Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Kneebone Bend" song (Lyrics & Videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides lyrics, comments, and two videos of renditions of the African American ring shout song "Kneebone Bend".

My thanks to the unknown composer/s of "Kneebone Bend". My thanks also to the McIntosh County Shouters, other Georgia Sea Island Singers for their important work of preserving this song & ring shout movements. Thanks also to other vocalists/musicians who perform this song, and thanks to the videographers and uploaders of these sound files and videos.

All rights remain with their owners.

[unknown composer/s; African American -Georgia Sea Islands, 19th century or earlier]

From Spirituals as “Pure” / Spirituals as Derived from Mixed Sources

“Kneebone” Georgia Sea Island Songs, tr 2, 0:00 - 0:33 [sound file]

"And the next track, “Kneebone,” a trance-inducing ring shout led by Joe Armstrong, is similarly attractive because it is 'the oldest, the most African of the Sea Island songs.' "

Kneebone in the mornin’,
Ah-ah, kneebone,
Bend my kneebone to the ground,
O Lord, kneebone bend.

Kneebone, didn’t I tell you,
Ah, kneebone,
Kneebone, didn’t I tell you,
O Lord, kneebone bend.

Kneebone, didn’t I call you,
Ah-ah kneebone,
Kneebone, didn’t I call you,
O Lord, kneebone bend.

I call you in the mornin’,
Ah, kneebone,
Call you in the evenin’,
O Lord, kneebone bend.

Video #1: McIntosh County Shouters w Kneebone Bend_NEW.avi

Uploaded by McIntoshCtyShouters on Feb 27, 2010

Venus McKiver displays her vocal talent in this wonderful version of Kneebone Bend while visiting a local school. Teaching school children about the Gullah Geechee is a top priority for this group. It is one way in which they can keep the heritage alive. By visiting schools andand they enjoy visiting schools. The McIntosh County Shouters are recording artists with Smithsonian Folkways Recording Studios.

For more information, go to

Video #2: Kneebone.wmv

Uploaded by stevesvideo on Feb 6, 2012

"Kneebone", often performed as a shouting spiritual and one of the oldest of the Sea Island songs. Singers would bend their knees to lower themselves toward the ground/earth (characteristically a traditional African gesture and choreography) as the song invokes the bones of the ancestors, calling them morning and evening. Field recorded by Alan Lomax and included in "Georgia Sea Island Songs." Present version adds Akonting music. For more videos go to
Here's some information about the akonting musicial instrument from
"The Jola akonting (spelled ekonting in Senegal) and its siblings-- the Manjak bunchundo, Balanta kisinta and kusunde, Papel busunde and Bujogo ngopata -- are examples of the gourd-bodied variety of folk/artisan lutes that was once more prevalent in the region of West Africa which used to be referred to as The Rice Coast during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Whereas the perpetuation of the griot lutes has been fostered by their role as exclusive caste instruments, folk lutes have been constantly under the threat of obsolescence and extinction due to the inevitable erosion of their host musical traditions. In some instances, such as the Senegambian bania-- long considered to be a possible banjo ancestor -- they simply went the way of the dinosaurs. Often as not these lutes were superseded by other local instruments; the European guitar, introduced into the various regional vernacular musical cultures in the early 20th century; and, ironically enough, the banjo, which was imported into sub-Sahara Africa, starting in the 1920s, in the form of the 4-string tenor banjo and the 8-string banjo-mandolin, along with yet another American cultural export of African American origin, jazz."

Click for a 57 minute Library of Congress video of the McIntosh County Shouters.

Click for this post on my Jambalayah website: "Videos Of Traditional Musical Instruments A-C". That is the first post of a three part series.

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