Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Black Roots Of The Song "Shenandoah", Part III (Caribbean songs "This World Of Misery"; "Solid Fas")

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a three part series on the folk song "Oh Shenandoah". Part III provides comments about and lyrics to Caribbean songs that are derived from "Oh Shenandoah". These songs are known by the titles "This World Of Misery", "Oh My Rolling River", "Solid Fas'" ("Solid Fast'), "All Through The Cold & Squally Weather", and probably other titles.

Click for Part I of this series.

Part I provides information about the origin of this song and a sound file of Paul Robinson singing that song.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II two provides transcripts of two 1930 "Times" letters to the editor about "Oh Shenandoah" and one synopsis of another 1930 "Times" letter to the editor about that song. I am assuming that "the Times" here means the London Times (newspaper).

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, historical, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.


muisire, Published on Jun 10, 2013

O Shenandoah,
I love your daughter,

O roll, ye rolling river.

O Shenandoah
The white Mulatta,

And I'm bound,
I'm bound to leave,

For to leave this world of misery.

O misery,
The Captain cry out,
O roll, ye rolling river,
O Shenandoah
The boatmen answer,
And I'm bound, I'm bound to leave,

For to leave this world of misery.

For seven years
I courted Sally
O roll, ye rolling river,

I courted her
On foolscap paper,

And I'm bound, I'm bound to leave,

For to leave this world of misery.

For seven years
I toiled the ocean
O roll, ye rolling river.
For seven years
I never saw her,
And I'm bound, I'm bound to leave,

For to leave this world of misery.

Nobody knows
About my toiling,
O roll ye rolling river.
Nobody knows
About my danger,
And I'm bound, I'm bound to leave,

For to leave this world of misery.

And Shenandoah,

I love your daughter,

O roll, ye rolling river.

O Shenandoah
The white Mulatta,

And I'm bound, I'm bound to leave,

For to leave this world of misery.

SHENANDOAH is a West Indian version of the well-known American song, and was found by Jack Stanesco in Barrouallie, St. Vincent, a small fishing town. It is a whaling song and a work song, although quite different from the usual shanty. This is due to the fact that, until recently, the men of the area used only small oar-driven boats and hand-held harpoons so they did not have to do the chores from which the other shanties originated. However, until automation rendered manpower and work songs largely obsolete, there was still a need to keep rhythm while pulling oars, hauling tow lines, or dragging boats ashore for repairs. Even now the song can be heard on the boats, for it is traditionally sung if a catch has been made. The gunner begins singing about half a mile out, then the other whalers pick up the refrain, and they can be heard over the water as they head for shore. It is possible that this song travelled to the West Indies via American whaling ships in the last century en route to the South Atlantic, which stopped there to collect crew members. The Indian Maiden of the other version has here been changed to a "white mulatta" and the Wide Missouri has become "this world of misery", by which name the song is also known.

From the LP 'Roundtower', Dingle's Records, Edgeware, Middlesex, 1979.
Recording Engineer: Allan Morrow
A "white mulatta" is probably a referent for a very light complexioned woman of Black/non-Black (probably White) ancestry.


From: Abby Sale
Date: 06 Aug 00 - 11:46 AM
"...The Caribbean rowing songs are generally 1) derived from tall ship sailors 2) derived from, based on or in the style of known chanteys & 3) used to set time at sea. But the really important part of this (regardless of definitions) is the image/reality of a boatload of rowers on the open sea & going after large fish and even regularly after whale. These were gutsy guys...

They are still known and used in building construction!

All through the rain and squally weather
Oh, my rolling river
All through the rain and squally weather
We are bound away from this world of misery
Misery, I come to tell you
All through this rain and wind all squally

Salambo, I love your daughter
Salambo, this white mulatta
Seven long years we toiled the ocean
Seven long years I never wrote her
All through the rain and squally weather
All through this rain and windy squally

Misery, my captain cry out
Solid fas', my bowman cry out
I courted Sally, no pen no paper
I courted Sally with foolscap paper

From Roger Abrahams's Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore."


Solid fas', I come to tell you
"Solid fas'," our captain cry out

Nobody knows about our toilin'
Only God Almighty knows about our danger

"Whale ahead," my little gunman cry out
"Solid fas'," my little captain answer

And on our way, she roll and shiver
Down in our way, she spout dirty water

"Make her so bold," my strokeman cry out
"Haul and gi' me," my centerman cry out

Nobody knows about our hardship
Our shipowner, she don't know our hardship

Misery into the ocean
Misery in the deep wide ocean

Recorded by the Boarding Party
(rowing shanty from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent,
derived from "Shenandoah")
These lyrics are presented as they are found on that page.


From: GUEST,Barry Finn
Date: 06 Aug 00 - 09:36 AM
"Solid Fas' is a (west Indian) term to mean the Blackfish is caught fast to the line ("solid fas? Yes, she's solid fas")....

