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TEACH HISTORY THROUGH SONG; Roots of rap, gospel, folk

Black Notes, Amazing Grace,The West African Sorrow Chant Pentatonic Scale.


1) What is the name of the the dance we use on Valentines Day and what is the name of the song this dance go with? Answer

2) Why does the African, Irish, Jew and Arab all have the same song they sing at funerals?
The Irish Funeral Cry, the Ullaloo, Keeners and Keening at funerals.

3) The roots of poetry in song. Where does the word The word 'lyric' come come from?
Lyric is from the Greek word 'lyre', which is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "a stringed instrument of the harp kind, used by the Greeks for accompanying song and recitation". Over time, the medium became the message and the name of the instrument was transferred to words of song.

3) What is the name of the scale that Black Spirituals are based on?


The Pentatonic Scale:
Do ra me comes from the Chromatic European scale. The remaining five notes of the chromatic scale (the black keys on a piano keyboard) were added gradually.

The West African Sorrow Chant Pentatonic Scale.
Just the Black Notes - West African Sorrow Chant - Slave Melody -
The Black Notes Pathos on the Pentatonic Slave Scale.

Jun 26, 2015 President Obama sings Amazing Grace at the funeral for South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney


"Amazing Grace" By Wintley Phipps


Wintley Phipps Explains Amazing Grace


Slave Trader and Ship Captain, John Newtown, wrote the words for Amazing Grace after he became a Christian but the melody was based on the West African Sorrow Chant he heard rising from the belly of the slave ships he sailed listening to the West African Sorrow Chant. Video answer:

Africans who came to the Americas before Columbus subtitle is 'The African Presence in Ancient America'. In the introduction, he tells an exciting story: by the dedicated scholarship by Harvard linguist Leo Wiener. [1] Professor Wiener had been working on a grammar of American languages in the early years of this century when he stumbled upon a body of linguistic phenomena that indicated clearly to him the presence of an African and Arabic influence on some medieval Mexican and South American languages before the European contact period." By 1900, the notion that Africans could have traveled to the Americas had moved beyond the stage of speculation. It was now definite that Africans had made contact with the Americas. Peter ReRoo, in his History of America before Columbus, was quite firm in acknowledging the fact that Africans had settled in the western hemisphere and made contact with native Americans. He says,

Yet a better proof of ancient Negro arrivals is the fact of Negro colonies found by the Spanish and Portuguese discoverers on the eastern coasts of South and Central America. Mendoza encountered a tribe of Negroes, and Balboa, when on his famous expeditions of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, met in the old province Quareca, at only two days' travel from the Gulf of Darien, with a settlement of Negroes. . . .”14

In 1920 Leo Weiner, a Harvard University philologist, produced a pioneering examination of the existence of Africans in the Americas prior to the arrival of Columbus, which appeared as volume one of African and the discovery of America. Volumes two and three followed in 1922. While doing an investigation of native American languages, Wiener learned to his amazement that there was a considerable African influence on these languages. After further study he was led to conclude that much of the American archaeological work done on both Africans and native Americans was erroneous. Commenting on his work he says,

In the first volume I show that Negroes had a far greater influence upon American civilization than has heretofore been suspected. In the second volume I shall chiefly study the African fetishism, which even with the elaborate books on the subject, is woefully misunderstood, and I shall show by documentary evidence to what extraordinary extent the Indian medicine-man owes his evolution to the African medicine-man.15

His third volume is concerned with an examination of African social and religious influences on pre-Columbian American societies.

Arguing that West Africans had made numerous voyages to America before Columbus, Wiener noted that:

The presence of Negroes with their trading masters in America before Columbus is proved by the representation of Negroes in American sculpture and design, by the occurrence of a black nation at Darien early in the XVI century, but more specifically by Columbus' emphatic reference to Negro traders from Guinea, who trafficked in a gold alloy, guanin, of precisely the same composition and bearing the same name, as frequently referred to by early writers in Africa.16

As additional proof, he noted the presence of West African words for numerous crops in various native-American languages and suggested that the crops were indigenous to Africa.

