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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Gibb Sahib Chantwell: Southern Antillean Chantymen (14) RE: Chantwell: Southern Antillean Chantymen 23 Aug 17


Hi Phil, thanks for exploring this topic.

I personally am not concerned with sticking exclusively to the form "chantwell"; that was simply the form I encountered. I think any of the variations (e.g. chantuelle, chantrel) are equally relevant to the topic.

Much more interesting to me is that, according to one derivation, the term is originally feminine, yet at some point was adopted as unisex. That suggests the "original" context for the term was one where women were the song leaders, after which the gendered association was dropped as the term, by analogy, was applied to other song-leader scenarios.

Engaging some specific points below—some of my questions are merely rhetorical:

1. "if the Singer was a "she" (ie: kalinda fighting) it's chantre elle (chantuelle – chantwell.)"
Am I correct in inferring that song-leaders for kalinda were, at one point, always or mostly women? If so, when did this change?

As per my reasoning above, it seems possible that kalinda was the "original" context for "chantre elle > chantwell", after which the word may have been adopted without consideration of gender.

2. re: Cowley's comment, "In general, drum dances feature call and response singing, with the lead singer improvising verses to a common chorus. The chantwell can be male or female..."
This is comparable to the "Big Drum" genre of Carriacou, in which the lead singers are called chantwell.

"Ranging from sea shanties to communal self-help, such as gayap in Trinidad, manual labour gangs used call and response singing. .... Improvisation by a lead singer was usual in these collective songs with the chantwell's."

Not sure is there is a typo here. In any case, Cowley seems to be comparing the form and method of work-songs to performances by a chantwell, without actually saying that the lead singer of a work-song was called a chantwell. (?)
My (limited) experience in Carriacou was that people were content, in lieu of another term, to call the lead singer of chanties as chantwell, and that they didn't necessarily know the term "chantyman" which is used to the North.

Also, what Cowley is saying is exactly my original point -- that chanty-singing and the things a chantwell might do are performances in a similar cultural vein—potentially allowing for slippage of the term chantwell between the various related genres.

The LARGER point I am hoping to establish, which has bearing on the study of chanty history, is that the term "chantyman" is not necessarily derived from "chanty." That is, the song-term "chanty" does not give the singer-term. The singer-term "chantyman" -- by analogy to "chantwell"-- could be there as a broader term for lead singer. In the earliest known source, Nordhoff (in Mobile, AL) , the lead singer was "chantyman" and the songs were called the more expected "chant." It's some time before we get reference to "chanty," which I think may be a kind of back-derivation from chantyman.

Anyway, I found this definition in _Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago_ (2009):

chantwel, chantelle, chantrel, chantuel, chantwell... 1.... [obsolete] The leader of a work-song... 2. A singer at a KALINDA battle... 3. The musical or singing leader of a CARNIVAL BAND

Dictionary - scroll one page up


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