Music Of The Waters - online book

Sailors' Chanties, Songs Of The Sea, Boatmen's, Fishermen's,
Rowing Songs, & Water Legends with lyrics & sheet music

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Music of the Waters.             329
" Most negro tribes appear to possess a remarkably keen susceptibility for rhythmical regularity. This is evident from their dances with the usual accompaniment of drums and other instruments of percussion, executed with the greatest possible precision. Their songs, however, often consist of merely short melodies, which, like the recitative, do not possess a strictly defined symmetrical construction. The cause of this may be attributed to the circumstance that the negroes on many occasions are in the habit of im­provising the words of their songs, and that the melodies must therefore continually undergo slight modifications demanded by the improvised poetry, which, as regards the number of the syllables, as well as the metre in general, is not always constructed precisely after the same rule, but alters according to the momentary inventions of the im­provisator."2 This " Serere " air which follows is a boat-song, and is sung by the crew while rowing. It has been noticed that the rowing is performed in strict time with the song. The letters R above the stave show the moment when the oars are raised, and the letters L denote their being lowered into the water. This air, therefore, is most strictly regular as to rhythm. Whatever may be the interior changes from triple to common measure, the time which the respective changes consume must be equal, for what can be more isochronous than the movement of the oars of a well-trained boat's-crew ! Another very rhyth­mical air is the following Mandingo one :—
1 Engel's " Study of National Music."

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III