The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469 Message #3294348
Posted By: Vic Smith
22-Jan-12 - 07:29 AM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
I went to see a concert by the Carolina Chocolate Drops when they did their first British tour two or three years ago. They were superb. Most of their material came from the Medicine Show hokum tradition of the songs and tunes that both black and white performers played in these shows, but they varied their repertoire and included a couple of unaccompanied ballads from the Child canon that had been sung in the southern states black tradition - bloody good they were too.
Then Rhiannon Giddens sung a song in Gaelic which she did not say much about. I was gob-smacked. At the interval, I made a beeline for a Gaelic-speaking fiddle-playing friend of mine who was in the audience. What was her Gaelic pronunciation and accent like, I wanted to know. "Pretty damned good!" was Stephen's somewhat startled reply.
At the end of the concert Rhiannon was on merchandise and I managed to ask her how that song had come to the Carolinas. Apparently there was a cluster of plantations that were owned and worked by Gaelic speaking families so, of course, the slaves learned that language and absorbed that culture. After liberation the slave families clung to Gaelic for a while and early song collectors collected some Gaelic songs and stories from the black population.
This sounded so unlikely to me that I came home and did an internet search and found that there were masses of examples of Gaelic-speaking amongst blacks in the southern USA. My favourite reference came from http://www.ogmios.org/ogmios_files/303.htm where it mentions my favourite be-bop trumpeter:-
The Irish and Scots-Gaelic word bunkum (buanchumadh) is derived by all Anglo-American dictionaries from a shaggy-dog tale. As the story goes, during the 16th American Congress, a long-winded congressman from Buncombe County, North Carolina, spoke endlessly on a particular bill, while other members impatiently waited to vote. From then on, as the etymological bunkum goes, to talk "bunkum" meant to speak as endlessly as that long-forgotten politician from Buncombe County. (See: Bartlett, American Dictionary.)
Ironically the old congressman from Buncombe County may have been speaking Gaelic buanchumadh (pron. buan'cumah, a long made-up story) after all. North Carolina had an historic Scots-Gaelic and Irish-speaking population up until the beginning of the 20th century. The jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie's family were African-American Gaelic speakers from North Carolina and Alabama. So Buncombe County may have been the origin of bunkum as buanchumadh, (pron. buan-cumah, "a shaggy dog tale") after all.
"Under an enormous image of (Dizzy) Gillespie beamed on to a wall at Sprague (Hall), Yale music professor Willie Ruff salutes his old friend and explains to the audience how this musical journey began. "Dizzy used to tell me tales of how the blacks near his home in Alabama and in the Carolinas had once spoken exclusively in Scots Gaelic. He spoke of his love for Scotland....." (The Scotsman newspaper, Sept. 25, 2005.
So the Gaels were amongst the oppressors as well as the oppressed.