Jamaican musicologist Olive Lewin passes away

(Jamaica Gleaner) Musicologist and social anthropologist Dr Olive Lewin, founder of the Jamaica Folk Singers, died last evening at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

She was 85.

Over a storied career, Lewin was involved in researching, arranging and directing Jamaican traditional music for schools, church and theatre performances by the Jamaican Folk Singers and other groups.

Olive Lewin
Olive Lewin

From 1966 to 1980, Lewin was responsible for music in correctional institutions and music therapy at the Bellevue Hospital.

She has been involved at the level of management in several organisations, boards, and committees, at the national, regional and international level.

These include the Inter-American Committee on Culture of the Organisation of American States; the International Institute of Communications; Council of the Institute of Jamaica; Council for Inter-Cultural Research, Trinidad, and the International Council for Traditional Music (formerly International Folk Music Council).

Lewin sat on the boards of the then Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, the Social Development Commission, Munro and Dickenson Educational Trust, Vere Free School Trust, Jamaica School of Speech and Drama and the Council of the Institute of Jamaica.


Birthplace: Vere, Clarendon, to Richard and Sylvia Lewin, both educators.

Musical instruments: Piano, violin (tutor).

Involvement: Music therapy at Bellevue Hospital for the mentally disturbed and music in correctional institutions. An honorary Maroon.

Books published: Messengers – Timeless truths from humblest hearts, Rock It Come Over – The Folk Music of Jamaica, Come Mek Me Hol Yu Han – The Impact of Tourism on Traditional Music (collection of papers presented), Dandy Shandy, Beeny Bud, Alle, alle, alle, Forty Folk Songs of Jamaica, Some Jamaican Folk Songs.

Early work: In 1947, she played the role of May in the play, Dragnet, on the London stage. She was the wife of an African-American man from the south who gets blinded during a scuffle with a white policeman in a ‘whites only’ bar.

Schools attended: Hayes Elementary School, Hampton School, Royal Academy of Music (London), Queens University, Belfast, Ireland.

Letters behind her name: OJ – Order of Jamaica, CD – Commander of the Order of Distinction, LRSM – Licentiate of the Royal School of Music, LRAM – Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, LTCL – Licentiate of the Trinity College of Music, FTCL – Fellow Trinity College of Music, ARCM – Associate of the Royal College of Music.

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