Sunday, August 5, 2012

Michael S. Wright: 'Coleridge Taylor must have heard some authentic folk-dance material by African Americans'

Bamboula, Danse des Nègres, L.M. Gottschalk

Michael S. Wright writes:
To all!

A Bamboula is an African drum made with the skin stretched over both  the ends of a really thick stem of bamboo. OK, we all know that but I would suggest that it would make a fantastic research topic to determine WHERE the melody, rather than the rhythm came from as I have no doubt that the rhythm holds its roots in Africa.

I recall from a long time back that the dances based upon Voodoo culture have been described as Bamboula in Jamaica.

I am not going to go further into my speculation of where the melody originated!

Gottschalk’s 1845? version (almost takes a minimalistic approach in the first subject!) makes great use of the percussive nature of the piano. I recall discussing this with Dr Akin Euba quite a while back in a symposium on African Pianism. I feel the work is powerful and almost ahead of its time in the early romantic styles prevailing. The second subject of his work acknowledges this! One feels that the ‘rawness’ of the start of Gottschalk’s version could have only come from the Slaves performing on ‘high’ days. Coleridge Taylor’s rather more ‘Elgarian’ version Rhapsodic Dance, The Bamboula, Op. 75 of  1911 came during or following his trip to America. Nevertheless Coleridge-Taylor’s version is a brilliant development that I suspect came more from hearing the first subject in Gottschalk’s piano version. However, my guess too is that Coleridge Taylor must have heard some authentic folk-dance material by African Americans during this trip – probably more so than Dvorak during his stay!

Useful to all could be this link Bamboula Dance and Music - Then & Now in four parts - Edited by Azizi Powell

Good topic!


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