25 August 2009

Barge-haulers' shanty

The Song of the Volga Boatmen, by Paul Robeson (1938). This song is a genuine shanty of the Volga barge-haulers. An earlier 1922 recording, performed by Feodor Chaliapin in original Russian, is enchanting.
The original lyrics, in Russian and English both, can be found here. Please note that Robeson only in parts stayed true to the original.
Paul Robeson, in an interview, explained that "[t]he African people have an almost instinctive flair for music. This faculty was born in sorrow. I think that slavery, its anguish and separation - and all the longings it brought - gave it birth. The nearest to it is to be found in Russia, and you know about their serf sorrows. The Russian has the same rhythmic quality - but not the melodic beauty of the African. It is an emotional product, developed, I think, through suffering."

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