Sunday, November 10, 2013

Studying African American Folk Music (with a partial reference list & five video examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Here's a comment that I just posted to the Mudcat Cafe discussion thread "Folklore: Studying folk music"

"Here are some books that are considered classics in the study of 19th and early 20th century African American* folk music.

*Notice that I use the term "African American" instead of the retired referent "Negro" which is used in most of these books.

It's preferable to spell the word "Negro" with an upper case "n" although in some of those books that referent is spelled with a lower case "n". At least by the 1950s among most Black Americans, spelling "Negro" with a lower case "n" was and still is considered to be very offensive.

Slave Songs of the United States: The Classic 1867 Anthology [William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, Lucy McKim Garrison]

Folk Song Of The American Negro: An investigation into traditional American negro folk songs by John Wesley Work, A.M. Professor Of Latin And History Fisk University c1915 [online book]

Negro Folk Rhymes Wise and Otherwise by Thomas W. Talley
[originally published by Macmillan Press in 1922]

On The Trail Of Negro Folk-Songs By Dorothy Scarborough Assisted By Ola Lee Quiledge Copyright, 1925 By Harvard University Press [online book]

Music Down Home: An Introduction to Negro Folk Music, U.S.A. by Various Artists

"This 1965 recording traces the evolution of African American folk music from the South.The oral tradition of folk music in the African American community has demonstrated a perseverence through the eras of slavery and segregation while embracing and influencing American popular music through songs, lyrics and performance.

33 songs, 1.4 hours, with liner notes by producer Charles Edward Smith detailing the historical underpinnings of African American folk music and background notes on songs including lyrics. [Smithsonian Folkways]

Keyword(s) Animals; Ballads; Blues; Call and response; Calls; Civil rights movement--United States; Cries; Fiddle tunes; Folk songs--United States; Folk tales and legends; Games; Gospel music; Hymns; Jug band music; Lullabies; Music--Juvenile; Play-party; Prison songs; Protest songs; Railroads; Skiffle; Spirituals (Songs); Storytelling; Street songs; Talking Blues; Topical songs; Work songs"...

Ella Jenkins African American Folk Songs & Rhythms

Review by Richie Unterberger
"Although Ella Jenkins' records were in large part intended for educational use, collections such as this one also endure as strong folk music on its own merits. Frequently accompanied by the Goodwill Spiritual Choir of the Monumental Baptist Church in Chicago, these are strong and committed renditions of African-American folk songs. Plenty of these tunes are well known by both folk fans and the general public, and plenty of listeners may well have heard "Wade in the Water" (the album's standout), "Old Time Religion," "Hammer Song," and "Cotton-Eyed Joe" for the first time here. While the call-and-response interplay between Jenkins and the choir is good, she could also be effective on solo numbers like "Who's Gonna Be Your Man?," on which the only backing to her voice is supplied by minimal percussion that sounds like a stick and hollow drum being tapped. There's also a version of "No More Auction Block," sung by Bob Dylan in the early '60s (although he may have learned it from Odetta's rendition); its melody was adapted for Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." "

FIVE EXAMPLES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC (from the 19th century to mid 1960s)
(These videos are presented in chronological order based on their posting dates, with the oldest dated video given first.)

Example #1: Work Songs in a Texas Prison [Hammer Ring]

Folkstreamer Uploaded on Jul 8, 2006

Pete and Toshi Seeger, their son Daniel, and folklorist bruce jackson visited a Texas prison in huntsville in March of 1966 and produced this rare document of worksongs by inmates of the Ellis Unit.

Example #2: 'Black Betty' LEADBELLY, Blues Legend

RagtimeDorianHenry, Uploaded on Apr 15, 2009

Example #3: "Ain't That Good News (Live)"- Sweet Honey In The Rock

sweethoneyinrock, Uploaded on Feb 23, 2011

Bernice Kennedy Reagon leads Sweet Honey In The Rock, and the audience in "Ain't That Good News." From the album GOOD NEWS! They really feel this one! Go'head!!!

Example #4: Example #5: Ella Jenkins And The Goodwill Spiritual Choir Of The Monumental Baptist Church - Racing With The Sun

exte82, Published on Dec 24, 2012

From an album "American Negro Folk And Work Song Rhythms"

Eexample #5: Come a Lady's Dream

Odetta - Topic, Published on Nov 7, 2014
"Come a Lady's Dream" (also known as "Rocky Road") is a children's ring game.

As a reminder, African American children's singing games, playground rhymes, and cheers are also a part of Folk music. Click to find a video clip of a film about African American girls performing playground games in 1967.

Also, in addition to reading various pancocojams' posts, visit my cultural website for pages on these sub-genres of African American Folk music: shanties, Old Time Music (banjo & fiddle music), military cadences, civil rights songs, Mardi Gras Indian song, fraternity & sorority chants, and stomp & shake cheerleader cheers.

Thanks to the publishers of the featured videos and the vocalists/musicians who are featured on those videos.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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