Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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speech. A veneration which is very much akin to super­stition clings to both words and music in many organized religious systems to-day. Would it be irreverent to account on this ground for the attitude of the Pope and the Congre­gation of Rites toward the Gregorian Chant ? Why is the effort making to ignore the wise reforms of the sixteenth century and revert to the forms of the tenth? Since it is more than likely that the old dances and superstitious rites of African peoples have left an impress upon the music of their descendants in America, regard must be had for these things, even though we must forgo such an analytical study of the music as we should like to make. In 1878, while Lafcadio Hearn and I were collaborating in an effort to gather material for a study of Creole music, I sent him (he was then living in New Orleans) the words of a song which I had got—I do not remember where— for interpretation. In reply he wrote:
Your friend is right, no doubt, about the " Tig, tig, malaboin La chile ma che tango Redjoum!" I asked my black nurse what it meant. She only laughed and shook her head: "Mais c'est Voudoo, ca; je n'en sais rien!" "Well," said I, "don't you know anything about Voudoo songs ?" "Yes," she answered; "I know Voudoo songs; but I can't tell you what they mean." And she broke out into the wildest, weirdest ditty I ever heard. I tried to write down the words: but as I did not know what they meant I had to write by sound alone, spelling the words according to the French pronunciation.
He sent me the words and also the words of a creole love-song, whose words ran like this: "Beautiful American, I love thee! Beautiful American, I am going to Havana to cut sugar-cane to give thee money. I am going to Havana, friends, to cut sugar-cane, friends, to give thee money, beautiful woman, Cesaire! I love thee, beautiful American!" He got a German amateur musician to write down the music to both songs for him, but it was from his singing that the transcription was made, and when it was repeated to him he found it incorrect. Hearn was not musical. "As I heard it sung the voodoo melody was really weird, although simple," he wrote me afterward; "there were such curious linkings of long notes to short with microscopic ones. The other, 'Belle Americaine/
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