, honour Mama (da woman deh oh)

Naanii sell out
Queen Naani sell out
Quenn Nanni neva sell wi out
Ashanti Bushi Kunde no sell neva sell out

She neva sign no peace treaty fi di beast come least treat wi
Shi neva sign no papers nor clause to commit treason nor fraud
Shi neva sign away our birthright, no shi neva sign
Shi knows how the enemy, not her own kind.

Naanii sell out
Queen Naani sell out
Quenn Nanni neva sell wi out
Ashanti Bushi Kunde no sell neva sell out

Kween Nyabinghi and Queen Naani, the spirits are one yes one
Yaa Asantewa and Kween Ensinga the spirits are one same one
Strategic military planner our Queens there are a winner no easy push over
Tek refuge in nature to camouflage, Kween Naanii a warrior at large.

Naanii sell out
Queen Naani sell out
Quenn Nanni neva sell wi out
Ashanti Bushi Kunde no sell neva sell out

She warn Quao and Kudjoe telling dem not to sign, open ur eyes
She seh di treaty is a trickery to conquer rule and divide, yes conquer rule and divide
She sey breddas oh my brothers can to read between the lines, open your eyes
She seh its best to unite, 'mongst ourselves dont fight

Naanii sell out
Queen Naani sell out
Quenn Nanni neva sell wi out
Ashanti Bushi Kunde no sell neva sell out

Knankunkun saasi
Da woman deh ohh da woman deh
Tana bassa cum
Chah Kunde mama
Da woman deh ohh da woman deh
A Yankunku pikibu

Naanii sell out
Queen Naani sell out
Quenn Nanni neva sell wi out
Ashanti Bushi Kunde no sell neva sell out