Home African Caribbean Guyana Folk Tradition Revived With KWE KWE In London

Guyana Folk Tradition Revived With KWE KWE In London

by D Fitz-Roberts

Guyana a country in the northern tip of south America is known to comprise six nations of people, East Indian, African, Portuguese, European, Chinese and Indigenous. For hundreds of years these people have lived together in harmony and are known to celebrate each other’s cultural traditions as their own.

One tradition practiced by the African-Guyanese is the ‘KWE KWE’ or ‘KWEH KWEH’ which is the pre-marital celebration of a young couple on the eve of their wedding.

Dr Michelle Yaa Asantewa, KWE KWE group leader. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

Generally it is an evening of much fun with singing, dancing, eating all sorts of Guyanese delicacies and drinking lots of homemade favourites and an assortment of some of Guyana’s best rums such as the world famous XM Gold and El Dorado.

It is an opportunity for the families of the bride and groom to be to get to know each other and quite possibly to iron out any minor misunderstandings or differences before sealing the union.

Dedicated drummers Ras Prince, Chauncey and Desmond. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

The KWE KWE is also the time when both sides of the union take the opportunity to provide psychological support and useful instructions to the couple to help them navigate the foreseeable challenges of marriage and be prepared for the unforeseeable challenges that will no doubt confront them.

In London a dedicated group of African-Guyanese traditionalists have come together to revive the KWE KWE tradition in recognition that the practice is fading with a real possibility that future generations may lose an important part of their culture.

Dr Michelle Yaa Asantewa, leading the session. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

Spearheaded by social anthropologist Dr Michelle Yaa Asantewa, a group of experienced cultural practitioners came together on Friday 6th May to actively revive the KEW KWE at the Johmard Community Centre in South London.

Group in motion. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

The group was supported by a team of drummers who skilfully provided the appropriate rhythms  to get the participants in the mood for an evening of cultural reflection.

KWE KWE Group in motion. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

Though there was no alcohol the participants which included two small children (one out cold asleep throughout) appeared to have enjoyed reminiscing to folk classics like Small Days, Bamboo Fiah, Sitira Gal, Samangereh, Auntie Bess, Brown Boy, Sancho, Me Nah Dead Yet, Lily Gal and Carrie and more. One could see that knowing the lyrics was important to properly appreciate the context within which the song was sung.

KWE KWE Group in motion with junior member. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

Michelle placed a lot of emphasis on the participants understanding the meaning of the lyrics (literal or hidden) to allow the participants to, in some way, assume the role of the original actors yore in the songs.

KWE KWE Group in motion with woman in the centre. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

The energy was high throughout and the appreciation for the learning was demonstrated by the keen attentiveness and cooperation of members to the very end. Given the high on which the evening’s session ended and the passion exhibited by group leader Michelle, there is no doubt these gatherings will continue and the dream to revive the KWE KWE tradition in London will come true in the not too distant future. Watch This Space!

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Guyana KWE KWE Session London

by London KWE KWE Group

Guyana KWE KWE Session London

by London Kwe KWE Group

Guyana KWE KWE Session London

by London KWE KWE Group

Guyana KWE KWE Session London

by London KWE KWE Group

Guyana KWE KWE Session London

by London KWE KWE Group

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts is a multi-talented writer on socio-economic issues having worked in journalism across the Caribbean (Grenada, Guyana and BVI) in the 90s. He has worked in London with Black Britain Online, New Nation Newspaper and Caribbean Times. An academic with a passion for research on distributed ledger technologies in emerging economies he is keen to see the Caribbean embrace bitcoin and blockchain technologies to keep pace with the west. He writes periodically for mainstream publications and is the founder of CaribDirect.com. He is also the author of Caribbean children’s book LifeSucks! available on Amazon.


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Julian Evans March 29, 2024 - 6:32 pm

I am enquiring if your group organise and does Queh Queh hire, and what will be the cost for the performance. My family is getting marry in May 2024 and we would like to do a queh queh for him before the wedding. Please let me know.

Nicole Wilson May 11, 2022 - 3:37 pm

Congratulations!! Dr Yaa Asantewa on spearheading this effort to preserve such an important piece of our African heritage.

Neil Douglas May 8, 2022 - 1:17 pm

Thank you Dr. Yaa Asantewa for refreshing our minds and the younger generations of our rich African heritage that many today overlooked for Hollywood fairytale.

Let us work together to preserve what’s our identity, what’s our tradition.

Michelle Corretta Yaa Asantewa May 8, 2022 - 12:40 pm

Thank you for featuring us in this post. We are a growing collective invested in Guyanese culture and its preservation. We welcome others who are interested and want to have some cultural fun while immersing themselves in the tradition. The drummers are lead by Ras Prince (and include Chauncey and Desmond). The location we used on this occasion is Johmard Community Centre; its owners John and Margaret David are part of the group. Other group members in attendance were Coreen, Ingrid and Claire. Again, your article expresses our intentions for the group and Guyanese culture generally.


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