Thursday, October 18, 2012

South African tin whistle


 It was a Thursday evening while cleaning up the dishes that I  recently heard a recording on  KBCS 91.3 here in New York City.  I was  listening to the tin whistle present itself like I have never heard before.  It was Spokes Mashiyane, tin whistle player from South Africa playing a tune called, Kwela Kong.  Have a listen for yourself here:

  It is  street music, called Kwela. This word, Kwela is taken from the Zulu language, meaning to "get up."  So, you would "get up" to dance in the local bars, or "shebeens," which were similar to the American speakeasies during the prohibition era.  The origins of this style comes from "township music," a genre of music created by musicians residing in government housing during the Apartheid in South Africa during the 1950's.
     Kwela music has an instrumental leader: the tin whistle.  This was of real interest to me.  I never came across whistle music, except in Ireland, Scotland, and the  Celtic regions of Spain and France.  Apparently, whistles of all kinds were traditionally played in the northern areas of South Africa. The whistles were also economical and easy to travel with, but more importantly, they served as a strong solo instrument (and gee, isn't that the truth).  These traditional melodies thus translated into this Kwela style, with it's footwork heavy in American jazz swing forms supported by a three chord progression: C-F-C-G7.

(This clip above shows Willard Cele from the 1951 movie, The Magic Garden.)   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Polkas are great and user friendly

Today I leave you with a simple tune called, Britches Full of Stitches.  I challenge you note readers to skip the notes today and just listen, or " hum along" to the tune several times before picking up the whistle.  As with honing any skill, I promise that it does get easier to learn these tunes by ear.  You just need to dive in and start.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

dancing in Donegal

Mazurkas are a dance, in particular, a round dance done by four couples. This 3/4 dance form originated in the Mazovia region of Poland and arrived to Britain by the early 1800s. Now, you will hear this dance-form mostly in Donegal, where it is more commonly found being played at sessions amongst fiddle players.

 Just click here for the written version: Sonny's

Lastly, I wanted to share this video of the great Donegal fiddler, Vincent Campbell playing Sonny's  at a local session.  Lovely stuff indeed.