Indeed when we turn to the appellations of the sweet potato and yam in America, we find nothing but African forms. Here as there the two are confounded, and chiefly those names have survived which Dr. Chanca mentioned in 1494. he called the plant he described, apparently the sweet potato, both nabi and hage. We see that the first is a phonetic variation of Wolof nyambi, etc., 'yam.' . . .17

Wiener further indicated that the West African penetration of the Americas varied:

There were several foci from which the Negro traders spread in the two Americas. The eastern part of South America, where the Caribs are mentioned seems to have been reached by them from the West Indies. Another stream, possibly from the same focus, radiated to the north along roads marked by the presence of mounds, and reached as far as Canada. The chief cultural influence was exerted by a negro colony in Mexico, most likely from Teotihuacan and Tuxtla, who may have been instrumental in establishing the city of Mexico. From here their influence pervaded the neighboring tribes and ultimately, directly or indirectly, reached Peru.18


Military Folklore, and Jody Calls

"Jody Calls" Call and response songs about Jody and his misadventures from soldiers. Here's a very interesting blog on "Jody", an African-American folk hero (or devil?) who's popped up in quite a few songs as a girlfriend/ spouse stealer and general sexual boogeyman.

Lowell National Historical Park that makes a direct connection between Southern African American work chants and modern military cadence calls.
It involves the story of Private Willie Duckworth from Sandersville, Georgia, whose widow is still recieving royalty checks for the Duckworth Chant, aka "Sound Off."

  • Carey, George. 1965. "A Collection of Airborne Cadence Chants." JAF 78/307:
    52-61. Excellent early collection, based on the author's service in the 1950s.
  • Jackson, Bruce. 1967. "What Happened to Jody?" JAF 80: 387-396. Mentions the
    military connection, but mostly from Jackson's work with prisoners.
  • Burke, Carol. 1989. "Marching to Vietnam." JAF 102/406: 424-441. Feminist
    analysis. See also her book Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the
    High-and-Tight (2004).
  • Burns, Richard. 2006. "'I Got My Duffel Bag Packed and I'm Goin' to Iraq':
    Marching Chants in the Military. In Ballad Mediations: Folksongs Recovered,
    Represented, and Reimagined, ed. Roger deV. Renwick and Sigrid Rieuwerts. Trier: WVT. Hard to find but worth the effort; the best recent analysis.
  • Sandee Shaffer Johnson,Cadences: The Jody Call Book, nos. 1 (1983) and 2 (1988). Canton, OH: Daring Press.






My name is Karen Ellis.
I am a teacher and helped produce the movie Standing in the Shadows of Motown which is all about my friends The Funk Brothers.

Online Funk Brothers Webquest
for Black History Month All Year Long Project.

The Funk Brothers & Chaka Khan

See Allan Slutsky in the Background and Ringleader Carla Benson the Background Vocalist on the left. Chaka doing an EXCELLENT version of the Marvin Gaye hit accompanied by the legendary Funk Brothers with some nostalgic civil rights footage!!!



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3) How were Ballads and Plays responsible for spreading Literacy?
Listen to 17th Century Print Culture
The Roots of Print, Power, Politics, Literacy, Ballads, Plays, Thought and failed Censorship.

Who is allowed to know how to write, who is allowed to read, who is allowed to hear, who is allowed to print, who is allowed to publish!
Henry 8th establishes treason by words, controls reading, and women reading. Elizabeth grants a Printing Monopoly to certain people in return for obedience to the authority of the church and Crown. First to appear is cheap single sheet printed ballads extremely popular that come directly out of the oral culture then goes back in. Telling sensational stories with a moral purpose, warning the readership with their punishment commanding them to repent.

3) What are the connections between the Scotish American and the African Americans of the Southern US?
Professor Willie Ruff investigates the connections
. The English brought precenting the line to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Highlanders, along with Puritans and Baptists, also took it to the New World, and it was widely practised by the frontiersmen, planters and adventurers who carved out what is the modern US. Eventually it fizzled out in most areas, but the tradition had been kept alive in the remote communities of the Western Isles, as it had in the rural areas of the Deep South. Lining out - or "precenting the line" - had been commonplace throughout Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th century. At a time of low literacy rates and high costs of prayer books it had become an easy way to teach and distribute the word of God.
Jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Mingus (or Menzies) - all Scots monikers, surnames that were probably given to their ancestors by slave masters. It was common for owners to impose the family name on the slave.

4) Was America's Troupedour Stephen Foster Irish?

5) Was the American Cowboy Song Yippie Yi Yo Ki Yea Git Along Little Doggie actually an Irish Song?


" SOUNDS LIKE FUN ! "  HEAR EXAMPLES OF SOME OLD TIMEY SONGS and learn how collected them.

