USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘music’
Customs

Celebrating Selana

Selena Quintanilla was a Mexican artist who turned really famous in the United States. Her music was with Latin Culture, but sadly, she was killed by her manager. It is a common thing to throw parties and even just watch her movies and music on her birthday to remember how she prevailed as a WOMAN singer in the American culture. She is celebrated as one of the stepping stones for Hispanics/Latinos in the music industry in America.

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Juan is a Mexican-American from Mexico city. He works demolition, but is super into his religion of being a Jehovah Witness. He has been passing down his traditions to his kids, just how they were passed down to him by his dad and grandpa

Game
general
Humor

Raindrop, Drop Top Joke

Informant is my 11 year old sister who goes to middle school in NJ. The game is called “Raindrop, Drop Top” after a lyric in the song “Bad and Boujee” by the artist Migos. I had not heard of this game but apparently it is popular among kids in her grade.

“The game is basically, well, ok. It’s just a word game. Somebody types “Raindrop,” and then somebody else types “Droptop,” and then the third person has to come up with a funny rhyme.
She opens her phone and shows me a conversation.

Kid #1: “Raindrop

Kid #2: “Droptop

Kid #3: “Spongebob never made it to the bus stop*.”

“So basically somebody just has to come up with some kind of rhyme. That’s how it works.”

She shows me another one:

Kid #1: “Raindrop

Kid #2: “Droptop

Kid #3: “I think my dog is allergic to tater tots.”

The format of the game is interesting but reminds me of something I might have done when I was her age. I was also surprised that she was referencing the Migos song because Migos is not necessarily a kid-friendly artist. I asked her how the game gets started. She replied “Somebody just starts it. I don’t know, it depends if somebody wants to play or not.”

*This reference to “Spongebob never made it to the bus stop” can be seen in this clip, from the Nickelodeon show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqFGDkLyt8I

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Unitarian Universalist Church

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate has never had a set religious background, and was always in something of a melting pot of faiths when he went to churches like the one described here.

Dialogue: So, I don’t know exactly how Unitarianism, like, started, but… At some point it was just this sort of culmination of, like, various Christian sects, like Episcopalian or Protestant or whatever was around Massachusetts going on. Just a bunch of them sort of, like, coalesced into one group that’s like… “You know what, Trinity or Unity, doesn’t matter! We all have spirit!”

Analysis: The intereseting thing about this piece of folklore to me is how much is blended together in a church like this. It’s not only a mixing of various religious sects, either: at one point, my roommate sang a song he was taught as a kid, about the “Seven Guiding Principles of Kindness.” He remembers only these lines:

One, each person is important
Two, be kind in all you do

The song, interestingly enough, is set to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi” fromthe mucial The Sound of Music. So we have a mashup of popular culture, religion, and folk belief, all in this single church.

Musical

Mozart and Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere Mei Deus

Informant:

Karl is a freshman aerospace engineering major. He spent thirteen years in a traditional boy’s chorus. He is also an avid soccer player

Piece:

So there is this famous song called Miserere mei deus by this italian composer gregorio Allegri. And most people either call it the Allegri or just Miserere. But there is this super famous story about it cause like it was written for the catholic church and only ever sung by the Vatican chorus during holy week within the sistine chapel because it was considered to be too perfect to ever be performed anywhere else. So in like the 1770’s or around that time Mozart got to go with his dad to listen to the Miserere and observe the holy week service within the sistine chapel. Wolfgang Mozart was only fourteen years old but his dad was an important composer who was invited to come to the service by the pope. That night though, when they got back to where they were staying Wolfgang Mozart wrote the entire piece down just from his own memory after hearing it just once. So when I hear the piece I don’t just hear the beauty of Allegri’s writing, but I also better comprehend the true genius that Mozart was.

