Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

The folk & traditional music of Europe, Africa & the Americas explored.

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
tions of Northern Spain and Southwestern France, and their culture is a repository of archaic forms of that region, both French and Spanish. For example, young Basque men have a custom, also found in other parts of Europe, of going from house to house on the last Saturday of January, wishing the inhabitants good health and a good life, and singing songs to them. Elsewhere, this may be done before Christmas and even at Easter, and the singers may be young boys and girls. Another custom shared by the Basques with some other areas of Europe is the singing of "rough music" around the house of people who have engaged in some presumably immoral act.4 An adulterous couple, an old man who marries a young girl, or a wife who beats her husband may be visited by a group who use pots, pans, and cowbells as rhythmic accompaniment to improvised, in­sulting songs. In Germany and other countries, similar "music" is performed on a wedding night or on the night before a wedding.
We know very little about the ways in which European folk songs were composed, and about the techniques of composition in folk cultures. This applies to words as well as music, although we realize that some of the material is composed by sophisticated song writers and then passed into oral tradition. Among the Basques, im­provisation is particularly important; it is even thought that most of the Basque folk songs originated on the spur of the moment. Evi­dently the Basque language (which is said to be so difficult that not even the devil can learn it) lends itself easily to improvisatory rim­ing. Many of these improvised poems have a humorous or satirical character and deal with recent events of village interest, politics, and the church. Many are anticlerical in sentiment. Evidently the im­provised text was sung to a traditional tune, and most Basque men participated in the practice of improvising words. A few of them gained preeminence, and some of their songs still carry their names after years and decades. This is one of the few examples in a folk culture of a composer's being recognized and associated with his own works years after he composed them-. The most famous Basque improviser, or kolaris, was known as Etchahoun and was born in the valley of Soule in 1786.
Like a large proportion of the Spanish and French songs, Basque
4 Rodney Gallop, "Basque Songs from Soule," Musical Quarterly XXII

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