Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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in New Orleans in a letter to me dated January, 1885: "Yes, I have seen them dance, but they danced the Congo, and sang a purely African song to the accompaniment of a drygoods box beaten with a stick or bones and a drum made by stretching a skin over a flour barrel. As for the dance—in which the women do not take their feet off the ground—it is as lascivious as is possible. The men dance very differently, like savages leaping in the air."
To Mr. Hearn I owe several examples of Martinique folk-music, which were written down for him by a band­master in St. Pierre. (Page 126.) A fascinating combi­nation of African and Spanish elements is found in the melody, which the collector called "Manmam Colette"— unquestionably a dance-song. On the bandmaster's transcription he had written directions that the first part (allegretto) be sung eight times; then comes the dance (allegro) ten times. The same directions probably applied also to "Ou beau di moin tete ou bien pomadee." The second part of the tune, to which the bandmaster gave the title "Dessan mouillage acheter daubanes," has a curious resemblance to a Tyrolean "yodel." It is probably the melody to which a ballad to which Hearn makes refer­ence is sung:
Moin descenne Saint-Pie,
Achete dobannes;
Aulie ces dobannes
C'est yon bel bois menmoin monte.
The spelling of the soft and musical Creole patois is a matter of individual case, taste and fancy. The ballad tells the story of a youth of Fort de France who was sent to St. Pierre to buy a stock of earthenware water-jars (dobannes), but who fell in love with a colored girl and spent his father's money in buying her presents and a wedding outfit. Hearn cites the song to illustrate a pretty simile. The phrase "bel bois" is used to designate handsome people. "Toutt bel bois ka alle," said Manm-Robert, meaning that all the handsome people are passing away. "This is the very comparison made by Ulysses looking upon Nausicaa, though more naively expressed," comments our author.
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