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Re: Desperately seeking David Eveans 1970s Western Folklore masterpiece

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  • Shlomo Pestcoe
    Mouth bow is all I got for Africa-American single stringed instruments. -- Paul -- Well, how about the diddley bow? This single-string instrument was once
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 19 2:11 AM
      "Mouth bow is all I got for Africa-American single stringed instruments." -- Paul

      -- Well, how about the diddley bow? This single-string instrument was once common in African American communities throughout the Deep South. Many great blues guitarists got their start on the diddley bow.

      The diddley bow was made by nailing a metal wire to the outside side wall of a house. Two small glass bottles-- typically,  Coricidin Medicine bottles  (the kind used for bottleneck guitar slides)-- were shoved in under the wire string at either end to serve as bridges. It was played by plucking the wire string and noting it by slidinganother glass bottle along the string. The whole house would serve as aresonator.

      Master bottleneck slide guitarist Big Joe Williams  (1903-1982) recalled  the diddley bows of his youth being built "on the wall with a strand of baling wire, two thread spools for bridges, and a half-pint whiskey bottle for a slider." As he saw it, the diddley bow was the original source of the bottleneck slide guitar style.

      I've also seen portable versions of the diddley bow with a wooden board or box body. Renowned contemporary bottleneck guitarist Scott Ainslie made his as a single-string "cigar box" guitar.

      The diddly bow definitely has Central African antecedents. This has been documented by Gerhard Kubik , a prominent German ethnomusicologist who has been researching African and African Diasporic-- especially the blues-- since the late 1950s. In his crucial book Africa and the Blues  (1999)-- a "must read" for anyone interested in the relationship of African American music to its African roots-- Kubik states:

      �In the Deep South, the knowledge of musical bows and other one-stringed instruments of African background has survived among African Americans to this day, especially among children and particularly in communities in Mississippi whose progenitors created the blues....  One type , sometimes called a 'diddley bow',  'bo diddley', 'jitterbug',  'unitar' or 'one-string guitar', among other terms, is based on the remembrance and development of central and west-central African monochord zithers.  Like many other African traditions and culture traits, the idea of the monochord zither seems to have smoldered on through the nineteenth century in an underground existence, perpetuated especially by children, and in the rare cases in which the instrument was perhaps observed by outsiders, it was not consider even worthy of report. Only when systematic research of the southern cultures began in the 1930s, does it become documented through photographs, and it was not recorded until the 1950s...."

      "Africa, too, these instruments have been overlooked or not found worth reporting. For this reason we have notable gaps in our African distribution map. Monochord zithers are common in a relatively compact region of Africa including southeastern Nigeria, southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of Congo, and the southwestern tip of the Central African Republic.... African monochord zithers, which serve as a children's pastime, are made of a length of raffia leaf stem, from which a thin strip of the hard epidermis is peeled off to form the string. They are played mostly by two (male) youngsters, one striking the string with two sticks, the other altering its pitch by stopping the string with a knife, bottle, or other object, often sliding along it. From the Gu of the Dahomeyan coast it was reported that the monochord zither was used in games of hide-and-seek, the players directing the candidate toward the hidden object by using alternative, speech-tone based melodic phrases (Rouget 1982: 310-11).�  

      Another important African American monochord instrument is the washtub bass. Also known as the gut-bucket bass, here again we can find clear African precedents for this instrument:

      "The ancestor of the washtub bass is found not only in West and Central Africa but also in Afro-American communities in the West Indies. The African device was an apparent development of the spring snare, used for capturing small game. In its more primitive form, the resulting instrument was an earth bow, constructed in the following manner.  A hole was dug in the ground next to  small green sapling, or a green stick was embedded in the ground next to the hole.  The hole was then covered with a bark or hide membrane, which was pegged down at the edges or held in place by stones. The sapling was bent over the hole and fastened by a cord to the center of the membrane covering. The  taut cord was played by rubbing, plucking, and tapping, and a second player sometimes beat a rhythm on the membrane with sticks. A portable variant used a wooden box instead of a hole in the ground for a resonating chamber.  Both of these forms have survived in Haiti, with pails or large tins substituting for the wooden box." 

      -- Harold Courlander, Negro Folk Music, U.S.A.  (1963)

      The early African instrument Courlander describes as an earth bow is also referred as a ground harp or ground bow. An example would be the tekpede of the Dan people of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

      The Caribbean survival of the African earth bow is the kimbumba. In Cuba, the kimbumba earth bow is also called tumbandera, while in Trinidad its known as tingotalango.

      The ancient ground bow, taken together with the upright bass used in jazz, inspired the creation of a modern African instrument, the babatoni. A found-object instrument that parallels the African American washtub bass, the southern African babatoni is made of a plywood tea chest rather than a metal washtub.  It first appeared in South Africa in the 1950s, developed to provide "the bottom" for  the tin whistle-driven pop music form known as kwela (also called pennywhistle jive , township jive, etc.).

      Cheers,

      Shlomo




      --- In banjoroots@yahoogroups.com, "Paul Sedgwick" <p_sedgwick@...> wrote:
      >
      > Tony,
      > Do they have to be recognized Afro-American instruments; or are African
      > one-stringed instruments allowed as well? Mouth bow is all I got for
      > Africa-American single stringed instruments.
      > Paul
      >
      >
      > >From: "Tony" blackbanjotony@...
      > >Reply-To: banjoroots@yahoogroups.com
      > >To: banjoroots@yahoogroups.com
      > >Subject: [banjoroots] Desperately seeking David Eveans 1970s Western
      > >Folklore masterpiece
      > >Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 01:57:50 -0000
      > >
      > >Desperately trying to get my hands on \\
      > >_Afro-American One-Stringed Instruments_
      > >David Evans
      > >_Western Folklore_ Vol. 29, No. 4 (Oct., 1970), pp. 229-245
      > >doi:10.2307/1499045
      > >This article consists of 19 page(s). Afro-American One-Stringed
      > >Instruments
      > >David Evans
      > >Western Folklore, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Oct., 1970), pp. 229-245
      > >doi:10.2307/1499045
      > >
      > >available for the Jstor affiliated here. http://links.jstor.org/sici?
      > >sici=0043-373X(197010)29%3A4%3C229%3AAOI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Y
      > >
      > > Working on tight deadline for a book.
      > >
      > >
      > >Tony
      > >
      > >
      >
      > _________________________________________________________________
      > Like puzzles? Play free games & earn great prizes. Play Clink now.
      > http://club.live.com/clink.aspx?icid=clink_hotmailtextlink2
      >
    • Brittles@aol.com
      ... Hi Shlomo/Tony- This sounds a lot like a cornstalk fiddle -- in which external strands of the stalk fibers are lifted, and a small twig inserted at
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 19 5:19 AM

        In a message dated 6/19/07 5:13:02 AM, spestcoe@... writes:


        <<...African monochord zithers, which serve as a children's pastime, are made of a length of raffia leaf stem, from which a thin strip of the hard epidermis is peeled off to form the string...>>



        Hi Shlomo/Tony-

        This sounds a lot like a "cornstalk fiddle" --  in which external strands of the stalk fibers are lifted, and a small twig inserted at each end, to hold them away from the body of the stalk.

        Do a quick Google of "cornstalk fiddle" -- and there are a couple useful sites, including another JSTOR
        article:

             http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-8715(196407%2F09)77%3A305%3C262%3ATCF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-P

        The Cornstalk Fiddle
        Roger Welsch
        The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 77, No. 305 (Jul. - Sep., 1964), pp. 262-263
        doi:10.2307/537751
        This article consists of 2 page(s).



        Best-
        Ed Britt







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