1964 episode of The Dinah Shore Show on ABC Joining Dinah is her guest Harry Belafonte as they each sing in the native language of the song and a tribute to the Peace corp.

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Yellow Bird Song History

The story of Choucoune Stolen Legacy: The ordeal of Choucoune by Louis J. Auguste, MD
HAITI--PATRIMOINE -- Justice Choucoune
Un article qui mriterait d'tre traduit en franais et en kreyl et diffus. Merci Roger tienne et Luc Dauphin de me l'avoir fait parvenir. ~ Adrien Bance

For the past 500 years, Haiti has been part of the world's history. As a member of the society of nations, Haiti and Haitians have made numerous, worthy, but rarely heralded, contributions. Need we mention the bravery of the future heroes of our Independence, who fought in Savannah under the banner of the French Army to help defeat the English Colonial forces and help free the United States of America?
Need we mention the foundation of the city of Chicago by Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian born fur trader?
Need we mention the assistance provided to Simon Bolivar by Petion in the form of safe haven when his life was threatened, monetary support, tactical advice and even the provision of manpower to bolster his army?
Need we mention the generous contribution of all the Haitian teachers who responded to the call of our ancestors' land in the days that followed the massive movement of African decolonization in the 1970s, when all these newly created nations were "dropped" by their former colonizers, "up a creek with one paddle"?
The list goes on and on. However, the greatest contribution of all is an intellectual one.
Indeed, Haiti is one of the most vibrant and productive nation within the francophone community, when it comes to literary creation. Haitian writers, such as Dany Laferriere, are often called upon to represent Canada at the International Book Fairs in Paris. Novelists such as Jacques Roumain have been translated in more than 20 languages and read all over the world.
When it comes to music, the Haitian influence has also been enormous. Throughout the history of the new world, it is undeniable that Haitian rhythms and compositions have impacted on both Latin and Caribbean music, particularly Cuban, Guadeloupean and Dominican, but this contribution has seldom been acknowledged.
The astute student of our music will remember that among others, Guy Durosier and Raoul Guillaume's song, "Ma Brune" has been translated into Spanish as "Morena" and interpreted by many South American artists. Certainly, it gives us a sense of pride to see how some of our musical creations are appreciated abroad.
However, it is painful when one of our most celebrated meringue is usurped, I would even say hijacked, without giving credit to its original composer.
As a child growing up in Haiti, I remember being rocked to sleep by my mother to the beautiful tune of Choucoune.
This slow meringue, perhaps more than any other, has been interpreted by most Haitian choirs, orchestras, bands or ensemble. never thought that any single Haitian would doubt that this song is ours, belongs to us and to none other.
However, this tune has become better known with the lyrics of "Yellow Bird" than those of "Choucoune".If you ask a Jamaican, he will have no hesitation in answering that it is a Jamaican song.
Young Haitian Americans surveyed recently were not sure whether it was a Jamaican song translated in Creole or a Haitian song translated in English. Even the German-Haitian artist Cornelia Schutt, also known as Ti Corn, in her CD "Caribbean Ballads" (1991-Gema), sings Yellow Bird and lists it as "traditional".
My frustration growing, I went on the internet to look for the name of the composer of "Choucoune". Both and Google had no match for the question. I contacted numerous music stores in an attempt to procure a copy of the scores of the Choucoune. No luck. I went on e-Bay, hoping to be able to buy perhaps an old sheet music, with the scores of "Choucoune". There again, no luck. I decided therefore to search "Yellow Bird". On the first try on, there it was: Yellow Bird's music was composed in the 1960s by Norman Luboff and the lyrics written by Alan and Marilyn Keith Bergman.
It had become clear to me that we were facing a case of "stolen legacy", to use an expression rendered popular by James Richardson, who described how the glorious Egyptian tradition was falsely attributed to the Greeks by the eurocentric scolars. Did this happen because we Haitians fail to study our own history and to teach it to our children?
What is the true story of "Choucoune"?
Believe it or not, Choucoune was a real person. Her real name was Marie Noel Belizaire. She was born in the Village of La-Plaine-du-Nord in the year 1853.
Although her parents are not commonly known, it is reported that Ms.Belizaire had two sisters. Unlike her sisters, she was strikingly beautiful and she was given the nickname of Choucoune. She was dark-skinned, but her long hair was straight, defining the type "marabou", commonly used in the Haitian vernacular.
