Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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A generation ago songs of the character described here were still to be heard from the roustabouts of the Missis­sippi and Ohio rivers, and two of them, together with a paddle song dating back to the time of the Acadians, showing unique characteristics, will be discussed later.
M. Tiersot's generalizations on negro music, to which, it may be said, he denies all African attributes because the blacks have forgotten the language and customs of their ancestors, were based chiefly on reports of plantation life in which old French and Spanish influences were less potent than English. He recognizes the existence of a species of ,dance-song in which French influences have been predominantly formative, however, and discusses them in an interesting and instructive manner. They are the patois songs of the black Creoles of Louisiana, concern­ing which I shall have something to say in due time. They are songs of sentiment and songs of satire—the latter characteristic, I believe, a relic of their African source. There is another, smaller, body of songs outside of the religious domain to which the spirituals give expression which would, I am convinced, have been of large value in proving the persistence of African idioms in exotic Ameri­can songs if it had been possible to obtain a sufficient number of them to make a comparative study possible. Un­fortunately this is not the case, and I very much question whether it will ever be done. The investigation has been postponed too long. The opportunity would have been incalculably greater half a century ago, when the subject was new. I made an effort to get some of these songs thirty-five years or so ago, when much more of this music was in existence than now, and, though I had the help of so enthusiastic a folklorist as the late Lafcadio Hearn, they eluded me. A few specimens came into my hands, but they proved to be of no musical value, chiefly because it was obvious that they had not been correctly transcribed.
The songs in question are those which were consorted with the mysterious voodoo rites practised by the blacks, who clung to a species of snake-worship which had been brought over from Africa. The preservation of relics, of
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