Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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Practically all of the dances described by African travel­lers were orgies in which the dramatic motif, when not martial, was lascivious. Dr. Holub, in his "Seven Years in South Africa,"1 says that the Mabunda dance is of so objectionable a character that the negroes refuse to dance it, except in masks. In "From Benguela to the Territory of Yucca," by H. Capello and R. Ivens, of the Royal Portuguese Navy,2 the authors say of the native dances: "As a rule, these are of the grossest kind, which the women, more particularly, try to make as obscene as possible; without grace, without cachet, but simply in­decent and fitted only to inflame the passions of the lowest of our sex. After three or four pirouttes before the spectators, the male dancer butts his stomach violently against the nearest female, who, in turn, repeats the action, and thus brings the degrading spectacle to an end." Dr. Georg Schweinfurth, in his "Heart of Africa,"3 describ­ing an orgy of the Bongo, says: "The license of their revelry is of so gross a character that the representations of one of my interpreters must needs be suppressed. It made a common market-woman droop her eyes, and called up a blush even to the poor sapper's cheeks." In "Across Africa," by Verney Lovett Cameron, C. B., D. C. L., com­mander in the Royal Navy,4 the author writes: "Dancing in Manyuema"—a cannibal country—"is a prerogative of the chiefs. When they feel inclined for a terpsichorean per­formance they single out a good-looking woman from the crowd, and the two go through much wriggling and curious gesticulation opposite each other. The village drums are brought out and vigorously beaten, the drummers mean­while shouting 'Gamello! Gamello!' If the woman is unmarried the fact of a chief asking her to dance is equi­valent to an offer of marriage, and many complications often occur in consequence."
There was none of this bestiality on exhibition in the dances of the Dahomans, which I saw at the World's
1 London, 1881. ' London, 1882.
  Vol. I, page 355.
New York: Harper's, 1887.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III