Fashioning Cultural Folkways into Artforms Part 1Fashioning Cultural Folkways into Artforms Part 1
The Europeans and the people who they subdued, enslaved, or partnered with and brought into the Americas, along with the indigenous and autochthonous Americans came from a heterogeneity of cultures. Each linked with other members of their ways of life, as well as shared their cultural traits with others. These traits became folkways. The folkways of the budding Black culture became prevalent in American culture. These folkways included:
1. Spirituals are songs based on a Bible story that is related to conditions ofenslavement.
2. Moaning Songs include Humming and the Melisma which is the singing of a single syllable while moving between several different notes
3. Ring Shout is a religious ritual involving singing, shuffling feet, praising, and clapping in a ring. This ritual has been practiced in churches and spiritual groups for centuries.
4. Call and Response is when a secondary phrase is heard as a direct response to an initial phrase. A common pattern in oratory, sermon, and leader- chorus coordination.
5. The Islamic influence in music is seen in several ways. About thirty percent of the enslaved persons were Muslims. Also, the crypto-Muslims called Moriscos were European immigrants to the Americas. Some Muslims were conquistadors, merchants, plantation owners or indenture servants. Their influence is seen in spiritual moaning and hollers that are similar in tone to the Islamic call to prayer. The melisma is the singing of a single syllable while moving between several different notes. This was common in Muslim prayers and recitation of the Qur’an Also, Moorish instruments of Spain were popular like the guitar, banjo, fiddle, and other string instruments.
6. Field Hollers are a solo cry or unintelligible moan while working in fields and the on
plantations. Cries were for food or water or about the condition of their lives. Also, the Melisma, the singing of a single syllable while moving between several different notes, was a part of
the field hollers.
7. Work Songs are songs accompanying rhythmic labor or other group work.
8. Chanting and Rhyming were a lyrical artform observed among Southeast CreekIndians. Also, the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans and Carnival Indians of the West Indies engage in chants and rhymes.
9. Juba-Hambone, Slapping, Clapping, and Stomping
Enslaved persons were not allowed drums as a means of communication or as an
instrument. So, they created music by other means. This included the Juba or theHambone in which they used the Moorish Habanero rhythm to pat their arms, chest, legs, and cheeks, slap their hands over their body, clap their hands and stomp their feet. The Juba was bought from Dutch Guyana (Surinam) to Haiti and then to the Southern U.S.
10. Chalk-line walk was skillfully walking with pails of water on walkers’ heads. The couple that dropped the least amount of water won a prize.
11. Moorish style has a Habanero Rhythm. Flamenco dance fast pace is rooted in Moorish style. The guitar is a Moorish instrument. The Morris dance was Moorish dancers performing sword dancing with bells on their skins. It was an energetic dance. The earliest written mention of the Morris dance was in England in1448. Later it became basis of the English Country Dance and European classical music style. The Morris dance is imitated in a negative manner in the Moresca. It is a dance that reenacts the wars between the Moors and Christians in Spain, elements of Moresca includes blackening of the face, bells attached to costumes and men disguised as women to play buffoonery. This style is one of the factors that influenced the minstrel shows.
12. Indigenous, native, and Autochthonous American styles of dance and chanting are found in Creole culture.
13. Congo Square
In the British Puritan colonies, music and dance were discouraged. But in Catholic French and Spanish colonies dancing was allowed. The Code Noir(Black Codes) gave enslaved persons Sunday off from work. In New Orleans, enslaved persons from various cultural backgrounds, tribes and nations would congregate and socialize in Congo Square. They would engage in social dancing as couples. They would dress in their finest outfits and their cultural attires.
The Creole culture was diverse. During the Age of Discovery, the Spanish and Portuguese had colonies around the world. Therefore, enslaved persons, as well as free people constituted a global village. This was reflected in the Creole culture of New Orleans. As a port on the Mississippi River and near the Gulf Coast, the city was a center of international trade and commerce. TheSpanish gained control of New Orleans after the French and Indian War in
1763. French and Creoles persons fled toNew Orleans between 1791 and 1800s during the Haitian Revolution, along with Black Creoles who were free Blacks from Haiti. The Indigenous and Autochthonous Indian peoples were present in the area and the city was a place to escape during Indian removal to Oklahoma. The Cajun culture was also prevalent in the area. Louisiana had an Asian population including Indians and Filipinos from Spanish and Portuguese colonies. In 1803, New Orleans became a part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. This opened the city to English-speaking persons who brought their culture to the city even though French remained a major language until the early 20th century.
The people of the city would come out to observethe dancing at Congo Square. In 1819, Architect Benjamin LaTrobe wrote his observation of the dancing which included persons
from various heritage. He stated that“500-600 people” assembled for dancing women wore dresses according to their means from finery to plain, but men wore “oriental and Indian dress.” The people would group according to tribe and nations. A variety of dances were engaged in including “the Bamboula, Calinda, Congo, Carabine and Juba.” The musicians used a range of instruments representing different cultures including drums, gourds, banjo-like instrument,
quillpipes, and marimbas. In addition, there were violins, tambourines, and triangles. Later English-speaking persons danced to songs like “Old Virginia Never Tire.”
