Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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MINOR VARIATIONS; CHARACTERISTIC RHYTHMS
says: "In the hands of Hook and other purveyors of the psuedo-Scottish music which was in vogue at Vauxhall and elsewhere in the eighteenth century, it became a senseless vulgarism, and, with the exception of a few songs . . and the Strathspey reel, in which it is an essen­tial feature, its presence may generally be accepted as proof that the music in which it occurs is not genuine."
What Wood here remarks about the pseudo-Scotch music of the eighteenth century as it was cultivated in the music halls may be said of latter-day "ragtime," which, especially in the "turkey-trot" and "tango" dances, monopolizes the music almost to the exclusion of melody and harmony. There is no reason why drums and gongs should not give these dances all the musical impulse they need. Though it is at the expense of a digression, it is not out of place to point out that in this year of pretended refinement, which is the year of our Lord 1913, the dance which is threatening to force grace, decorum and decency out of the ballrooms of America and England is a survival of African savagery, which was already banished from the plantations in the days of slavery. It was in the dance that the bestiality of the African blacks found its frankest expression. The Cuban Habanera, which has an African rhythmical foundation (the melodic superstructure having been reared by the white natives of the southern countries of America), grew into the most graceful and most polite of the Creole dances. Concerning it and its depraved ancestor, the tango, Friedenthal says in his "Musik, Tanz und Dichtung bei den Kreolen Amerikas":
But the habanera is not only danced by the cultivated Creoles, but also by preference in the West Indies by the colored plebs. In such cases not a trace of grace is longer to be founaj on the contrary, the movements of the dances leave nothing to be desired 111 the line of unequivocal obscenity. It is this vulgar dance, popularly called tango (after an African word "tangana"), which sought vainly to gain admission to our salons under the title of "tango argentino, by way of Argentina. It was shown to the lower classes of Ar­gentina last year—the jubilee year of the republic. To the honor of the great country on the Silver River it may be said at once that there the habanera is never danced except in the most decent form. It is indubitable, however, that the Cuban tango was the original product and the danza-habanera its refined copy prepared for cultured circles, the Creoles having borrowed not only the rhythms but also the choregraphic movements of the dances from the Africans.                                               '
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III