Collector’s thoughts:

The Informant said that he learned this legend from his choir director who claimed to have heard it when they were young. The fact that this anecdote, independent of its validity, is told to young children helps to reveal that it is a way to inspire young people to unlock their musical potential by giving an example of what a famous composer accomplished when he was young. This legend is somewhat well document and more can be read here:

 

http://www.classicfm.com/composers/mozart/guides/mozart-allegri-miserere/

Additionally, Allegri’s Miserere can be heard here:

 

 

Legends
Narrative

The Cat’s Manor at USC

Folk Piece

Informant: So I live in a house on [REDACTED] street at the North University Park District of Los Angeles, California. Actually, the Governor of California used to live there in the early 1900s. But whoever lived there in the 1940s or ‘50s, um, they, there was a whole third story. Like picture the old victorian houses with the spirals and stuff. But there was this third story and it burned down, like, in this crazy fire. And the like room that burned like more than any others was the room where this crazy woman that lived there had all of her cats. And like all of the cats died, so now like in the middle of the night, if you go up, there’s like this stair case that leads to the roof of the house but as you’re going up this staircase you can see the remnants of this old third floor. Um, cause they like didn’t do a really good job of getting rid of that, and when you’re going up that staircase to the roof, you can hear meows in the middle of the night. I have not personally heard them, but I’ve only gone up there once.”

 

Background information

Informant: “I learned this story when I was a freshman when I joined a group that has lived there the past decade or so. I heard it from a senior who was also a very superstitious guy who said ‘Oh, I like, hear it every night.’  The people who believe it take it very, very seriously. But the people who never experienced it all kind of think of it as a joke.”

 

Context

Informant: “We tell the story when we let in new members. I don’t know, it’s just a fun thing to add to the aura of it all – they’re like, typically freshman, you know? It’s just fun to make them feel like a part of the group with a little story.”

 

Analysis

Ghost animals are not nearly as common as ghost people in folklore, as we’ve talked about in our class with Professor Tok Thompson. Yet, in this story, they are just as eerily scary. That this ghost story includes artifacts that tie the legend into real observable truth, in that the remnants of the burnt third floor are easily accessible, is truly haunting. In the participant telling the story, I could envision walking up the stairs and seeing the charred, blackened floor.

It also seems like there is somewhat of a ritualistic retelling each year for new members of this group. The story helps identify their group because they collectively lease the house year by year, and so in retelling this story and having it be retold primarily by their group, they are owning the house in more than one way. The formal telling of this story to another member is one way to extend that ownership.

Equally as interesting is that this group is a singing group and that the hauntings come in audio form. Oftentimes, ghost stories, legends, and other forms of folklore are described in terms that are familiar to that particular ‘in’ group. In no way am I comparing their singing to the meowing of 40 cats burned alive, but it is interesting that they are auditorily stimulated, rather than visually.

Legends
Narrative

The Beatles Lighting Up with Bob Dylan

Folklore Piece:

“Uh, so the Beatles… This was around 1964 I believe. John Lennon and Paul had discovered a Bob Dylan record in 63 when they were in Paris, they thought it was amazing, and they really wanted to, well John in particular, really wanted to meet Bob. And they came to the US, John decided he wasn’t ready to meet Bob Dylan because he thought he had to be as ego equal. John Lennon didn’t think he was like up to bar to meet Bob Dylan. Finally, the Beatles had a little bit of success in 1964, if you know anything about the Beatles history, probably the biggest band in the world. Finally, they decide to meet Bob Dylan at this hotel, I forget the name, in New York City. And The Beatles are in there waiting with their posse. There were several rooms that Bob had to get through, like media and things, but he finally gets through and The Beatles had some wine, like some really nice wine, and they offer it to Bob and he says ‘Uh… No. Do you have any cheap wine? I’m not into super nice wine’ and they were like ‘No, so what should we do then?’  They were trying to figure it out, and Bob says ‘Well I know you guys like to smoke, so like, do you wanna, do you wanna get high?’ and they were like ‘Oh shoot, we’re not… we’re not gonna do that. That’s like, we’ve never done that, we’re not really sure about that.’ Bob actually thought they sang about smoking in one of their songs, saying ‘We get high,’ or something, when really it was something else. Um, so anyways, Bob lights up and hands it to John and Paul who are both way too scared to try it, so Ringo tries it and they all just start laughing. Hot-boxing in this room with Bob Dylan. And that’s what inspired them later when, anytime the Beatles wanted to smoke, they’d say ‘Let’s have a laugh’. Um, but yeah they all got super high with Bob Dylan and that led into the really self-concious period of The Beatles for Revolver and Rubber Soul, which I would argue are some of their best music.”

