Brown Girl in the Ring: An Anthology of Song Games from the Eastern Caribbean

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Award-winning author Alan Lomax has dedicated his life to recording the music of cultures that are largely ignored, thereby preserving forever a magnificent musical heritage. In the words of Studs Terkel, Lomax is "one of America's most imaginative and daring musicologists."

Together with J. D. Elder, a former minister of culture of Trinidad and Tobago, and his sister Bess Lomax Hawes, Lomax collects here sixty-eight children's song games--the music, the lyrics, and the stories ...

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New York 1997 Hardcover First Edition Very Good+ in Very Good+ dust jacket 0679404538. 1.1 x 10.9 x 8.4 Inches; 220 pages; Large book, may require extra postage.

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New York, New York, U.S.A. 1997 Hard Cover First Edition Near Fine in Near Fine jacket 4to-over 9?"-12" tall. Bound in brown and ochre boards, stamped in gold with matching dust ... jacket...Includes music and lyrics for 68 songs. 221 pp. Read more Show Less

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1997 Hard cover Good. Text in Creoles and pidgins, French-based, English. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 256 p.

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New York. 1997 Cloth-Backed Boards. First Edition Near Fine in Near Fine jacket Book. 4to-over 9?-12" tall. Pp: xviii, 221. Illustrated with b&w photographs and maps. ... References, bibliography, discography. Quarter-bound in yellow top board and blue lower board, backed with maroon cloth, titled in gilt to the spine. Remainder dot to top edge. An anthology of children's singing games. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Award-winning author Alan Lomax has dedicated his life to recording the music of cultures that are largely ignored, thereby preserving forever a magnificent musical heritage. In the words of Studs Terkel, Lomax is "one of America's most imaginative and daring musicologists."

Together with J. D. Elder, a former minister of culture of Trinidad and Tobago, and his sister Bess Lomax Hawes, Lomax collects here sixty-eight children's song games--the music, the lyrics, and the stories behind them--from countries throughout the eastern Caribbean. Also included are personal essays that detail Lomax's experiences while recording the music, and his and Elder's encounters with the traditions upon which the songs are based.

Through words, music, and pictures, Brown Girl in the Ring captures a fascinating and essential part of life on the islands of Trinidad, Tobago, Dominica, St. Lucia, Anguilla, Nevis, and Carriacou. And as they have criss-crossed the world in the wake of the great migrations of the last four hundred years, these songs have taken on as well a life of their own, becoming a cherished part of many different cultural traditions.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679404538
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/2/1997
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.86 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Lomax is the author of, among other works, The Folk Songs of North America, Mister Jelly Roll, and The Land Where the Blues Began, for which he received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Beginning in the spring of 1997, Rounder Records will be releasing The Alan Lomax Collection, a library of one hundred CDs made from his landmark recordings.

J. D. Elder is the author of Song Games of Trinidad and Tobago.

Bess Lomax Hawes is the co-author of Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage.

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Read an Excerpt

Miss Mary Mack

Sung and played by a group of girls aged fourteen at El Socorro Central Government School, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

This classic rhyme has a marvelous swing. Thousands of English-speaking children in the Caribbean and elsewhere have clapped, swung, skipped, and danced to it as, no doubt, will thousands more to come.

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack,
All dressed in black, black, black,
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons,
Upon her back, back, back.
She asked her mother, mother, mother,
For fifty cents, cents, cents,
To see the elephant, elephant, elephant,
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.
It jumped so high, high, high,
It started to fly, fly, fly,
It was so funny, funny, funny,
Like bread and honey, honey, honey.
And that's the end, end, end,
Of Mary Mack, Mack, Mack,
All dressed in black, black, black.

The rhyme may continue, if desired, with the next line "With silver buttons," et seq., so that play need never end.

TO PLAY: Trinidadian children clap to this rhyme, facing partners, either as pairs or in parallel lines. Unlike those clapping games in which a steady clap is maintained throughout, Trinidadian children clap here only on the repeated words at the end of each line, using a series of three movements repeated in order. This pattern continues throughout the song.

1. On "Mack, Mack, Mack," partners clap hands straight across three times (right hand to partner's left; left to partner's right).
2. On "black, black, black," the same clap is used except that between each clap each player crosses her wrists on her own chest before reaching forward to clap again.
3. On "buttons, buttons, buttons," each slaps his own knees with both palms three times.

ABOUT THE SONG: The rhyme "Miss Mary Mack" is everywhere different and everywhere the same. From Great Britain to Georgia to Trinidad, this chant (used variously for jumping rope, marching, and clapping play) consists of a series of wandering couplets combined and recombined in hundreds of different patterns; the initial four lines are almost the only ones to remain unvaried. The universal popularity of this perfect song and its endless variations provide the most convincing possible evidence of the ineradicable strength, the sheer inevitability, of oral tradition.

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