1. Creole music
The Creoles of Louisiana developed the Bamboula drum. Drums were not allowed for enslaved persons elsewhere in the United States. Creole folk songs and dance developed during this time and was enjoyed in Congo Square. Creole music included Moorish African rhythms. The Habanera, contradanza,the dance of Havana, was rhythm and dance of Cuba brought by Spanishimmigrants and slaves and the quadrille, country dance of Franc which was,
based on the English country dance.
The earliest Creole music in European classical style were done by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Gottschalk was born in New Orleans. His mother’s family was French Creole. Gottschalk was considered a musical child prodigy and went to study in France at the age of 13. There he wrote piano compositions based on the music he remembered from his early childhood visits to Congo Square. In his late teens he wrote four Creole musical pieces while in France. They were Bamboula (Danse Des Negres)(1848), La Savane (1849), Le Bananier (1846), and LeMancenillier (1848). In his mid-twenties, he traveled to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the West Indies and Latin America. By the 1860s, Gottschalk was the best-known pianist in the Americas. He died in Brazil on December 18, 1869 at the age of 40. Gottschalk worked with Manuel Saumell Robredo, a pianist of Cuba. Robredo who lived 1818-1870 was another child prodigy, pianist, and composer. He was the originator of the Habanera,contradanza of Havana, and creolized style music.
A collection of Creole songs was compiled as slave songs. Camille Nickerson performed as The Louisiana Lady from the 1930s and into the 1950s. She was born in the French Quarters of New Orleans and was a member of her father’s musical ensemble.
Nickerson was a professor at Howard University 1926-1962 and collected Creole music. Her emphasis was on Afro-Creole music and plantation songs. Nickerson was also president of the National Association of Negro Musicians from 1935-1938. She spoke fluent French and toured France with support of the U.S. Information Agency.
The Creole-Cajun music of swing is associated with Cajun accordion, zydeco, The music is usually composed with zydeco, fiddle, and the washboard.
Creole-Cajun was popularized by Amede Ardoin.
Ardoin was known for hissinging, as well. He spoke only Cajun French like many people of the area. He combined rhythmic styles with traditional instruments to create the swing dance Creole music. The fiddle, accordion, and the Hawaiian style steel guitar are also the basis of Country music.
2.The Blues is an eclectic music genre and is the most influential American music worldwide. Blues guitarists had the greatest influenced on modern popular music including Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll. The Blues dates from the 1860s. Blues is individualistic music usually sang by one person and/or a small band. Elements of the Blues are that its themes are simple and repetitive in the song. The Blues were rhythmic speech. The 12 Bar Blues has a repetition of AAB Repetition of lines. Blues scale and a note out of key call the Blues note and a steady beat that is called a groove characterized by a low pitch bass sound. There was also a Call and Response routine to the early blues. The first published Blues was composition in 1908. W.C. Handy called himself the “Father of the Blues,” but most of what he put to notation and published were the Blues that he heard in the Mississippi Delta by local Black people.
The first major sound recordings of the Blues were all women. On August 10, 1920, Mamie Smith recorded Perry Bradford’s “Crazy Blues.” It eventually sold a million records in one year. It opened the way for blues as a music genre and Blacks in sound recording, in general.
Bessie Smith and Gertrude“Ma” Rainey were among the stars of Blues. Bessie Smith became the highest paid Black performer in the country. They also performed in early films.
The Blues was influenced by the steel guitar which is Hawaiian. W.C. Handy noted that whilein Tutwiler, Mississippi in 1903, he heard a Black man playing the steel guitar with a knife. The steel guitar style was invented by Joseph Kekuku of Hawaii. When the United States occupied Hawaii, this opened the way for Hawaiian musicians to tour the country. The lap steel guitar became popular. In 1916, Hawaii music was the most popular selling music in the country.
3. Gospel evolved from spiritual, moaning, chants, and standard composed Christian hymn
music in the church. In 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee formed an acappella tour for fundraising. They popularized traditional spirituals among white audiences.
Evangelists encourage the spread of gospel music because it was easier to learn songs for camp meetings and revivals which was mostly how Black people had church meetings as opposed to the Christian standard hymns of white churches.
Thomas Dorsey is the “Fatherof Gospel.” Dorsey had worked in vaudeville and played with Gertrude“Ma” Rainey Blues Band 1923-1925. But,later had a conversion and turned to composing and publishing gospel music. Dorsey never condemned the Blues. He encourages clapping and expression in the Black church of Chicago where he was director of music for 50
years. He composed up-tempo spirituals which he called “jubilees” that appealed to Black migrants from the South. He is best known for his composition of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley.” He trained Mahalia Jackson “Queen of Gospel” and James Cleveland.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe emerged in the 1930s with the music genre she called the gospel blues. She combined spirituals with the electric steel guitar.
She came from a musical family from Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Her mother was a musician and deaconess in the Church of God in Christ(COGIC), a Pentecostal tradition church that used rhythmic music and allowed women to teach and sing in the church. Her music appealed to secular audiences. She and her mother moved to New York City where she performed at the Apollo Theater and with Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club. On October 31, 1938,at age 23, she recorded the Gospel Blues “Rock Me.” It became an instant hit. Her recording of “Strange Things Happening Everyday” (1944) with Sammy Price Jazz Band was the first gospel song to appear on the Billboard Magazine Harlem Hit Parade.
Tharpe had the greatest influence on modern music. She is considered the "Godmother of Rock and Roll." It was her guitar sound that Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll artists from the United States to Great Britian imitated.