Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Coupon Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
a national song in chorus while pounding wheat, always in time with the music. "Mr. Reade observed," says Walla-schek, citing W. Winwood Reade's "The African Sketch Book,"1 "that his people always began to sing when he compelled them to overcome their natural laziness and to continue rowing." Here the song, of course, had for its purpose the promotion of synchronism in movement, like the rhythm of the march all the world over.
It is immaterial whether the use of song as a stimulant to work was brought from Africa' or was acquired in America; the significant fact is that wherever negro slavery existed on this continent there it was found. In his peculiarly fascinating book "Two Years in the French West Indies," Lafcadio Hearn says: "Formerly the work of cane-cutting resembled the march of an army—first advanced the cutlassers in line, naked to the waist; then the amareuses, the women who tied and carried, and be­hind these the ka, the drum, with a paid crieur or crieuse, to lead the song, and lastly the black commandeur for general." In his preface to Coleridge-Taylor's "Twenty-four Negro Melodies" Booker T. Washington says: "Wherever companies of negroes were working together, in the cotton fields and tobacco factories, on the levees and steamboats, on sugar plantations, and chiefly in the fervor of religious gatherings, these melodies sprang into life. Oftentimes in slavery, as to-day in certain parts of the South, some man or woman with an exceptional voice was paid to lead the singing, the idea being to increase the amount of labor by such singing." And thus speaks the writer of the article entitled "American Music" in "The American History and Encyclopaedia of Music," published by Irving Squire: "Work on the plantations was often done to the accompaniment of songs, whose rhythmic swing acted as an incentive to steadier and better labor; especially was this true with the mowers at harvest. Charles Peabody tells of a leader in a band of slaves who was besought by his companions not to sing a certain song because it made them work too hard. Again, on the
' Vol. II, page 313.
[ 47 ]
Previous Contents Next