|Share page||Visit Us On FB|
DANCES OF THE AMERICAN NEGROES
but it and other dances of its character have remained in existence in the West Indies. Hearn says,1 "Two old African dances, the Caleinda and the Bele (which, later is accompanied by chanted improvization) are danced on Sundays to the sound of the drum on almost every plantation in the island" (Martinique). As Hearn saw the Calinda it was danced by men only, all stripped to the waist and twirling heavy sticks in a mock fight. "Sometimes," he adds, "especially at the great village gatherings, when the blood becomes overheated by tafia, the mock fight may become a real one, and then even cutlasses are brought into play." The surmise lies near that the Calinda may originally have been a war dance. Its name and measures survive in some Creole songs, one of which will occupy my attention when the use of song for satirical purposes is reached.
The Counjai ("Caroline," p. 139) evidentlycameunderthe personal observation of the lady who collected some secular Creole songs in St. Charles Parish, La., which found their way into "Slave Songs of the United States." They were sung, she says, "to a simple sort of dance, a sort of minuet." But they are in duple time, while the minuet is in triple measure. The songs have a refrain, which is sung by the chorus, and solo verses which are improvized by a leader distinguished by his voice and poetical skill, who, in them, compliments a dusky beauty or lauds a plantation hero. The dancers do not sing, and the accompaniment seems to be purely instrumental—a mere beating on a drum made of a flour barrel and a rasping on the jawbone of an animal with a key. This singular instrument has a prototype in Africa in the shape of a notched board, which is rubbed with a stick. Livingstone describes what he calls a "cas-suto," a "hollow piece of wood about a yard long, covered with a board cut like a ladder. Running a stick along it gives a sound within which passes for a tenor." The description is Wallaschek's; the Chinese have a temple instrument embodying the same principle—a wooden tiger with a serrated spine. Hearn mentions primitive drums as used
' "Two Years," etc., p. 143.