 

Background information:

This was told to the participant in his two unit class on The Beatles. The professor told him this story, but he claimed to not know if it was true or not. Considering that The Beatles and Bob Dylan are both rock and roll legends, he said he would not be surprised if the story was embellished over the years. He likes the story because of what impact it could have potentially had on The Beatles career and is a fun way to explain the difference in sounds between The Beatles’ records.

 

Context:

The informant says that the story would most likely be told in a format that people were talking about music and/or The Beatles. He doesn’t think it would be a story that he would tell his family, unless they had brought up an interest in the band or a conversation about it.

 

Analysis:

Legendary Figures can span from athletes, like Babe Ruth, to politicians, like Abe Lincoln, to musicians, like Marilyn Monroe, and everyone in between. What is unique about the legendary figure is that we know, for a fact, that these people existed. It is both their actions and the way in which they are talked about that becomes folklorized.

What helps transform these somewhat ordinary celebrities into the status of legend is often what they do beyond just their physical work. If all we had in a vacuum of knowledge was The Beatles’ CDs, we might think they’re pretty good, but would not understand the iconic image they represented for decades. To familiarize and identify ourselves with these legends, we’ll often tell folk stories that we feel are representative of their character. In this story, The Beatles make the transition from proper European rockers to far out psychedelic rockers. While the genre shift is evident in their music, this story helps explain why it may have happened, which, when combined with the personality of Bob Dylan, is what makes it so entertaining.

Festival
general
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Greek Jasmine Song

Informant A is a 17-year-old Sophomore at USC studying Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis on Neuroscience. She is ¼ Greek Cypriote, ¼ German and ¼ Argentinian but she strongly identifies with the Greek side of her. She spent 9 years in Greek school and goes to Greece every summer. She speaks Greek with her grandparents.

So I’ve always really liked to sing and I’m one of the few people in my family who doesn’t sound like a dying like woodchuck when I sing. My grandparents and my extended family always give me song requests. I learned a lot of songs in Greek school. One of the famous Cypriot artists in addition to doing all her pop albums, did one titled “Cypress” in Greek. And on that album, she has a lot of traditional songs, with modern instruments. So I was at the beach one morning with my grandparents, and we went at 8am because my grandparents are like 80 years old, and everyone else is also like 80 years old. And I’m like walking towards the ocean kinda doing my own thing, and I start humming The Jasmine, which is a song about this flower, the Jasmine flower.There’s like a particularly potent one in Cypress. And scent is one of the strongest connections people have. And so there’s this whole song written about this Jasmine and its about a lover who was trying to talk to this woman but the parents were keeping them away, but he remembered that every day outside of her window there was the Jasmine. So he almost sings it to the Jasmine, and it’s a very powerful song. And so I learned the song after the CD from this major pop artist. And I was just humming it on the beach, and like everyone joined in. It was kind of creepy, it was like a real life musical. It’s such an emotional song, not only to this flower of our island but also something beautiful that we can all relate to; loving something so much. Everyone who’s from the old villages knows this song, it’s passed down through like party nights. There’s a lot of old Greek Orthodox festivals, and they bring the entire village together and they get the bouzoukis, which is like the Cypriote guitar, except with more range. And they play traditional songs and whoever wants to can come up and sing with them or dance and everyone just shares culture and eats food. Music is really important to the Greeks, its how people express themselves. And back in the day, all the myths used to be sung. And that’s how you’d remember the stories, they’d remember the lyrics rather than words. And music is a really good way to express emotions. And so everyone knows that song because of these festivals. So everyone joined in. I was a little freaked out. And this song is actually so old, it has Turkish words in it. And Cypress has been divided into the Greek and the Turkish side since 1964. It was a terrible war and now there’s a lot of animosity between the two sides. But back in the day, before the tensions with the Turkish mainland, everyone would live next to each other. Everyone spoke a little Turkish and Greek. And so this is one song that everyone knows because it’s basically half Greek and half Turkish. It’s a really old song, maybe like 1700s, it does mention some houses and stuff. All the older people actually request that I sing it.

