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Gibb Sahib Origins: Tapscott/yellow meal (13) RE: Origins: Tapscott/yellow meal 04 Dec 19


>So the next question is when, and how, did this song (Tapscot) become a work song /shantey, evolving into "Yaller Gals"?

The chanty is a different song, "Heave Away [my johnnies, my jolly boy, yellow girl]". It takes the typically Afro-American form. Here is my rendition of a form ascribed to Black firemen from Savannah, from the famous 1867 collection, _Slave Songs the United States_.
https://youtu.be/iJXXW94LLbI

I have theorized (in writing, in a presentation at the Mystic Music of the Sea Symposium) that songs of Black firemen, which they used to pump their handtubs, found ready applicability to work on the lever windlass (an invention that came to prominence on ships in the 1840s). "Heave Away my johnnies" (etc) is one such lever windlass song. But that's a different story...

The documented "yellow meal" way of singing "Heave Away," later to be seen as canonical (I believe, due to its placement in some of the "standard" collections of chanties) was perhaps a variation created by Euro-American sailormen. Being a chanty, "Heave Away" can be fitted with couplets, in the solo part, either improvised or coming from wherever one wishes (i.e. provided they fit the meter).

The historical record of chanties provides numerous examples of ballads or other such narrative songs from the English song repertoire whose verses were transposed onto chanty frameworks.

Generally speaking, we can see that African American chanty singers were more liable to create non-narrative and/or very improvisational solo verses (though by NO means was this limited to that ethnic group), whereas there was, perhaps, some preference among singers of European heritage to adopt the pre-set narratives. The chanty genre, natively, calls for the non-narrative/improvised, but there is no reason why one can't transpose a narrative onto one's performance. There are many other dimensions to this, which I won't go into. Just an example: Singers who didn't have the knack for improvisation, perhaps, may have preferred to opt for set narratives that they could repeat each time they were called on to sing. Spinning out the narrative would take a while -- you could get a lot of mileage out of it, without having to invent novel rhymes. The editors of chanty collections certainly preferred to publish such seemingly more cohesive narratives rather than the disjointed rhymes that characterized the "original" art of chanty singing -- where such created rhymes, arguably, were important to the aesthetics and pride of chantymen.

"Heave Away" with the "yellow meal" narrative transposed upon it existed at least as early as 1868. I don't recall offhand when the original Tapscott song is supposed to have originated.

Both "Irish" popular song and chanty song genres co-existed on packet ships.


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