The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #6645   Message #1016396
Posted By: Barbara
10-Sep-03 - 02:12 PM
Thread Name: Lyr/Tune Add: I Bid You Goodnight
Subject: RE: I Bid You Goodnight
The Real Bahamas album was collected in June 1965, and from the unattributed liner notes:
Most of the major Bahama Islands lie no further than 200 miles off the Florida coast. The United States has had a greater influence on the history and develpment of this British colony than did the Spanish speaking Caribbean islands to its south and east. This is also true in the case of the music present in this album -- the religious vocal music of "rhyming spirituals" and "ant'ems".

The song and the style heard here are the fruit of alternate periods of contact with and isolation from the US mainland. The Bahama colony was established at about the same time as the Carolina colony: about 1670. Negroes [sic] were imported from Africa as slaves -- Ibos, Ijos, Yorubas, Mandingoes, Ashantis -- to both places, as well as to other British settlements in the New World. Tribal identity quickly vanished in the mainland colonies, but the Negro's awareness of his particular African heritage remained intact in many of the European colonized islands. This was so in the Bahamas where the surrounding waters provided temporary insulation against "corrupting" outside influences; there is still an awareness of tribal distinction in some parts of the Bahamas...Here the very old songs were preseved (and are in fact still sung), and a distinctly Bahaman style of singing developed simultaneously with the...American Negro spiritual.

The "rhyming spiritual" is the distinctive Bahaman type of religious song. "Rhyming" simply means pronoucing rhymes against a melodic background of voices. The rhymer -- the lead singer -- sings a memorized or improvised rhythmic narrative part that continues to build in intensity while the other singers repeat a chorus behind him -- that is, they sing the song. Traditionally, the song contains some specific Biblical reference; the rhyming is an emotional musical exposition of the pertinent Bilbical story -- or it is in some manner related to the subject matter of the song. The rhyming style reached its greatest heights during the sponge fishing in the 1930s.

There is a West African tradition of singing sermons which has been carried on, and perhaps even improved upon, in the New World. All through the American South and in the Northern Negro ghettoes, church services are conducted by preachers who bring their congregations to the point of hysteria by the gradual transition during the sermon from speech to song -- song of trememdous intensity and power. Rhyming seems to be the combination of the traditions of singing sermons and African drum and bell rhythms. The basic rhythmic pattern in rhyming is one that is found often in contemporary West African intrumental music, carried by the drums or tongueless bell -- a rhythm that has been popularized in America and recently in England, as the "Bo Diddly Beat." While there is some drumming in the Bahamas (practiced most probably by the descendants of those Negroes who were brought directly to the Bahamas from Africa), it had been forbidden in the mainland colonies and had to go underground so that the Negroes who moved to the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands after the Civil War developed a song accompaniment of intricate handclapping to make up for for the lost drums and bells. In the Bahamas, where there is little hand-clapping, the singing sermon became the means for utilizing this and other rhythms. Other features of African music, such as the call-and-response vocal pattern, all found their way into Bahaman song.

Some of the rhyming heard in this record really consists of a collection of phrases which the singer transfers from song to song, regardless of the appropriateness of reference. This is explained by the fact that the singing of this kind of spiritual is less an intellectual experience than a ver powerful emotional -- even physical -- one. Rhyming, at its best, is the ultimate in musical catharsis.