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The other day I was conversing with a group of friends at the University during the exam period. Some of them looked quite like a train-wreck and started to reminisce on the days of kindergarten.

I came home and I started to reflect on what exactly the curriculum contained  those days. After careful and intense reflection, I realized that much of my mother’s money was used for lunch and the recital of Nursery Rhymes. When we think of nursery rhymes, we think of Hey Diddle Diddle and other Mother Goose Rhymes regarded by most as “Nonsense Verses”. I’m here to tell you that this is not so!

I remember in my kindergarten days, when  Soca and Calypso  were my favourite genres of music. I remembered my aunt saying something one Sunday when I came from church, changed my clothes, grabbed my little face rag, then proceeded to jump and wave to the latest Square One, Byron Lee and Destra hits. My mom responded to her on the outside. I now understand her concern as Soca is filled with double entendres, puns and subliminal messages. My belief is that ignorance is bliss. Puns and double entendres require knowledge to be understood, a child under six years old do not possess this operant or concrete thought process to do this, so their understanding of these lyrics comes from the reaction of adults. Subliminal messages are also not very effective, since the stimuli involves are above threshold. Some adults find it difficult to absorb information within the threshold, much less those above.

Folk songs and Nursery Rhymes have been used over the centuries to tackle history, politics and social issues. As persons over six…. here are some information that were hidden from you in plain sight.

1. Jack and Jill went up the hill- Now we all  know that wells are often located at foothills. Well, if this random one was located at the top of the hill, it involved releasing some clear non viscous liquid.. but I doubt the composition was H2O. This popular nursery rhyme is actually about the implications of early sexual initiation. The story is actually about a young man who died from falling on a rock after getting the news about his pregnant girlfriend and she later died in childbirth. A rather sad story to be recited by little kids!

2. Carry Mi Ackee Guh A Linstead Market – This popular Jamaican folk song is taught to students of all ages. We normally sing it with much gusto as we do the dance… sadly the song is about prostitution. In the earlier days, selling agricultural produce was a main way of earning income. For those who didn’t have a trade or things to sell. Relying on other “natural possessions” was a way to gain income to feed children and support the household. Think about it… who sells Ackees on a Saturday night? No one feels ackees and they usually have one texture and a Quatty for some ackees is truly a lot!

3. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow? This was a personal favourite,  as I thought bells and shells were cute little things to play with. As it turns out, this Rhyme tackles hypocrisy in religion, as Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary, used to kill and torture people who opposed her religion. Quite contrary huh? The silver bells and cockle shells were elements of torture used to restrain the genitals. Eww!

4. Papa Nuh Want No Rice and Peas No Coconut Oil! This other popular Jamaican folk song talks about love sickness and sex addiction. I the song, Papa refuses one of Jamaica’s favourite dish for some Dandy Shandy. Dandy Shandy was a  light wine popular back in the days. I think they were punning on the ‘wine’. Turns out Papi just  wanted intimate companionship and the refusal of food is a symptom of lovesickness, which he was experiencing at the time.

5.There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe- The issues of poverty stricken women who choose to have many children seems to be happening from the 1800s. This woman had so many children that she did not know what to do with them. It highlights the neglect and abuse that some of these children face because the primary caregiver (usually a single mother) is stressed. Sending them to bed after a whopping is still very popular when frustrated mothers strike.

Think about it, the next time you hear a folk song or nursery rhyme, the story may just be about something not so child friendly after all!

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