Friday, April 9, 2021

Excerpt From "Songs Of The Black Creoles" Chapter Of Henry Edward Krehbiel's 1914 Book Afro-American Folksongs

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents information about Henry Edward Krehbiel and provides an excerpt from an online reprint of his 1914 book Afro-American Folk Songs: A Study In Racial And National Music.

Information about Black Creoles of Lousiana is also included in this post.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Henry Edward Khehbiel and all the African American composers and African American singers of the songs that he collected. Thanks to the editor/s of the online versions of this song and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

"Henry Edward Krehbiel (March 10, 1854 – March 20, 1923) was an American music critic and musicologist who was music editor for The New York Tribune for more than forty years.


Krehbiel was a champion of the music of Antonín Dvořák whom he hoped would help establish an authentically American school of music when Dvořák was appointed head of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City in 1892. Already an admirer of folk music, Krehbiel was inspired by Dvořák's work as a folk song collector and composer, and spent many years researching and collecting folk songs from Americans and immigrants. He collected the folk songs of Magyars, Scandinavians, Russians, Native Americans, and African Americans. This work resulted in numerous publications, including the first book published on African-American spirituals Afro-American folksongs: a study in racial and national music (1914).”…



Krehbiel was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1854, the son of a German clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A first generation American, he was educated by his father, and grew up in a bilingual household speaking, reading, and writing in both German and English. He later mastered the French, Italian, Russian, and Latin languages.


 Krehbiel wrote many books about various aspects of music, including Afro-American folksongs: a study in racial and national music (1914); one of the earliest examinations of African American music. His interest in the music was African-Americans dates back to his attendance of World's Columbian Exposition where he was enthralled with performances of music by black musicians at the Midway Plaisance.[8] He annotated concert programs (including many of Paderewski's recitals)."...
Henry Edward Krehbiel was a White American.

Henry Edward Krehbiel's 1914 book Afro-American Folksongs: 
a study in racial and national music includes the now outdated referent "Negro" spelled with a lower case "n".

Here's some information about Black Creoles
The term créole was originally used by French settlers to distinguish persons born in Louisiana from those born in the mother country or elsewhere. As in many other colonial societies around the world, creole was a term used to mean those who were "native-born", especially native-born Europeans such as the French and Spanish. It also came to be applied to African-descended slaves and Native Americans who were born in Louisiana.[3][4][5] The word is not a racial label, and people of fully European descent, fully African descent, or of any mixture therein (including Native American admixture) may identify as Creoles.

Starting with the native-born children of the French, as well as native-born African slaves, 'Creole' came to be used to describe Louisiana-born people to differentiate them from European immigrants and imported slaves. People of any race can and have identified as Creoles, and it is a misconception that créolité—the quality of being Creole—implies mixed racial origins. In the early 19th century, amid the Haitian Revolution, thousands of refugees (both whites and free people of color from Saint-Domingue (affranchis or gens de couleur libres) arrived in New Orleans, often bringing enslaved Africans with them. So many refugees arrived that the city's population doubled. As more refugees were allowed in Louisiana, Haitian émigrés who had first gone to Cuba also arrived. These groups had strong influences on the city and its culture. Half of the white émigrė population of Haiti settled in Louisiana, especially in the greater New Orleans area."...

"The Creoles of color are a historic ethnic group of Creole people that developed in the former French and Spanish colonies of Louisiana (especially in the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwestern Florida in what is now the United States. French colonists in Louisiana first used the term "Creole" to refer to whites born in the colony, rather than in France. It was also used for enslaved people born in the colony.

But as a group of mixed-race people developed from placage and the rape of Africans and Native Americans from the French and Spanish the term Creoles of color was applied to them. In some cases, white fathers would free their concubines and children, forming a class of Gens de couleur libres (free people of color). The French and Spanish gave them more rights than enslaved people. Most of these Creoles of Color have since assimilated into Black Culture through a shared history of slavery in the United States, while some have chose to remain a separate yet inclusive subsection of the African American ethnic group.[1]"...

[page 134]
..."the popular notion in the United States that a Creole is a Louisiana negro is erroneous. Friedenthal discusses the origin of the word and its application in the introduction to his book "Musik, Tanz und Dichtung bei den Kreolen Amerikas." The Spanish word criollo, from which the French Creole is derived, is a derivation from the verb criar, to create, bring up, breed. From this root other words are derived; not only substantives like cria (brood), crianza (education, bringing up), criatura, criador, etc., but also criada (servant), which in other languages has a very different etymology (Diener, serviteur, domestique, servo, etc.). The term criado is a relic of the old patriarchal system, under which the servants of the household were brought up by the family. Children of the servants became servants of the children of the master. So on the plantations of the Southern States slaves were set apart from childhood to be the playmates and attendants of the children of the family. Criollo also signifies things bred at home but born in foreign lands, and thus it came about that the Spaniard called his children born in foreign lands criollos; and as these foreign lands were chiefly the American colonies, the term came to be applied first to the white inhabitants of the French and Spanish colonies in America and only secondarily to the offspring of mixed marriages, regardless of their comparative whiteness or blackness.

When Lafcadio Hearn was looking up Creole music for me in New Orleans in the early 8o's of the last century, he wrote in one of his letters: "The Creole songs which I have heard sung in the city are Frenchy in construction, but possess a few African characteristics of method. The darker the singer the more marked the oddities of into nation. Unfortunately, most of those I have heard were quadroons or mulattoes." In another letter he wrote: "There could neither have been Creole patois nor Creole melodies but for the French and Spanish blooded slaves of Louisiana and the Antilles. The melancholy, quavering beauty and weirdness of the negro chant are lightened by the French influence, or subdued and deepened by the Spanish." Hearn was musically illiterate, but his powers

[page 135]


of observation were keen and his intuitions quick and penetrating. He felt what I have described as the imposition of French and Spanish melody on African rhythm.

