Winti Music Introduction

Surinam DjembeFrom Creole drum. An Anthology of Creole Literature in Surinam.
By J. Voorhoeve, U.M. Lichtveld (1975)

Chapter 2
Folksongs (Religious Songs, Play Songs, Dance Tunes)

A sharp distinction between the different genres of songs cannot be drawn, due mainly to the fact that children’s songs, if old enough, can be used in the ancestor cult to please the yorka (‘ancestral spirits’) and that dance bands use all kinds of materials, including Christian and non-Christian religious songs that may even be featured on the local hit parade. This use of old religious songs for modern dancing usually entails drastic changes in the rhythmic and even the melodic patterns of the original songs.

The non-Christian religion centers on two basic concepts: winti literally ‘wind’ but indicating the gods, and kra, or ‘soul.’ The high god or creator is called Anana and is not regarded as a winti. He reigns over the whole creation, including the winti. Anana is always mentioned in prayers, especially in the final formula na nen fu Anana (‘in the name of Anana’). There exist no songs in his honor, nor will anyone become possessed by him. Human beings can reach him only through the intervention of the winti.

There are a great many winti, and they are grouped in several distinct pantheons. It is not entirely clear, however, how many separate pantheons there are and which gods belong to which. During a winti ceremony, the winti may take possession of a human being and completely change his personality. They are, however, invoked in a certain fixed order.

The kawna [kauna, kawina] was originally danced in a counterclockwise circle. The songs are accompanied by a special kind of drum, beaten with a stick and hand, and by a quatro (a small guitar). A voice sings the melody. Kawna songs are also performed by modern bands with brass instruments, in which case the dance is executed in pairs and called kaseko.




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