Africa and the Blues (American Made Music)

By Gerhard Kubik

A story that explores the African family tree of yankee Blues

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Its physique was once a wide hole gourd, with an extended deal with hooked up to it, strung with catgut and performed on with the finger. He then transcribes a “couplet” of 1 of the songs: Negro Sambo play advantageous banjer, Make his hands cross like handsaw. (cited in Epstein 1973: seventy six) To an individual accustomed to the cultures of the western and valuable geographical Sudan, the nearby origins of the versions for such long-necked plucked lutes as defined during this eighteenth-century resource are transparent. they're spike-lutes stumbled on around the west-central Sudan, from Hausa minstrels and their friends in Cameroon and northerly Nigeria to the Wolof and others in Senegambia with their xalam (Coolen 1982; Charry 1996). The culture has survived into the past due 20th century, and that i for one recorded such unfretted plucked lutes in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon (cf. Kubik 1989a: 80–81, 86–87; recordings Phonogrammarchiv Vienna, B 8610, 8921, and so forth. ). Boucher’s Virginia performer used to be a virtuoso, if his hands went “like handsaw. ” This compares to the spike-lute gamers I met centuries later in Africa. so much have been execs, often investors or minstrels who traveled lengthy distances. Hausa investors in northeastern Nigeria used to name the device garaya (Kubik 1989a:80). Michael Theodore Coolen, who researched the xalam of the Wolof of Gambia within the Seventies, writes: till fresh occasions, one of many universal Senegambian ensembles consisted of a pluckedlute (the xalam), a bowed-lute (called riti by means of the Wolof and nyanyaur via the Fula), and a tapped calabash. there's a amazing similarity among this ensemble and the mess around, banjo, and tambourine ensembles so renowned within the usa from the overdue 17th in the course of the 19th centuries. (Coolen 1982: seventy four) not directly, then, Boucher’s testimony indicates the retention within the southern Atlantic coastal sector of the U.S. of a functionality culture that got here from a definite wide sector of West Africa, and as a consequence can have turn into very important to the increase of the blues in a particularly varied a part of the USA. On a extra person foundation, such professionalism in tune is frequently attached with an itinerant way of life. Solo making a song of “the improvisatori sort” (Boucher 1832), self-accompanied by means of a plucked stringed software of west-central African layout, therefore had shaped a cultural bridgehead within the southeastern usa, and develop into a favourite hobby one of the region’s slaves. a narrative through an African descendent, “Dick the Negro,” quoted by way of John Davis (1803: 381), describes one other point of existence earlier than the yank warfare of Independence (1775–83): “I made my court docket to a healthy lady, who had by no means bored her ears, and went regularly to assembly … by way of moonlight I used to play my banger below her window, and sing a Guinea love-song my mom had taught me” (quoted in Epstein 1973: 81). the various assets exposed via Epstein coalesce to offer us an image of the type of tradition perpetuated through captives in South Carolina, Virginia, and somewhere else throughout the eighteenth century.

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