Here’s what we all know – there will be no Junkanoo on Bay Street for Boxing Day or New Year’s Day, but Roots Mad Brass section refused to roll over and play dead, and came together to showcase their talent in the absence of Junkanoo due to COVID-19 with the release of the song “A Junkanoo Christmas”, ensuring that Junkanoo fans get a “taste” of Junkanoo this year.
“A Junkanoo Christmas” tells a story about Junkanoo and the preparations ahead of the “big dance” on Bay.
The song is written by Andrew “Drews” Knowles, but he gives credit to inspiration he received from Roots’ 65-strong Mad Brass section.
Knowles, a member of Roots Mad Brass sings lead male vocals; the song also features Alia Coley, a female member of Roots.
“We wanted to incorporate a different feel and said let’s bring a female melodious voice in and Alia and I went into the studio together and we came together, practiced and gelled,” he said.
“Roots wanted to showcase that we are more than dancers and musicians,” said Knowles. “Roots is filled with many members who have many different talents. It was an avenue to showcase one of the many talents that are hidden amongst our Junkanoo group [members],” said Knowles.
“The guys said let’s come up with something. The music came off as the Christmas jingle that you’re accustomed to hearing every year, ‘Ma Ma bake the Johnny cake Christmas comin’, so we were like, to get fans incorporated, let’s try it out with the Christmas jingles, that song with Christmas flare and we could change the lyrics. We wanted to give people some hope during this downtime of no Junkanoo.”
The lyrics speak about the Junkanoo celebration during the Christmas season and of the family getting together at grandma’s house and everyone cooking; and that during the time of celebration how Junkanooers would be in the shack preparing for Bay Street and not have time to sit with family; and of loved ones bringing them a plate of food while they’re hard at work in the shack day and night, working to get to Bay Street.
“Ma Ma, make that Johnny cake Christmas comin’
Ma Ma, make that Johnny cake Junkanoo comin’
Ma Ma make that Johnny cake Roots dem comin’, Saxons comin’, Valley comin’, Family comin’, Genesis comin’ … Junkanoo is comin’ to town,” are some of the lyrics in the approximately four-minute long song.”
Coley said the song takes on a whole new meaning and is a breath of fresh air with its Christmas concept, considering there won’t be any Junkanoo parades to enjoy.
She believes it’s going to be a song that will be around for years to come.
“It speaks to all the groups and rushing down Bay and it’s not just Roots,” said Coley. “It brought everybody together. I can’t wait for them to play this on Bay Street.”
The song was conceptualized in June as the members of Roots Mad Brass were trying to determine whether they would be able engage in Junkanoo.
“It looked dim,” said Knowles. “The chance of Junkanoo being held looked null and void, so we came up with the idea to showcase ourselves. If no Junkanoo, we wanted to produce a song from a Junkanoo brass perspective that would showcase the aspect of the whole nine yards of how Junkanoo takes place in the shack, and that flavor of Junkanoo.”
Knowles and Coley came together in studio in September to lay the song down, which they wanted to release during the Thanksgiving week but it was delayed and released just last week.
Knowles was proud of what they were able to produce.
“For starters, I’m very proud of this song. It’s like history made in the Junkanoo era. You normally wouldn’t see Junkanooers bringing out a song; and the first time where the brass came up and put a song together – we’re showing that we’re not just horn blowers, we have other talents. So I’m proud of the moment because we seized the down time and put ourselves to work to put out something for our fans – a song speaking to Junkanoo and the atmosphere.”
Writing and producing the song he said helped to ease his disappointment that there is no Junkanoo this year.
“It put our mind at a place of preparing for the parade. Listening to that sweet Junkanoo music in the studio brought back memories of rushing on Bay Street, knowing that other fellow Junkanooers would be able to relate to the experiences that we spoke about in the song,” he said.
“Within the song we have the Christmas flare, the Christmas bells incorporated with old traditional Christmas songs. If you’re a foreigner you know the sound to ‘Silent Night’, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, and then we put in the bells and charms, so we call it a Christmas Junkanoo song.”
Knowles is no stranger to writing and releasing music. He has previously released the singles “Gal Tickle Me” and “Hitting the Road”. He also sang “Happy Independence Day” and “The Dilly Song” written and produced by The Dilly Boys.
“A Junkanoo Christmas” by Roots Mad Brass was produced by Island Boyz Studio and mastered by Colyn McDonald.