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AFRO-AMERICAN FOLKSONGS
word in Jeannest's vocabulary. Then macaya I found in Turiault's "fitude sur la Language Creole de la Martinique": "ca veut dire manger tout le temps"—"excessivement." Therefore, here is our translation: Go on! go on! eat enormously I
I ain't one bit ashamed—eat outrageously! Go on! go on! eat prodigiously!
I drink good wine!—eat ferociously! Go on! go on! eat unceasingly!— I eat good chicken—gorging myself! Go on! go on! etc. How is this for a linguistic discovery? The music is almost precisely like the American river music—a chant, almost a recitative, until the end of the line is reached: then for your mocking music!
There is a hint of an African relic in the allusion to the recitative-like character of the feasting song, as we shall see when we come to inquire into the structure of African music.
For a description of the voodoo rites I draw, by per­mission, upon Mr. George W. Cable's article on "Creole Slave Songs," which appeared in "The Century Magazine" for April, 1886:
The dance and song entered into the negro worship. That worship was as dark and horrid as bestialized savagery could make the adoration of serpents. So revolting was it, and so morally hideous, that even in the West Indian French possessions a hundred years ago, with the slave trade in full blast, and the West Indian planter and slave what they were, the orgies of the voudoos were forbidden.
The Aradas, St. Mery tells us, introduced them from their homes beyond the Slave Coast, one of the most dreadfully benighted regions of all Africa. He makes the word vaudau. In Louisiana it is written voudou and voodoo and is often changed on the negro's lips to hoodoo. It is the name of an imaginary being of vast supernatural powers, residing in the form of a harmless snake. This spiritual influence, or potency, is the recognized antagonist and opposite of Obi, the great African manitou, or deity, whom the Congos vaguely generalize as Zombi. In Louisiana, as I have been told by that learned Creole scholar, the late Alexander Dimitry, Voodoo bore, as a title of greater solemnity, the additional name Maignan, and that even in the Calinda dance, which he had witnessed innumerable times, was sometimes heard at the height of its frenzy the invocation—
"Aie! Aiel Voudoo Maignan!"
The worship of Voodoo is paid to a snake kept in a box. The worshippers are not merely a sect, but in some rude, savage way, also an order. A man and woman, chosen from their own number to be the oracles of the serpent-deity, are called the king and queen. The queen is the more important of the two, and even in the present dilapidated state of the worship in Louisiana, where the king's office has almost or quite disappeared, the queen is still a person of great note. It (voodoo worship) long ago diminished in frequency to once a year, the chosen night always being the eve of St. John. For several years
past the annual celebrations have been suspended; but in the summer of 1884 they were—letit be hoped only for the once—resumed. . . .
Now a new applicant for membership steps into the circle. There are a few trivial formalities and the voodoo dance begins. The postulant dances frantically in the middle of the ring, only pausing, from time to time, to
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III