Solid Fas' is also known as "World Of Misery".

Hugill says that Shenandoah this was one of the most popular shanties at capstan & windlass

From: Abby Sale
Date: 09 Aug 00 - 10:03 PM

"One more thing. I went back to Deep the Water today to look up the song. The several pages before it give a fascinating, frightening and detailed account of going after whale (Blackfish) in just a long boat with 6 men. Couple of small details in the account:

The "All through the rain & squally weather" words are sung while rowing out after the whale but the "Solid fas'" words (still the same tune) are sung "after a long rowin' or coming home late at night and we must pull hard." The source explains that "Solid fas'" is said when you strike the "fish." Usually by the captain but maybe by the bowman first. "

From: Abby Sale
Date: 30 Aug 00 - 10:40 AM
"By the way, the St. Vincent tunes used for "Solid Fas'" and for "All Through The Cold & Squally Weather" are about the same to my ear. But it is a significant (but easily recognizable) variation on the usual tune. The slow rhythm also makes it a good rowing chantey. Sorry to reopen this old thread...the St. Vincent song captivates me.

From: Nancy King
Date: 01 Dec 03 - 07:31 PM
"...Closely related is the song "Solid Fas'," as recorded by The Boarding Party on their album " 'Tis Our Sailing Time" (Folk-Legacy CD-97). This version was collected by Roger Abrahams in Barouallie on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1966, still in use there as a rowing shanty. It appears in Abrahams' wonderful but out-of-print book, "Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore." In this version, all reference to the Missouri and Shenandoah have disappeared, but the tune is the same, and it contains the refrain line, "We are bound away from this world of misery." Jonathan Eberhart of The Boarding Party agreed with the theory outlined above by EBarnacle on the "Missouri/Misery" connection. Abrahams was kind enough to send Jonathan a copy of his original field recording, and the BP guys fell in love with its unusual harmonies, which they reproduce in their own version.

It's a beautiful song, in any of its many variants."

From "Land of Misery (Shenandoah):

Date: 01 Apr 01 - 06:13 PM
"This is a version of Shenandoah heard on Prairie Home Companion (maybe) 12 years ago.... Does anyone know who sang it and whether it is available as a recording.?


Oh Shenandoah I love your daughter.
Hurrah, my rolling river.
Shenandoah, the white Mulatta
We are bound away
From this land of misery.


I courted Sally, no pen, no paper.
I courted Sally with foolscap paper.

For seven long years I sailed the ocean.
For seven long years I never wrote her.

Misery! my captain cried out.
Sally forth, my bowman answered.

Nobody knows about my sorrow.
Nobody cares about my danger."

From: Sandy Paton
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 07:09 PM

..."It's "World of Misery," sung by Jack Stanesco and the whole Golden Ring group. Jack learned it from whale fishermen on St. Vincent's Island while doing his Peace Corp work there. It's on Five Days Singing, the New Golden Ring - CD-41 - from Folk-Legacy."

From: Nancy King
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 09:10 PM
"...This song is clearly related to "Solid Fas'," recorded by The Boarding Party on another fine Folk-Legacy recording, "'Tis Our Sailing Time," (CD-97, or, in some circles, BP1). It's in the DT.* It was collected by Roger Abrahams in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1966, still in use as a rowing shanty. The album notes discuss its relationship to the Stanesco version."
The "DT" is the Digital Tradition, a collection housed at Mudcat of lyrics to various folk songs.

I wonder if "across the wide Missouri" isn't a folk etymology form of "in this world of misery" instead of vice versa.

Besides, there's this comment from a Mudcat folk music discussion thread which I quoted in Part II of this series:

From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Aug 00 - 12:00 AM
"I went to a house concert abt 10 years ago where a man and wife named Nash sang songs of the sea. He was retired Navy, and they've been collecting for years. He sang a version of Shenandoah which he got from a sailor over 90 years old, and the sailor's last line went:
away, I'm bound away, across this wide world of mis'ry.

Makes more sense than the Missouri any day.

Hey, I live on the Missouri, and I know that going across it doesn't get you anywhere but Kansas, the beginning of the Great American Desert."
The Shenandoah River is located in the states of Virginia and West Virginia (USA). The Missouri River is nowhere near the Shenandoah River.

"The Missouri River is the longest river in North America,[11] longest tributary in the United States and a major waterway of the central United States. Rising in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, the Missouri flows east and south for 2,341 miles (3,767 km)[7] before entering the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri. The river takes drainage from a sparsely populated, semi-arid watershed of more than half a million square miles (1,300,000 km2), which includes parts of ten U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. When combined with the lower Mississippi River, it forms the world's fourth longest river system."

This concludes Part III of this series.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks to the singers and musicians featured in this sound file, and thanks to the publisher of that sound file.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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