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
witnessed in the Dahoman village at the Columbian Exhi­bition, in 1893, are generally martial and consist of advances and retreats in linear formation with descriptive gestures.
The innate rhythmical capacity of the Africans has been sufficiently dwelt upon. In the American songs it finds its expression in the skill with which the negroes constrain their poetry to accept the rhythms of the music. Two authors, the Rev. J. Richardson and the Rev. James Sibree, jr. (the former of whom wrote on the hymnology of the Malagasy, the latter on their children's games and songs), agree (assuming that Wallaschek has quoted them correctly) in the statement that the poetry of the natives of Madagascar is not rhythmical, though their music is. Mr. Allen writes, in his preface to the "Slave Songs": "The negroes keep exquisite time in singing, and do not suffer themselves to be daunted by any obstacle in the words. The most obstinate scripture phrases or snatches from hymns they will force to do duty with any tune they please, and will dash heroically through a trochaic tune at the head of a column of iambs with wonderful skill." A glance into any collection of Afro-American songs will provide examples of Mr. Allen's meaning; but if the reader wishes to see how an irregular line can be made to evolve a characteristically rhythmic musical phrase he need but look in "O'er the Crossing" (pages 98-99), at the line "Keep praying! I do believe." Despite its rudeness, this song, because of its vivid imagery, comes pretty near to being poetry of the genuine type. To learn what word it was that in the process of oral transmission became corrupted into "waggin' " I have hunted and pondered in vain. Per­haps "We're a long time waggin' at the crossin' " was originally "We're a long time lagging at the crossing." Perhaps the word was once "waggoning." In the song "My body rock 'long fever,"1 is a line, "Better true be long time get over crosses," which may have reflected a similar idea, though it is all vague now. In "I've been toilin' at de hill so long" of the Hampton collection there seems to be another parallel; but the feong is very inferior.
' "Slave Songs," No. 45.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III