Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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it is equally effective in slow and fast time. Essentially, therefore, it has nothing to do with the secular dance, though it plays a large part in the "shout." Mr. Ware mentions twelve songs as among the most common rowing tunes, and says of them: "As I have written these tunes two measures are to be sung to each stroke, the first measure being accented by the beginning of the stroke, the second by the rattle of the oars in the rowlocks. On the passenger boat at the (Beaufort) ferry they rowed from sixteen to thirty strokes a minute; twenty-four was the average. Of the tunes I heard I should say that the most lively were 'Heaven bell a-ring,' 'Jine 'em,' 'Rain fall,' 'No man/ 'Bell da ring' and 'Can't stay behin''; and that 'Lay this body down,' 'Religion so sweet' and 'Michael, tow,' were used when the load was heavy or the tide was against us."
A few additonal comments seem to be justified by these songs. Of the twelve, only three contain references to a water passage of any sort. In "Praise member"1 two lines run:
Jordan's bank is a good old bank,
And I hain't but one more river to cross.
In "Michael, row the boat ashore" the archangel's boat is darkly described as a "gospel boat" and also as a "music "boat," but there is no connection betwen these epithets and the rest of the song. "Praise member" presented a riddle to the editors, which they might have solved had they reflected on the effect which its use as a rowing song may have had upon its text.
Mr. Ware gives the last verse as "O I wheel to de right and I wheel to de left"; Colonel Higginson contributes a variant reading, "There's a hill on my leff, an' he catch on my right" and adds the only and unsatisfactory explana­tion given to him: "Dat mean if you go on de leff you go to 'struction, and if you go on de right go to God for sure." Miss Charlotte L. Forten has another version, "I hop on my right an' I catch on my leff," and makes the shrewd observation that she supposes that "some peculiar motion
'No. 5 of "Slave Songs."
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