Africa and the Blues

Africa and the Blues

Africa and the Blues

Africa and the Blues

Excerpt

As I am writing about the blues after a thirty-seven-year interval—the last time I had specifically touched the subject was in 1961—this book is unfolding before my eyes as if I were in a state of trance. Obviously, I haven't been sitting in idleness during the last three decades. Besides covering much of sub-Saharan Africa in field research and writing, I have also written much about the extensions of regional African cultures in the New World, notably in Brazil, and (in return) on the impact of jazz and other forms of African-American music in southern Africa. Since 1974 I have been a performer on clarinet and guitar in Donald Kachamba's Kwela Band from Malaŵi, playing a kind of music that is, at least in part, a jazz offspring.

In 1977 I visited American blues researcher David Evans in California and spent several days listening to historical blues recordings and material from his recent fieldwork in Mississippi and providing commentary from an Africanist perspective. In 1981 I paid him a second visit in Memphis, where he had settled; and together we visited a number of blues performers there and in northern Mississippi. Another trip followed in 1990, and in 1993 I revisited Mississippi as part of a remarkable research team that included the oral literature researcher Moya Aliya Malamusi from Malaŵi, Evan's wife Marice, music researcher Richard Graham, and myself. We recorded and videotaped storytelling by John Milton Alexander at Victoria about the trickster Rabbit, and we also visited Glen Faulkner near Senatobia, who played for us his “one-stringed guitar, ” both his older acoustic model and his more recent model with electric amplification. Other journeys within the United States in recent years, for lectures, research, and visits, have brought me to the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro; the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana . . .

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