Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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that a parallel may exist between the "taunt songs" of primitive peoples, the Israelitish triumph songs, like that recorded in Numbers, xxi, 27-30, the Fescennine verses of the early Romans, and the satirical songs of the negroes of the West Indies. Nevertheless, there is scarcely a doubt in my mind but that the penchant for musical lampooning which is marked among the black Creoles of the Antilles is more a survival of a primitive practice brought by their ancestors from Africa than a custom borrowed from their masters. What was borrowed was the occasion which gave the practice license.
This' was the carnival, which fact explains the circum­stance that the creole songs of satire are much more numerous in the French West Indies than in Louisiana. The songs are not only more numerous, but their perform­ance is more public and more malicious in intent. The little song "Musieu Bainjo" (see page 142), melody and words of which came from a Louisiana plantation, though not wholly devoid of satrical sting, is chiefly a bit of pleasantry not calculated deeply to wound the sensibilities of its subject; very different are such songs as "Loema tombe" (see page 147) and "Marie-Clemence" (see page 148), which Mr. Hearn sent me from Martinique. The verse-form, swinging melodic lilt and incisive rhythm of "Michie Preval" (see page 152) made it the most effective vehicle for satire which Creole folksong has ever known,and Mr. Cable says that for generations the man of municipal politics was fortunate who escaped entirely a lampooning set to its air; but it is doubtful if even Mr. Preval, cordially hated as he was, had to endure such cruel and spectacular public castigation as the creators of the fillard still inflict on the victims of their hatred. These songs will come up for detailed consideration presently, but first it may be well to pursue the plan which I have followed in respect of the other elements of Afro-American folksong and point out the obvious African origin of this satirical element.
In many, perhaps in the majority of African tribes, there are professional minstrels whose social status now is curiously like that of the mountebanks, actors and secular
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