Monday, June 05, 2006

Savannah Syncopators

A record compiled by Paul Oliver from field recordings in Africa and the southern states of America to show the links between the two. There is also a book of the same name published by Studio Vista back in 1970 when this was all put together. Some wonderful tracks here including Robert Johnson, Lonnie Coleman, Butch cage and Willie Thomas amongst others. I have chosen three tracks that seem to run togther well. Heres what the sleevenotes say about them-

"North of the rain forest is a belt of savannah region which changes from woodland to parkland, to grassland, to steppe and semi-desert, as one moves further north toward the Sahara. The "ring dance" performed at night by Mamprusi tribesmen playing whistles and shaking rattles on their ankles and wrists with, in the centre of the ring, a drummer beating a huge calabash drum, is representative of music that can be heard on the edge of the savannah. Drumming is to be heard throughout West Africa but in the savannah their is no heavy wood for the big log drums of the rain forest. Ring dances have been long identified with Negro functions in America, while the rhythyms of the Como Drum Band behind Napoleon Strickland's fife on "Oh, Baby" seem to suggest a link with Mamprusi music. But it also may indicate the dacay of the military drum-and-fife traditions of the post-war years.
The closest part of Africa to North America is the Senegal- Gambia coast. In Senegal. the orchestra of a regional chief, Bour Fode Diouf, recored a war chant, "Wong", to the rythyms of drums slung from their shoulders, the group of men singing in high, strained voices. George Coleman "Bongo Joe", as he calls himself - is a solo perfomer in the streets of Galveston and San Antonio ,Texas, but he sings his blues "Eloise" in a voice that is not dissimilar, and accompanies himself on a set of drums made from oil drums."

The Como Drum Band - Oh Baby

Orch. of Bour Fode Diouf - Wong

Bongo Joe - Eloise

These You Send It files are available for seven days or until exhausted.


splogman said...

Wonderfull! Thank you for these, Michael

Artyblartfast said...

Excellent offerings indeed. Thanks!
I'd had so little luck in finding any mention of Bongo Joe on the interweb I was beginning to think I'll dreamt his existence.

michael said...

Glad these hit the spot. Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

Cocaine Jesus said...

marvelous michael, marvelous. a rare gem find indeed.

Lester Squared said...

Bongo Joe (George Coleman) had an album released on Arhoolie of music recorded in 1968. He used hammer handles to strike the drums!

Larry Epke said...

A bit more on Bongo Joe:

His drum was actually an inverted oil barrel. It wasn't tuned like Carribean steel drums - he just wacked away while rapping (before rapping was known).

Artyblartfast said...

A chum of mine had that Arhoolie album which is how I got to hear him. I've never seen another copy though.

Lester Squared said...

More Bongo Joe...

Larry Epke was complete right about the inverted oil drums & rapping style...& there's also a lot of whistling on the album...on songs like "I Wish I Knew How To Sing" & "Innocent Doggy".

I do have the LP somewhere, but haven't seen it for a while. Because mine are (sort of) categorised, I can't remember where I put it!