restricted access 11. The 12-Bar Blues Form in South African kwela and Its Reinterpretation
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II - TheIZ-Bar Blues Form in South African kwtb and Its Reinterpretation South Africa was not a slave-raiding area for the New World labor market, and South African musical traditions therefore did not influence New World music before mid-twentieth-century contacts and exchanges (e.g., Louis Armstrong's adaptation of August Musurugwa's "Skokiaan" theme; the recording of "Wimoweh " by the Weavers in 1951 [Decca 27928]; the emigration to the United States of South African singers and instrumentalists such as Miriam Makeba, Dollar Brand, and others; and the touring of wbaqanga groups since Paul Simon's Graceland album—cf. Erlmann 1991). Influence in the other direction, however, had occurred much earlier. U.S. spiritual and harmony singing becameknown in South Africa in the last few years of the nineteenth century through the activities of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, through touring American minstrel groups (Coplan 1985: 39), and later the appearance of the Virginia Jubilee Singers in Cape Town and other places. All this influenced composers such as Reuben Tholakele Caluza, Alfred Assegai Kumalo, and many others (cf. Rycroft 1957, 1967, 1977, 1991 for a thorough assessment of the various Isizululanguage and other vocal styles). To this day, in South Africa and neighboring territories with a South-Africa-oriented educational system, late nineteenth-century Negro spirituals and some of their South African derivatives are standard teaching repertoire in many schools. Even in relatively remote areas of southern Africa, as on European-owned farms in Namibia, we recorded as recently as 1991 workers' choirs that had incorporated spirituals in their repertoires. One of these choirs, operating at the Ibenstein farm and carpet factory southeast of Windhoek, under the directorship of Frank Gebhardt, called itself The Weavers . Most certainly they had picked their name not only from their occupation 161 but also from the name of the earlier American group, whose hit "Wimoweh" (itself inspired by mbube music) enjoyed wide distribution in South Africa. Their repertoire, however, was older. In the sample recorded they sing exclusively spirituals and gospel songs in English (cf. "Steal Away," "I'm Gonna Lay Down My Burdens," etc., rec. orig. tape no. 91/9, items 8-n, 25 October 1991, Malamusi /Kubik). The idea of teaching spirituals to "native" South Africans was originally promoted by the churches. It was rooted in the missionaries' belief in "innate" analogies between local and African-American choir traditions due to "race," and the assumption that Africans would understand Negro spirituals better than European hymns because both they and the African Americanswere "black." While biologically reductionist explanations of similarities in art—for instance , between U.S. Americanspirituals, gospel choirs, and South African choir music (isicathamiya, makwaya, etc.—cf. Erlmann 1994)—are not worth scientific attention, the similarities must be accounted for. Most twentieth-century South African innovations in music were stimulated by processes of diffusion from the Americas, and they unfolded their unmistakable characteristics as soon as the American styles had been processed on the basis of local musical traditions and South African languages. In the field of dance-band music, Christopher Ballantine (1993) vividly describes this interaction from the 1920$ to the 1940$. Almost invariably,urbanized South Africans tried to emulateAfrican-American musical fashions of the day but soon reacted by reinterpreting them heavily. During the 19205 and 19305, the township dance music called marabi was the local proletarian undercurrent to the fashionable American dance-band music adopted earlier by the African bourgeoisie. Gradually, marabi concepts such as cyclic short forms (in contrast to strophic or chorus forms), inherited from older South African music, but with their root progressions "brushed up" by the use of chords from Western music, penetrated "concert and dance" music (Ballantine 1993: ii ff.). Peter Clayton (1959) and later Atta Annan Mensah (1971-72) talked about the "round trip" of jazz and its "homecoming." "Like a long absent virile traveler," wrote Mensah (1971-72: 124), "jazz returns to Africa as a full-grown art form nourished and revitalized, with new elements and new idiomatic expressions . In a sense, therefore, one may speak of the coming of jazz to Africa as a round trip." Return to Africa 162 The blues were one kind of African-American music that "returned" to Africa as part of a package of American musical traditions of the 19405 that had assimilated some blues elements. Not all were necessarily "virile." They included in particular the singing styles of Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Home, and Billie Holiday , who served as models to emerging South...


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