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The exact date of Kumina's emergence in Jamaica is unclear. However, it is believed to have been in existence during the eighteen century and further developed during the mid-to-late nineteenth century with the arrival of indentured Africans to augment Jamaica's failing plantation economy. Several historians have cited Kongolese as the primary source of the language, music and religious practices found in Kumina. Historical records confirm the dominance of Central African settlers in the parish of Saint Thomas during this period. Many Kumina practitioners acknowledge their direct Kongo descent. They cite their origin as belonging to the "Bongo Nation", and use such terms as "Country", "African" or "Kongo language" when referring to the language used in their rituals.

The language used in Kumina rituals for singing and communication with ancestors, as well as with each other, is heavily influenced by Kikongo in grammar and vocabulary. For example, the Kikongo word "kumu" means meter, melody , rhythm ,or to play a musical instrument, and is used similarly by Kumina practitioners. Another example is the word "kumuni", a compound of "kumu", which refers to a traditional dance-music found amongst the Bakongo peoples from the old . Note the similarity to the Jamaican word "kumina"
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The integral part played by ancestors in the religious beliefs and practices of Kumina practitioners, offers another example of Kumina's Kongo-based origin. Although the argument can be presented that drumming, singing and dancing is atypical of all African regions, the fact that Kumina drummers sit astride their drums when playing, and the similarity between Kumina drum music and that of their Central Africa counterparts, lends further support to the belief that Kumina's roots are primarily Kikongo (Bakongo) in origin. Click on the picture below to hear a sample of Kongolese drumming. The role of drumming, singing and dancing in the lives of Kumina practitioners is reflected in statement made by Fu-Kiau, a Bakongo scholar cited in C. Daniel Dawson's "Treasure in the Terror: The African Cultural Legacy in the Americas."
 
     
"Drumming, singing and dancing are a source of inspiration, energy and joy. Kongo people drum, sing and dance to raise their families with the balance provided by the sound of music. They drum, sing and dance to moan their dead; they drum, sing and dance to strengthen their institutions. Drumming, singing and dancing form a powerful "spiritual medicine" (n'kisi) that helps one to excel at work, at war , even under oppression."
 
   
 
   
         
   

Drumming and singing are the key elements in Kumina's music. Two types of drums, the Kbandu and the Playin Kyas, provide a rich and highly charged musical background for dancers, singers, the"spirits", and onlookers. The Kbandu, the larger and lower pitched drum, plays a steady 4/4 rhythm with accent on the first and third beats. This lower pitched sound is achieved through the use of ram (male) goat skin to head the drum. The Playin Kyas, a smaller and higher pitched drum, is the lead drum on which complicated and highly syncopated rhythms are played. The head of this drum is made form ewe (female) goat skin as this produces higher pitched notes. The Playin Kyas drummer is required to knowledgeable and skilled in playing the various rhythms used to invoke, repel and control "spirits". At least one of each type of drum is required for a Kumina play. However, if more drums are used, the Kbandu types are played simultaneously while only one Playin Kyas can be active at any given time.

Drummers sit astride the drums facing each other in an east-west direction. They play barefooted in order to maintain contact with the ground (through which the spirits move), and to vary the drum's tone by alternately pressing the heel of one foot against the drum's head while playing with their hands. Other instruments used during a Kumina play are scrapers (usually a simple kitchen grater which produces a 'scratching' sound when another metal object is pulled across its surface), shakas (gourd or tin-can rattles), and katta sticks (two pieces of sticks used to play a steady rhythm of the back of the drum, or on the center pole of the Kumina booth). an empty rum bottle, on which a steady rhythm is played using a spoon, will sometimes emerge as an impromptu improvised instrument.

The singing in Kumina follows the African call and response pattern - one line or verse is "raised" (sung) then repeated by others in response. In a Bailo play the songs are mainly sung in Jamaican dialect, while in the more serious form of the play, Country, the songs contain more Kongo derived words. The "Queen" or "Mother" is the lead singer, and like the lead drummer, must be knowledgeable and skilled in the appropriate sons to use for invoking, repelling or controlling the "spirits". It is the "Mother/Queen" who initiates the start by raising the line of a song, thereby providing the cue for the musicians and dancers.

This cue also signals the drummers on the rhythmic tempo required. Two distinct rhythmic tempos are found in Kumina's music - fast and slow. The slower tempo is used to warm-up the dancers in the Bailo segment of the play, or to control the "spirit" when possession occurs, or to enable the performance of the balancing dance by the lead dancer. The faster tempo accompanied by an intensity in the drumming style is associated with the more serious form, Country, and is referred to by some Kumina practitioners as mumbaka or the "real" Kumina. This is the tempo used to invoke the presence of the "spirits". ...