Musical Passage
September 19, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

We invite you to listen in on a musical gathering that took place in Jamaica in 1688. These three songs, 'Angola', 'Papa' and 'Koromanti', performed at a festival by enslaved African musicians and copied in musical notation by a Mr Baptiste, are the first transcription of African music in the Caribbean, and, indeed, probably in the Americas. Thanks to this remarkable artifact, we can listen to traces of music performed long ago and begin to imagine what it meant for the people who created it.
posted by verstegan (8 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is great. Thanks for sharing it. Interesting to hear the music interpreted with and without percussion.
posted by larrybob at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2016


Incredibly good; I could listen to Papa1 and Papa2 for hours.
posted by jamjam at 1:29 PM on September 19, 2016


I haven't had time to properly digest this yet, but thank you. Of possible relevant interest is a tune called Pompey Ran Away which was collected in James Aird's 1782 A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish, and Foreign Airs and described as "A Negroe Jig."

While presented in that book as a fiddle or fife tune, it's been adopted by 19th century banjo enthusiasts as a possible "missing link" tune because it maps so completely naturally to the banjo fingerboard and has such a strong Caribbean/African feel to it - particularly with percussion. Here's Joe Ayers and Mark Weems performing Pompey Ran Away on gourd banjo and drum.
posted by usonian at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I can't imagine the combination of natural skill and talent it would take to listen to a performance of improvisational music at a festival and transcribe it in written notation with any level of success. I salute Mr Baptiste's dedication and the work of those today who have breathed new life into this remarkable document.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:41 PM on September 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thanks, verstegan.
posted by tangerine at 1:01 AM on September 20, 2016


Fantastic. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 6:07 AM on September 20, 2016


I can't imagine the combination of natural skill and talent it would take to listen to a performance of improvisational music at a festival and transcribe it in written notation with any level of success

And, indeed, who knows how successful Baptiste was?
posted by kenko at 10:06 PM on October 1, 2016


I missed this when it was posted but just saw it in the sidebar. Wow, this is really neat. Even if the notation wasn't perfectly accurate (and it amazes me that anyone could notate music during a live performance), it is still a connection to people and art that weren't considered worth making part of written history.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:24 PM on October 8, 2016


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