Sunday, 26 June 2011

VA - Funeral Songs - Dead Man Blues

"We weep when a child is born into this world.
We sing and dance when the good Lord takes someone home." - Mourmer at a Jazz Funeral

The traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral is as much a part of New Orleans culture as is traditonal jazz itself. If could almost be said, the jazz grew out of the funeral music of the New Orleans of the late nineteenth century. The roots of the tradition are believed to be hundreds of years old, and to be connected to the culture of the people who occupy the are of West Africa that is now called Benin and Nigeria; this region of Africa was known as the "Slave Coast" to the Europeans of the seventeenth century. The captured people of that area took with them to the New World a sophisticated social structure that included two aspects important to the traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral. Firstly, societies, often secret, were formed to ensure that their members received a proper burial at the time of death, and secondly, a funeral was seen as a major celebration. With the "Christianisation" of the African-Americans that occured over the ensuing centuries and with the growth of the Baptist and Methodist Churches in particualr, another factor came into play that surely strenghtened this notion of a funeral as a celebration. This was the commonly held belief that a birth, an arrival in the secualr world, was a time for tears, and a death, an end to earthly sorrows, was a time for rejoicing.

So, it would be unusual for a New Orleans inhabitant not to be a member of some organisation or other. On their death, that individuals would be accompanied to their final resting-place by the brass band of the society of which he or she was a member. The traditional New Orleans Funeral had two stages accompanied by music. The first was a procession of mourners journeying slowly to the cemetery accompanied by a brass band playing a slow, mournful dirge or spiritual. This was followed after the burial itself by a lively return from the cemetery to the sound of rousing music. And what better rosing music could there be than that played by a couple of "hot" jazz musicians?

Wonderful compilation with songs by Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Jelly roll Morton, Clarence Williams, the Eureka Brass Band and many more:

Funeral Songs - Dead Man Blues CD 1
Funeral Songs - Dead Man Blues CD 2

2 comments:

  1. hi from Cy
    I recall seeing a New Orleans band playing at a Jazz Festival in Edinburgh....the lights went out and in they marched and started up music to be found in these cds....I was transfixed not just by the white gloves, the bowler hat....the ages of the players but the simple beauty and majesty of the music....we are here for such a short time....and music like this reminds us to spend that time focussing in on the real thing not the plastic....
    thanks for posting these life affirming tunes
    Cy at Pck

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  2. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts with us. Greetings!

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