Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Ain't Got Long: The Real Bahamas

What is REAL music?  For my money it is music that comes straight from the inner part of the human soul where there is no self-consciousness, only joy.  It comes through the heart and tumbles out of the mouth and doesn’t even need instruments.   You hear it in religious chants, work songs, tribal celebrations and even when the drunks stumble home early in the morning. In India I heard it in the voice of the blind beggars who sang for alms.

It has nothing to do with polish or production. Only soul and closed eyes are required. The album we highlight tonight is about as close as you can get to the bone without killing the singer. It is pure music, unadulterated, simple and very complex and absolutely non-negotiable. Though it is sung by ‘uneducated’ probably, barely literate people who are unafraid to laugh, cough, growl and shout as they sing the music they make sounds as if it came out of the very first volcano on earth. It is hot, cutting and unrelenting. So uplifting and moving too.

It is a collection of gospel ditties, sea shanties and parables from the Bahamas sung by itinerant preachers, pick up guitarists and very powerful speakers of truth.  Many of the songs are sung by various members of the Pinder family about which I was able to find this lovely portrait.

The Pinder Family lived in the Bahamas and were descended if not in blood then certainly in spirit from a long line of Island musicians.
Joseph Spence

Joseph Spence played the guitar and sang, if you can call it that. It's hard to say exactly what he did.
He grunted.
He snorted.
He made low guttural noises, and then would suddenly break into a demented scat.
He would be singing along and his English would descend into complete nonsensical gibberish.
Sometimes he almost sounded like Popeye. But whatever it was he was doing*, you could tell he meant business.
They say he looked like he was going into a trance when he played. The man was almost certainly filled with the Spirit.
And his guitar playing was phenomenal.
Sometimes even to this day while listening to him I wonder if my ears might be playing tricks on me.
Paired along with his voice, his guitar playing could weave incredibly complex rhythms and produce some of the most intriguing music I've ever heard to this day. His lackadaisical and carefree (almost irreverent) style is guaranteed to lighten any mood, and to hear his laugh always puts a smile on my face. Most people unfortunately would dismiss this sort of music offhand, if not because it seemed strange and exotic (and perhaps even frightening!), then because much of it was gospel. But any musician, or anybody with an ear for good music for that matter should immediately recognize its value.

*Actually, the Bahamians refer to this style of singing as "rhyming", and it could almost be considered a precursor to modern rap.

The Pinder family often accompanied Spence, and together they were nothing short of a veritable music machine. Edith sang in a powerfully deep and throaty tenor that reminds me of a Jamaican reggae singer. Her husband Raymond provided a deep and rich bass, while their daughter Geneva warbled along in a flighty treble. You just have to hear them to understand, but I'm telling you it's unbelievable stuff. They sang with an incredible intensity that at times can be almost overwhelming to listen to. The music is simple, but the complexities are astounding. It's truly a wonder to behold. If you've ever heard The Incredible String Band or The Grateful Dead performing their versions of "I Bid You Goodnight" then you've heard their tribute to the Pinder Family. These groups heard the song on an album called The Real Bahamas, a 1965 Nonesuch Records release which has since been re-released. Other musicians who claim Joseph Spence as an influence include Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, both of whom had the pleasurey to meet and play with him before his death in 1984. (http://spence.bryandeno.net/)

This is where the blues came from. Where almost every form of music in America came from. This could be 1760 rather than 1960.  Phenomenal!

            Track Listing.
            01 We'll Understand It Better By And By
02 Sheep Know When Thy Shepherd Calling
03 I Told You People Judgement Coming
04 Don't Take Everybody To Be Your Friend
05 Sailboat Malarkey
06 Up In The Heaven Shouting
07 Won't That Be A Happy Time
08 Out On The Rolling Sea
09 I Am So Glad
10 Come For Your Dinner
11 God Locked The Lion's Jaw
12 Great Dream From Heaven
13 My Lord Help Me To Pray
14 Numberless As The Sands On The Seashore
15 I Ain't Got Long
16 I Bid You Goodnight
17 Mary And Joseph
18 Peter, You Need The Lord
19 Jesus Promised Me A Home Over There
20 Troublesome Water
21 Kneeling Down Inside The Gate
22 Jesus Your Name So Sweet
23 Take Me Over The Tide
24 When The Leaves Turn Red
25 That Glad Reunion Day
26 The Great Coronation
27 The Captain Go Ashore
28 Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold God's Body Down


LolaRadio said...

i could not agree with you more.
Lucky i am to 'own' the 2 vinyl real Bahama disks, but this rip is very welcome

Anonymous said...

Your words reflect my thoughts exactly! I'm listening to the first track now and there is so much soul there. It's like being taken back to the source. A reminder of what music was before we got caught up with recording studios and microphone set ups.
On track 3 now as I write. This is really a joy to listen.
Thank you!

ajnabi said...

Mofonk, glad you're connecting to the 'sound' of the soul. it is amazing stuff.

iggy said...

Having a wonderful time sneaking through your garden finding delicious veggies. Thanks so much.


MarviniusMartinium said...

the first track alone is worth a hundred grammy awards....how much heritage is there in those few minutes of this song...priceless...by the way Abyssinian choir is deleted by mf.....resurrection required oh magnanimous one....

ajnabi said...

Marvinius, thank you for your praise and appreciation of the music on WD. I'm in India and only intermittently in webland so will have to wait to check out the problems with Abysissian Baptist choir. Sorry.

MarviniusMartinium said...

oh to be in India, been meaning to get there but the fear of colic is a great and powerful deterrent...