Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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It can scarcely be set down to the credit of American and English women that in adopting the tango they are imitating the example, not of the ladies of Argentina, but of the women of the Black Republic. Friedenthal says:
The Haytian salon dance, Meringue, is identical with the danza of the Spanish islands; but there is this difference, that even in the higher circles of Port-au-Prince, in which decorum and tact prevail and where the young, light colored women are of fascinating amiability, the gestures of the dance are never so unobjectionable as is the case with the Spanish Creoles; from which it is to be seen that the dance, consciously or unconsciously, has a different purpose among these peoples. All the more undisguised is the crude sensuality among the lower classes of the Haytian population. Here every motion is obscene; and I am not at all considering the popular merrymakings or dance festivals secretly held partly in the open, partly in the forests, which are more like orgies, in which the African savagery, which has outlived centuries, has unbridled expression.
The rhythmical device under discussion is also found in the popular music of Hungary, where it is called alia zoppa (limping). Here it is unquestionably the product of poetry. Dr. Aurel Wachtel, discussing the music of the Magyars1—says that the rhythmical construction of their ballads is most closely allied to the peculiarity of the Magyar language, which distinguishes the short and long syl­lables much more sharply than any other language spoken by the peoples of Germanic-Slavic-Romanic origin. The character of the Magyar tongue does not tolerate that prosodically long syllables in song shall be used as short, or vice versa.
Now, whether tEe rhythms of dance-music be derived from the songs which gave time to the feet of the original dancers, or the rhythms of poetry were borrowed from the steps of the dance, it would seem as if the determining factor was the word. The most primitive music was vocal. Poetical song had its origin in improvization, and impro­visation would be clogged unless musical and verbal rhythm could flow together. The rhythmical snap of the American negroes is in all likelihood an aboriginal relic, an idiom which had taken so powerful a hold on them that they carried it over into their new environment, just as they did the melodic peculiarities which I have investigated. It was so powerful an impulse, indeed, that it broke down 1 "Musikaiisches Wochenblatt," July 5, 1878.
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