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Diaspora

June 23, 2011
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There is a bunch of back-channel swapping of music going on right now between some BoT-ers, and I thought I’d share a couple.

When Delmond talks about Alan Lomax’s field recordings of Angola prison work songs, he’s talking about this:

And when he talks about Mississippi fife and drum music, he’s talking about this here:

It is left as an exercise to the reader to Google up, say, some traditional music from Ghana to contrast and compare. Or to draw lines from that music through Congo Square to the Mardi Gras Indians. Or a parallel line from Congo Square, hop skip and jump to Cosimo Matassa putting out R&B singles that are picked up by Jamaicans and mixed with Caribbean sounds by people like the Skatalites, on to Kingston sound systems and dub toasting, which Jamaican immigrant DJ Kool Herc brought to NYC in the 1970′s where it was picked up by people like Grandmaster Flash and Boogie Down Productions, evolving into modern hip-hop and eventually coming full circle to give us the character of Lil Calliope.

When Ernie K-Doe said “All music is from New Orleans,” this is what he was talking about. Jazz? Congo Square. Rock and roll? Congo Square. Ska? Reggae? Congo Square. Hip-hop? Go back far enough, and it’s Congo Square.

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20 Comments
  1. June 23, 2011 3:45 pm

    Not exactly on point, but reading some of the other blogs led me to New York Second Line by Donald Harrison and Terence Blancahrd I couldn’t resist. I wonder if this record entered into the entire Harrison/Delmond hookup (given we know some of the key people behind the show were big record collectors).

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/history/orders/view.html/ref=oss_home?ie=UTF8&orderFilter=last30&groupID=0

  2. June 23, 2011 3:58 pm

    I’m glad this came up because I’ve been trying to find the Ernie K Doe sermons / spoken word from Season 1 and don’t even know where to start. Help a brother out yall.

  3. June 23, 2011 4:01 pm

    “When Ernie K-Doe said “All music is from New Orleans,” this is what he was talking about. Jazz? Congo Square. Rock and roll? Congo Square. Ska? Reggae? Congo Square. Hip-hop? Go back far enough, and it’s Congo Square.”

    I’m telling ya, I’m intrigued as hell between the songs and the Sublette book by the ability to absolutely illustrate that connectedness. In addition to the prison worksongs, I’ve been tracking down Louis Moreau Gottschalk piano pieces. He was a kid on Rampart St. who travelled the Antilles soaking up the rhythms of Congo Square across from his house, studying the St. Domingue and the Cuban differences, then writing piano pieces that are absolutely baroque sounding compared to work songs. But the rhythms of Africa by way of the contributing cultures of France/Spain/Cuba/St. Domingue/Virginia/Louisiana are there if you listen to any and all of it, from the baroqueness of Gottschalk to the rock and roll we all grew up with and everything in between.

    (Virginia is in there as the slaves there were raised as Protestants and contributed a great deal to Gospel music as we know it.)

    I’ve been tracking down songs played for quadrilles, songs sung in fields, even being appalled by actually understanding what the original lyrics to Old Kentucky Home mean (the guy got sold off and was being sent to a cane field which was considered a death sentence.) It’s all so intertwined, and we’re living in the epicenter.

    Unfortunately, my curiousity being what it is, my house has been filled with remarkable sounds, but the floors sure do need sweeping and that laundry. . . . .

    And thanks for the links and vids, Ray. That laundry will still be there in a minute or 60.

  4. June 23, 2011 5:33 pm

    FYI — Today at the Donald Harrison, Jr., Mardi Gras Indians, Cyrille Neville gig at MetroTek, Ned Sublette was shouted out from the stage as writer of the book, The World That Made New Orleann, and the history of the music that made New Orleans, as well as the contemporary music of New Orleans. Moreau Gottschalk was invoked on all sides.

    Love, C.

  5. June 23, 2011 5:35 pm

    IOW, the habanera still rules. :)

    Donald Harrison Jr. again, at the Jazz Standard, tomorrow night!

    Love, C.

  6. Mistlethrush permalink
    June 23, 2011 8:07 pm

    Thanks for the great post and links, Ray–I am in the middle of Sublette’s fascinating and intriguing book right now thanks to the mention in BoT. The prison song is especially compelling and haunting–I’ve read about the work songs but this is the first time I’d ever heard one–I am glad to have heard after reading the fascinating discussions here and now the insights from Sublette–I am hearing music in a whole different way, paying attention to the under story that obviously speaks to me but without me being able to understand the background. I thank you all for that.

    (Yankee from CT, now living in the midwest and frequent visitor to New Orleans. I met my partner when she was living in Thibadaux.)

  7. Anita permalink
    June 23, 2011 8:36 pm

    @ Foxessa: And now it is our turn to envy you for being there today. What a happening. I’m well into ‘The World That Made New Orleans’. Thank you again.

    On the Mississippi YT, the sounds of north Mississippi from the Delta below Memphis, instantly carried me back to my Memphis childhood. Those sounds were everywhere around me and mixed in the gospel music we heard. We all knew but didn’t actually acknowledge the source back then. Elvis grew up with that music; all he really did differently, as has been said so many times, was to stand up on a white stage and sing it.

