Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Manifesto and Praise Songs: Some recordings for you to listen to.

Malian kora player and Grammy nominee Mamadou Diabate
We are going to be writing some poems in class today to get an idea of where poems come from; namely, the oral tradition.

We will begin with griots. For thousands of years, the job of the African griot has been to keep the tradition and history of their tribe or family alive through poetry. The griot's works--called toasts, boasts, and praise songs--were never written down. The griot recites song-poems to an audience, and in turn passes them down to others in the griot's family. The death of the griot, music producer Quincy Jones once wrote, is like a "library full of stories burning down."

There's direct connections between this oral storytelling to rap and hip-hop culture. Snapping, the art of verbal put-downs, and tall tales all fed into and nourish the dawn of rap and hip hop culture.

In part because rap is such a part of our popular culture, I think it's fruitful we look at some of these rap songs within this frameword of oral tradition, poetry in performance, and the griot-poet storyteller.

What follows are rap songs that fit directly under this idea of a praise song, of celebrating one's self or others; of, in effect, "representing" a group of people.

The lyrics to these songs are taken from a book called Rap: The Lyrics. You can find them in a PDF file here.

Praise Songs
The Beastie Boys, "Rhymin' and Stealin'" song*
De La Soul, "Me Myself & I" song
Eric B. & Rakim, "Follow The Leader" song
LL Cool J, "Rock The Bells" song
Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby" song

Kurtis Blow, "The Breaks" song
NWA, "F--- Tha Police" song*
Public Enemy, "Fight The Power" song*
Salt-n-Pepa, "I'll Take Your Man" song
Stetsasonic, "Talkin' All That Jazz" song
*some offensive language

Praise Song resources
"Keepers of History," an article about griots and griot scholar Tom Hale
Link to "Senegalese music in mp3"
A great article on Doudou N'Diaye Rose with some great information on oral traditions