Category: Folklore

  • The Blues Mode and 12-Bar Form (examples)

    A collection of some of the musical examples referred to by Peter van der Merwe in your reading. As you listen, think about the similarities in these musics from across cultures. What makes them blues or blues-like? Charley Patton, “Tom Rushen Blues”. You’ll be reading more about Charley Patton later. For the moment, pay attention […]

  • Black Girls’ Handgames

    The D.C.-based arts organization Black Girls Handgames Project is dedicated to remixing and repurposing classic (pre-electronics) children’s games, many of which originated in communities of color. Cofounder OnRae LaTeal explains: The children’s handgame “Miss Mary Mack,” for instance, played here by the great folksinger Ella Jenkins (with some assistance from . . . Barney), dates […]

  • Composing Irony

    The round tune “Frère Jacques” (Brother John) is known across cultures and languages in Europe. In German, it’s called “Bruder Martin” or “Bruder Jakob.” In the third movement of his Symphony no. 1 in D minor, Gustav Mahler presents us with a sardonic, funeral-march like version of the song in minor. He was inspired by […]

  • Stagolee Shot Billy

    Content warning: explicit language, racial slurs (including the n-word) in original sources. Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, dedicated his 1968 book Seize the Time, to his wife, Artie, and his son, Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale. Malik’s third name, as Seale explains it, derives from the lumpen proletarian politically unaware brothers in […]

  • Toasts, Signifyin(g), and the Roots of Rap

    Content warning: explicit language and situations. Although the cradle of rap is generally acknowledged to be community-room parties in the South Bronx, the genre draws from multiple threads and locations, from Jamaica to Louisiana to the hobo poetry of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The white Oklahoma-born writer George Milburn, who spent time […]

  • Juba

    If you’ve seen the film 12 Years A Slave, you may remember that Solomon Northup (shown in a sketch above), whose memoir was the basis for the movie, was a musician. Northup wrote of his life as a free black violinist in New York State: In the winter season I had numerous calls to play on […]