Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vagabonds, late '40s

OK, name THESE Virginia Vagabonds. Note the electrically-amplified mandolin, piano, and drum kit. Hint: this photo ( by Rip Payne) is displayed at a prominent business on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Bonus points: What event was it that they were performing for?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Daniel Womack, blind gospel singer, guitarist

This is a photo I took at the Ferrum Folklife Festival in 1976 or 1977 of my friend and mentor, Daniel Womack. Womack was a blind gospel singer and "Piedmont-style" guitarist who lived near the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia. When I met him, he had recently retired after working at the hotel as a dishwasher for many years. Kip Lornell introduced me to Daniel, and I spent many hours visiting him in his neat little apartment, listening to him play and sing and witness. I studied Daniel's repertoire and playing style, and wrote several undergrad papers on him. What a gentle gentleman he was! I still miss him. (For recordings of Daniel Womack, look up the Blue Ridge Institute's recordings of traditional music of Virginia.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Navrathri 92 Chattanooga

I've been digitizing some old fieldwork videos, and thought I'd share some. Here is some of a five-hour video shoot I did in Chattanooga in 1992, while folklorist at Allied Arts of Chattanooga. I started there in '91, I think, and some of the first fieldwork I did in Chattanooga was in the South Asian community.

I was invited to this celebration of Navrathri, at the UTC-Chattanooga gym, by a local bharathanatyam dance teacher. The event was sponsored by the Engineers Group of the local Gujarathi Samaj.

Navrathri 92 Chattanooga

In 1992, when I was still new as staff folklorist at Allied Arts of Chattanooga, some of my first fieldwork was in the South Asian community there. I was invited to this event, held at the UTC-Chattanooga gym, by a local Indian dance teacher. The garba was sponsored by the Engineers Group (a sub-set of the local Gujarathi Samaj, I think), and the singer was Rajesh Jyotishi of Atlanta.

Having just been studying the history of Appalachian dance while at my previous gig, as folklorist at the John C. Campbell Folk School, I was taken by the similarities of the garba to the Appalachian Big Circle. The band plays a medley of several songs over the course of one dance, like the "set" familiar to mountain dancer. The garba in this context is general participation, like most community dances---all ages, men and women, boys and girls. Everyone gets to dance with everyone else.

If you Google garba or garba ras, you're more likely to see a competition, with teams in uniform costume, or "folkloric" staged performances by uni-sex groups.

The garba ras (seen in the second and third videos) are a traditional stick dance, usually by teams of men, but in this case, open to the whole community. This has a parallel with the Morris Sword dance of Cotswold, England . . .