Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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songs in Africa) that grew out of the racial tensions present in the island and is musically a combination of African, North American Negro, and Spanish popular styles. Jamaican Negroes sing spirituals and sea shanties whose words are of English and North American origin, but which preserve the call-and-response pattern of the African tradition which may have been reinforced by the existence of similar forms in the English sea shanties.
The musical styles of the cult music of Bahia, Haiti, and some of the other Caribbean islands are essentially similar. Call-and-response patterns are dominant. The leader or solo singer may be a woman or a man, but the chorus is usually composed of women. The chorus sings in monophonic fashion, but occasionally individual singers de­viate from the main melodic line. Sometimes soloist and chorus over­lap. Beneath the vocal line is the all-important rhythm of the drums, each cult, dance, ceremony, or deity having its characteristic rhythms on the basis of which the drummers improvise. The meters are most commonly duple, but sometimes triple, and once a pattern is estab­lished it is usually adhered to without much deviation. The scales are most commonly pentatonic without half tones. Tempo varies considerably, but in many of the songs there is gradual acceleration. Nor are the ranges of the melodies uniform; for example, the Gege cult of Bahia has songs with wide range (most with more than an octave), while those of the Jesha cult in the same area average less than an octave. The melodic contours are generally descending, but frequent pendulum-like movements are also characteristic. Melodic intervals are frequently quite large. The form, within the framework of the solo-chorus alternation, is frequently based on the repetition, with some variations, of a single phrase. The soloist is likely to pres­ent a theme with variations as the basis of his tune. Leader and chorus sometimes use the same tune, sometimes related ones, and sometimes completely unrelated materials. Occasionally the chorus uses a section (usually a latter or the last) of the soloist's line. Ex­ample 9-1 illustrates the songs of the Afro-Bahian cults.
New World Negro instruments
A great many instruments that are at least partly of African origin are used by the Afro-American communities of Latin Amer­ica. For example, in Haiti certain drums are made of hollow logs. Normally they have single heads and are cylindrical in shape. Height varies from six feet to eighteen inches. Among the idiophones, the ogan, a kind of iron bell struck with an external clapper, is promi-

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