Before she could finish her elementary classes, she fell in love with a young man, named Pierre Theodore. The two became involved in a common-law marriage. To support her family, she started a small business, detailing various articles of daily necessity.
Soon however, Choucoune realized that the young man was unfaithful.
She left the village and moved to Cap-Haitien, the capital of the Northern Province of Haiti. She resided at 14, Simon Street (Rue Simon) in the neighborhood of Petite-Guinee. She established a small restaurant near the Chapel of St-Joseph, located on 19th Street (Rue 19).
One of her customers may have been one Oswald Durand, famous poet in those days in Cap-Haitien. He was 13 years older than Choucoune. Nevertheless a romantic relationship was quick to start between the two. They seemed to have enjoyed quite a few blissful moments. Those moments unfortunately were short, because Oswald Durand was a known womanizer and often described himself as "the gardener that waters all the flowers".
Choucoune was looking for a more stable relationship and moved on.
Shortly thereafter, Oswald Durand was thrown in jail for having criticized some of the political leaders in Cap-Haitien. While sitting in his cell, a bird alit on his window and Durand composed one of the most beautiful Haitian poems, written in Creole. Its title was: Choucoune and the year was 1883.
In it, the poet talks of Choucoune's beauty, of their happy moments and of the pain of their separation, when Choucoune preferred a young French man over him. Choucoune never returned to Durand, despite the fact that he truly immortalized her. She kept looking for the perfect love that never came. She fell on hard times in the later part of her life and returned to her native village.
She became insane and had to beg for survival.
My mother who as a child, used to go to the celebration of Saint James in La-Plaine-du-Nord told me that people would point to the fallen beauty, whispering : "Here is Choucoune! Look at Choucoune!"
Choucoune died in 1924.
Durand's poem was considered the best poem written in creole and 10 years later, it attracted a young musician by the name of Michel Mauleart Monton.
Mauleart was born in New Orleans, Louisiana of a Haitian father and an American mother. His father's name was Milien Monton and he was a tailor. For unknown reasons, he was raised in Haiti by his older sister, Odila Monton, who owned a store on Rue du Magazin de l'Etat, in Port-au-Prince. He took music lessons from Mr. Toureau Lechaud and learned how to play the piano.
Under the spell of the rich tropical nature, the surreal and magical world of Haitian religion and the classical European musical tradition, Mauleart combined these influences to compose numerous pieces that were celebrated in his days but that are not commonly known nowadays. They included: La polka des tailleurs (The tailors polka), L'amour et l'argent (Love and Money), P'tit Pierre (Little Peter), Les P'tits suye pye du jeudi (The Thursdays' dance parties) and many others.
However, he is most famous for putting in music Oswald Durand's poem, Choucoune. It was first performed in public in Port-au-Prince on May 14, 1893.
Choucoune was an instant success both in Haiti and abroad.
Later on, it was prominently featured during the festivities that marked the celebration of the Bicentennial of Port-au-Prince, in 1949.
At that time, Haiti was the main tourist attraction of the Caribbean. The noted visitors of the island included celebrities like Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Elizabeth Taylor and many others. Who first fell in love with the slow meringue of Choucoune? We will never know. Let's just say that in the 1950s, a composer named Norman Luboff heard the song and adapted the melody to new lyrics written by two songwriters, Alan and Marilyn Keith Bergman.
The lyrics were also inspired from Durand's song and Ti Zwezo (little bird in creole) became Yellow Bird. The song appeared on the Norman Luboff Choir's Calypso Holiday LP album in 1957, described on the cover as a "serenade of a lonesome lover to an equally lonesome bird."
The new version of the song gained quickly in popularity and became an easy listening favorite across the United States. Many artists recorded it on a dozen of singles and as the main title on albums by the Mills Brothers, Roger Williams and Lawrence Welk. Today, the song is performed by every steel band and is a favorite request of tourists on cruises or vacationing in the Caribbean islands, without knowing that it all started in 1883, in a Haitian jail. Next time, you hear Yellow Bird, think of Choucoune and Oswald and tell every one proudly that they are singing a Haitian song.
For those of our readers who sing or play a musical instrument, we are happy to provide the score and the lyrics of Choucoune with credit given to lyricist, composer and arranger.


Dinah Shore (who is Jewish) sings an Iranian Love Song (Iran used to be called Persia)

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