This union of elements is found blended with the French patois in the songs created by the creole negroes in Louisiana and the West Indies. Hearn came across an echo of the most famous of all Creole love-songs in St. Pierre and in his fantastic manner gave it a habitation and a name. Describing the plague of smallpox in a chapter of "Two Years in the French West Indies," he tells of hearing a song coming up through the night, sung by a voice which had "that peculiar metallic timbre that reveals the young negress."

Always it is one "melancholy chant":

Pauv' ti Lele,

Pauv' ti Lele!

Li gagnin doule, doule, doule,

Le gagnin doule

Tout patout!

I want to know who little Lele was, and why she had pains "all over" for however artless and childish these Creole songs seem, they are invariably originated by some real incident. And at last somebody tells me that "poor little Lele had the reputation of being the most unlucky girl in St. Pierre; whatever she tried to do resulted only in misfortune;when it was morning she wished it were evening, that she might sleep and forget; but when the night came she could not sleep for thinking of the trouble she had had during the day, so that she wished it were morning. ..."

Perhaps "Pov' piti Lolotte" (a portion of whose melody served Gottschalk, a New Orleans creole of pure blood, for one of his pianoforte pieces), came from the West Indies originally, but it is known throughout Creoleland now. It fell under the notice of Alphonse Daudet, who,Tiersot says, put it in the mouth of one of his characters in a novel. Out of several versions which I have collected I have put the song together, words and melody, in the form in which Mr. Burleigh has arranged it. (See page 136.) It is worth noting that the coda of the melody was found only in the transcript made from the singing of the slaves on the Good Hope plantation, in St. Charles Parish, La., and that this coda presents a striking use of the rhythmical snap which I have discussed in connection with the "spirituals," but which is not found in any one of them with so much emotional effect as here.

[Pancocojams Editor's Note: Pages 136, and 137 includes music notations.]


[page 138]

Century Magazine" on Creole songs Mr. Cable wrote:

One of the best of these Creole love-songs ... is the tender lament of one who sees the girl of his heart's choice the victim of chagnn in beholding a female rival wearing those vestments of extra quality that could only be the favors which both women had courted from the hand of some proud master whence alone such favors should come. "Calalou," says the song, "has an embroidered petticoat, and Lolotte, or Zizi," as it is often sung, "has a heartache." Calalou, here, I take to be a derisive nickname. Originally it is lie term for a West Indian dish, a noted ragout. It must be intended to apply here to the quadroon women who swarmed into New Orleans in 1809 as refugees from Cuba, Guadaloupe and other islands where the war against Napoleon exposed them to Spanish and British aggression. It was with this great influx of persons, neither savage nor enlightened, neither white nor black, neither slave nor truly free, that the famous quadroon caste arose and flourished. If Calalou, in the verse, was one of these quadroon fair ones, the song is its own explanation.

In its way the song "Caroline" (see page 139) lets light into the tragedy as well as the romance of the domestic life of the young creole slaves. Marriage, the summit of a poor girl's ambition, is its subject that state of blissful respectability denied to the multitude either by law or social conditions, I have taken words and melody from "Slave Songs," but M. Tiersot, who wrote the song down from the singing of a negress in New Orleans, gives the name of the heroine as Azelie and divides the poem into two stanzas separated by a refrain:

Papa dit non, maman dit non,

C'est li m'oule, c'est li ma pren. (Bis)

Un, deux, trois, Azelie.

Pas pare com 9a, ma cher! {Bis)

Sam'di l'amour, Dimanch' marie, Lundi matin piti dans bras; N'a pas couvert', n'a pas de draps, N'a pas a rien, piti dans bras!

(Papa says no, mama says no.

It is he whom I want and who will have me. One, two, three; don't talk that way, my dear I Saturday, love; Sunday, married

Monday morning, a little one in arms. There is no coverlet, no sheets, nothing little one in arms!)

Tiersot gives the melody of the stanzas in 5-8 time, of the refrain in 2-4, and describes the movements of the dancers (the song is a Counjai) as a somewhat languorous turning with a slight swaying of the body. I have translated "cabanne" cabin, but in Martinique "caban" signifies a bed, and in view of M. Tiersot's variant text this may also have been the meaning of the term in Louisiana.”…


[page 139]

[Notes]: “Words and melody from “Slave Songs Of The United States”. The arrangement, by John Van Brockhaven, to a variant of the poem, was printed by Mr. Cable in his essay on “The Dance In Place Congo” and is here reprinted by permission of Mr. Cable and t, the Century Co, the words as sung on the Good Hope Plantation, St. Charles Parish, La, being restored. The meaning of the words is “One, two, three, that’s the way my dear. Papa says no, mama says yes. Tis him I want and he that will have me. There will be money to buy a cabin”.

"Pauv' ti Lele,
Pauv' ti Lele!
Li gagnin doule, doule, doule,
Le gagnin doule
Tout patout!"


Google translate from French to English

"Poor Lele,
Poor Lele!
Li Gainin Doule, Doule, Doule,
The Doule Winner
Everything patout!"

"Skip to My (The) Lou" is a popular American partner-stealing dance from the 1840s.


S. Frederick Starr suggests that the song may be derived from the Creole folksong "Lolotte Pov'piti Lolotte", to which it has a strong resemblance.[3]"...
I believe "Pauv' ti Lele" and "
Pov'piti Lolotte" are titles for the same song.

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