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JAMAICA. English, Country Dance Tune (2/2 or 4/4 time). F Major (Barnes, Raven, Sharp): E Flat Major (Chappell). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Sharp): AABB (Barnes, Chappell, Johnson, Karpeles, Raven). Chappell (1859) notes the tune appeared shortly after the island of Jamaica was appropriated from the Spanish in 1655.
The Playford tune takes its name from a ballad entitled: "Joy after Sorrow, Being the Sea-mans return from Jamaica; Or, the lovely Lasses late Lamentation for the long absence of her dearest beloved Friend."
A Voyage to Jamaica he pretends:
But at his coming home he makes her amends.
To an excellent new Tune, called, my love is gone to Bohemy, or, Wet and weary.
The ballad was written in 1655 and entered in the Stationers Register in March, 1656, according to Bruce Olson. The chorus contains the title:
There was a maid as I heard tell
Which fell in desperation,
She lov'd a young man passing well,
Which brought her in vexation:
They Young-man had the Maid beguil'd,
The matter so was carried,
For he had gotten her with Child
Before that they were married
Which caus'd this Maid to make great moan,
And often times to speak so,
My heart is up and my belly is down,
And my Love is gone to Jamaica.
The melody (as "Jameko") first appears in John Playford's 1670 4th edition of his Dancing Master  (and all subsequent editions, through 1728). The 19th century antiquarian William Chappell thought the title was probably from an original song that had been lost, although he did find the melody to be the vehicle to the following songs set to the tune: "The Prodigal's Resolution; or, My Father was born before me," "Two Toms and Nat in council sat," "Slow men of London; or, The Widow Brown," "The Angler's Song," "Of the Downfall of one part of the Mitre Tavern in Cambridge, or the sinking thereof into the cellar," and "The Jolly Tradesman." The Jamaica Tavern was a popular resort south of London in Rotherhithe centuries ago, although there is no known association between the tune and the tavern. There was also a famous London coffeehouse named Jamaica in St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, originally called Pasqua Rosee's Head (Pasqua Rosee means ‘Easter Rose’ at the ‘Sign of my own head’. It burned down in 1666 in the Great Fire and rebuilt, opening in 1676 as Jamaica, where it was frequented by merchants in the West Indian trade.
The melody also appears in Walsh's Compleat Country Dancing Master, editions of 1718, 1731 and 1754.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 2, 1859; p. 3. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 14: Songs, Airs and Dances of the 18th Century), p. 9; 1997. Karpeles & Schofield (A Selection of 100 English Folk Dance Airs), 1951; p. 14. McGlashan (Collection of Scots Measures...), 1778; p. 7. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 22. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1994; p. 26.
Recorded sources: Varrick C-VR-013, Bare Necessities - "English Country Dances" (1987).
See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources 
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