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#2913: the Alan Lomax 1937 Haitian Recordings (fwd)

From: David x Young <Frelgo@interport.net>

I hung out with Alan Lomax circa 1958 in Truro, Mass. through his friend the
late PHANTOM author Lee Falk, and we had some good conversations about Jelly
Roll Morton and Haiti, etc, though at that time he had become more interested
in psychiatry. One tale I loved was when he was field recording in Haiti in
the thirties. He did not understand the language too well at the time. He went
to record a combite working in a valley, so positioned himself at first at the
top of the hill, so as not to disturb the workers. Each day he would gradually
get closer to the combite to the point   where he actually was able to record.
He discovered their song was

"When is that white man going to get down from the hill?"

David X Young

Robert Corbett wrote:

> From: Gage Averill <gage.averill@nyu.edu>
> I wanted to update the list on a project that should result in the
> appearance of 10 or more CDs of music recorded in Haiti in 1937!
> Some of you may have heard of American folklorist Alan Lomax, an early
> "song collector" who was instrumental in the depression-era recordings of
> American music, many albums of which were issued on the Folkways label.  He
> "discovered" performers such as Ledbelly and Woody Guthrie and was
> instrumental in launching the "folk revival" in the States.  He also
> travelled the world extensively with his portable recording device.
> Few people knew of his extensive recordings from Haiti in 1937 (myself
> included!).  But I have been working with the Library of Congress, the Alan
> Lomax Archives, and Rounder Records to add material from this collection to
> the major multi-year release of Lomax recordings (over 100 CDs will be
> released on Rounder Records overall  for the Alan Lomax Collection).  The
> Haiti material will be called "The 1937 Haitian Recordings."  He also made
> a small movie during his two months in the country and shot many
> photographs.
> I have already spoken with a few colleagues who will be helping me with
> this and expect to contact some more.  I have just spent a week at the
> Library of Congress transferring some of the collection from aluminum discs
> to DAT and can report that there are simply incredible things on the
> recordings.  For instance:
> 1) lots of carnival maskawon, mardigras bands, and "orthophonic" bands,
> 2) early meringue ensembles and string bands (some were playing tributes to
> Pres. Vincent and Trujillo because Trujillo was making a state visit during
> the recording period).
> 3) fascinating old French "romance" style ballads (in Renaissance modes!)
> recorded in the countryside
> 4) Juba (djouba) sosyete performances, malimbula ensembles (so called
> "thumb piano" groups), banda dances
> 5) cantiques from Easter Vodou services
> 6) stories and song-stories
> 7) chariopye and rara
> 8) children's and game songs
> 9) konbit work songs
> 10) manje lwa and many other seremoni vodou
> 11) and the most amazing thing I ever heard in Haiti, a high school men's
> vocal group that performed scatted versions (with improvisation) of vodou
> drumming and rara vaksin ensembles!! (this sounds very much like the
> contemporary Cuban group Vocal Sampling, if you know of them...or perhaps
> like a group of Bobby McFerrins!)
> In any case, lots of treasures are buried in the over 1,500 recordings.
> This should provide a wonderful baseline for comparisons with later
> recordings and I hope we can pay homage to the great musical ancestors,
> none of whom I expect are with us any longer.  Eventually, I hope to locate
> descendents of the performers and repatriate some of the sound recordings
> (and any proceeds that accrue from them).  We will be releasing CDs from
> the collection at a rate of 2 or 3 per year for some years, so stay tuned.
> If anyone on the list knows anything about Lomax's recording trips, please
> let me know.  He was, of course, a controversial figure, not universally
> loved by those who worked with him, and there were many ethical questions
> that hovered around his fieldwork methods and interpersonal relationship.
> However, he left an amazing recroded legacy.
> Gage Averill
> Department of Music
> New York University
> 24 Waverly Pl., Rm. 268
> New York, NY 10003-6789
> (212) 998-8302 (bus)
> (212) 995-4147 (fax)
> Home: 82 Puritan Drive
> Port Chester, NY 10573
> (914) 939-4193 (home)
> e-mail: gage.averill@nyu.edu
> Home page for _A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey:
> http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/13233.ctl
> NYU Music Department: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/music/