Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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14                      FOLK SONG OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO.
To grasp the meanings of Folk Songs is oftentimes difficult be�cause of the workings of the crude minds whence they sprung, as well as because of the passage of the songs from locality to locality and from generation to generation. Different surroundings, different dialects, different occasions or times of inspiration, all tend to work changes in these songs. Consequently there is often more than one explanation for the same song. This little lullaby may correctly be explained in the following ways :
(1)    The tired mother, at even tide, is trying to inveigle her baby into sleep; the baby, however, accustomed to sleep in the sling upon the mother's back while she works in the fields, shows some unwill�ingness to go to slumberland, and finally to overcome that objection the mother promises that the Great Spirit will bear baby upon his back.
(2)   It may be that at this particular time the mother had some reason for leaving baby at home and so promises baby a cradle in her absence upon the back of the Great Spirit. ,
(3)   It is possible that this lullaby did not have its birth in the heart of a mother, but in the anxious spontaneity of an elder brother or sister or even a father (while the mother was absent), for caring for baby in mother's absence gives rise to many a song, many a means of amusement, many a soothing dose.
When baby is troublesome in his journey to bye-low-land, the mother has recourse to another "sleep song," and just as our mothers frightened us with "rag-man," "peg-leg," "boogoo-man," and "raw-head and bloody-bones/' the African mother calls upon the witch-
"Kan, Kan, O some bay, O,                    "Witch, O great Witch,
An noo you Kan."                                  You will take all had children."
This witch song is sung in high, throaty tones in an effort to frighten the child as much as possible, and it is easy to believe that the wild shriek of the voice would arouse in baby's mind a wish for any other land rather than the land of wakefulness.
Though it is generally agreed that through music the soul is fully and most truthfully expressed, still there are evidences pointing to the fact that there are closer relations between the soul and musical expressions than have been satisfactorily explained. These relations can be felt, but any accurate description seems beyond the grasp of man's mind.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III