  8. June 24, 2011 1:52 am

    @Ray, it’s the middle of the night and I’m still clicking offshoot links on your video. Not sure whether to thank you or cuss ya.

  9. June 24, 2011 7:38 am

    Friend of mine, an ethnomusicologist from Alabama, turned me on to drum and fife music when I lived in NY. Saw some mind-blowing live performances

  10. rickngentily permalink
    June 24, 2011 8:58 am

    @ ray: fell in love with othar turner when i saw him at jazz fest back in my “yoot”

    never heard of napoleon strickland. thanks man.

    @ varg: email me i got something for ya ala the emperor. i comment on your blog as rickacrossdariver.

  11. June 24, 2011 12:01 pm

    Amazing. Thanks for this, Ray.

  12. anotheroutsider permalink
    June 24, 2011 12:11 pm

    Dave Walker linked this in his bit today, although I really wish he’d quoted this part below – I thought it was a great flash-synopsis of musical influences from Ray and it made me smile:

    “…from Congo Square, hop skip and jump to Cosimo Matassa putting out R&B singles that are picked up by Jamaicans and mixed with Caribbean sounds by people like the Skatalites, on to Kingston sound systems and dub toasting, which Jamaican immigrant DJ Kool Herc brought to NYC in the 1970′s where it was picked up by people like Grandmaster Flash and Boogie Down Productions, evolving into modern hip-hop and eventually coming full circle to give us the character of Lil Calliope.”

  13. June 24, 2011 12:55 pm

    @Varg: If they’re his radio rants, they might have got them from the ‘OZ archives. Blake would know if he’s still reading.

  14. 3Suns permalink
    June 24, 2011 4:30 pm

    “it’s the middle of the night and I’m still clicking offshoot links on your video. Not sure whether to thank you or cuss ya.”

    @Sam (and Ray), oh my goodness! You have no idea how long I surfed and how far I went. ‘Tis the gift of the Internet and stimulating company!

    Thank you!

  15. June 25, 2011 4:14 pm

    Anita — All of you were in mind at MetroTek, and last night too, at the Jazz Standard. What a night that was — and when we got out, and then later, got home, learned that the NY legislature had passed the Gay Marriage bill! As it’s Gay Pride weekend, you can imagine what it was like on the streets here, in downtown NYC.

    The presentation of jazz and a spectrum of New Orleans music was spectacular, from latin tinge — Donald played with Tito Puente back in the early 90′s, when he was also mentoring his young neighbor, Biggy Smalls — (and a young nephew is playng with Tito now — we saw him at that show Thursday night), to slow blues, to soul, to funk, to R&B — Yay! Cyrill! — and then the Indians. They worked really hard — three sets in one night. All three were sold out, and the audience knew why it was there, so lots of energy flowing in the circuit between the booty shakin in front of the stage and on the stage.

    A lot of Treme people were there at the first set, btw.

    Donald Harrison shouted out Mr. Sublette and the books again too.

    And then, YAY — Gay Marriage! Summer. It felt like summer, finally. And got blessed. There are some people, when I have the privilege to spend time in their company, it feels the way I imagine Catholics must feel when they confess, receive absolution and go to mass.

    Love, C.

  16. June 25, 2011 8:02 pm

    If they’re his radio rants, they might have got them from the ‘OZ archives. Blake would know if he’s still reading.

    Yeah, the K-Doe rants have never been made publicly available, to my knowledge. The one we used in the pilot episode of Treme came from a mole at WWOZ, straight from their archive.

  17. June 25, 2011 9:57 pm

    Dang. Well if anyone could tip me off to when they may play them next, I’ll listen.

  18. rickngentily permalink
    June 25, 2011 10:23 pm

    dang varg. i told you i had them.

    email me.

    rickacrosstheriver,

  19. wigatrisk permalink
    July 5, 2011 8:59 am

    For those interested in the stories we tell about the supposed origins of musical traditions, I’d recommend Marybeth Hamilton, In Search of the Blues (Basic, 2009), which is far better than Robert Palmer’s much-celebrated Deep Blues, and shows why we should be cautious about narratives of the blues like Palmer’s. The book doesn’t reproduce much of her great article which students really get into: Marybeth Hamilton, “Sexuality, Authenticity and the Making of the Blues Tradition”, Past and Present 164 (2000), 132-160. In both pieces she explores how WC Handy’s story of the blues has won out over Jelly Roll Morton’s, and the evolution of a narrative of the blues that is deeply masculine and rural, about black sorrow and white redemption. Convincing stuff and a good starter on those alternative narratives that Sublette is pretty interesting on too.

    A somewhat dull article on an amazing account by Europeans of musical syncretization taking place before their eyes one night in 17thC Jamaica is: Richard Cullen Rath, “African Music in Seventeenth Century Jamaica: Cultural Transit and Transition”, William & Mary Quarterly 50, 4 (1993), 700-726.

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