 

Γιασεμί μου (Greek)

Το γιασεμί στην πόρτα σου
γιασεμί μου
ήρθα να το κλαδέψω
ωχ γιαβρί μου
και νόμισε η μάνα σου
γιασεμί μου
πως ήρθα να σε κλέψω
ωχ γιαβρί μου

Το γιασεμί στην πόρτα σου
γιασεμί μου
μοσκοβολά τις στράτες
ωχ γιαβρί μου
κι η μυρωδιά του η πολλή
γιασεμί μου
σκλαβώνει τους διαβάτες
ωχ γιαβρί μου

 

Yasemí mou (phonetic translation)

To yasemí stin pórta sou,
yasemí mou,
írtha na se kladépso,
okh, yiavrí mou,
ke nómise i mana sou,
yasemí mou,
pos írtha na se klépso,
okh, yiavrí mou.

To yasemí stin pórta sou,
yasemí mou,
moskhovolá tis strátes,
okh, yiavrí mou,
ki i mirodiá tou i polí,
yasemí mou,
sklavóni tous diavátes,
okh, yiavrí mou.

 

The Jasmine (English)

This jasmine outside your door
My jasmine
I came to prune it
Oh, my love
And your mother thought that
My jasmine
I came to steal you
Oh, my love

This jasmine outside your door
My jasmine
Has a great smell in the walkers
and its much smell
My jasmine
Makes passer-bies stay there like slaves
Oh, my love

 

Analysis:

Here informant A talks about the importance of songs and music in Greek culture. She mentions also a bit about Greek Orthodox festivals and their importance in passing on these songs and the community culture. These songs are a link for the community back to the past where most of their entertainment and values were encompassed in the myths that were sung. The entire community comes together around these songs and that the oldest and the youngest know them. It is also a link for A to her Greek culture back home. This song is especially important because it ties the Turks and the Greeks together in their common past and it is a strong reminder for the Greeks when they see the Jasmine flower of their culture.

Translation from

My jasmine. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://lyricstranslate.com/en/γιασεμί-μου-my-jasmine.html

 

Digital
Musical

SONGIFY THE NEWS

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a senior graduating this semester from USC. He is a biomedical engineer, and is the oldest son of two immigrants from China.

EXAMPLE:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMtZfW2z9dw

BACKGROUND:

“Okay so first of all I have to start this one by saying there is obviously nothing funny about rape, sexual harassment, intruders, and whatever else happened here. That all said this is hilarious.

So I guess that this started by a news, like a news report, or cast, like a newscast that went viral. I guess this guy went into this family’s house, and then she like saw him or something and ran away.

But that all doesn’t really matter. The part of the story that is important is that they interviewed the victim’s brother. And right away he comes on screen, he just stands out. It’s just really funny. He just gets into the camera, basically calling out the guy, “You are so dumb. You are really dumb, fo real.”

“Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, and hide yo husband, because they raping everybody out here.” He’s so matter of fact. And animated. It is just perfect.

So I think that the video went viral. And then this group took it, auto tuned him, threw a beat over it and remixed it into a song. Which I actually think is kind of catchy. Like you definitely start bobbing your head to it.

But it also kind of makes it a little bit more emphatic. Like he looks less ridiculous now. It was almost always meant to be a song.

So then that went viral. Fast forward hundreds of millions of views and a few years later, and I’m watching that new show, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. It’s on Netflix. Tina Fey made it. And the intro, like she basically, not Tina Fey, this other girl, Erin from The Office”. She was kidnapped as a girl. That’s the premise. So she got taken by this guy, who is like a cult leader. And so she is thrown into this cult where he brainwashes them to think that the world has ended. So the intro is them being found. Like by the police. So the beginning of the first episode is them being rescued, and then it cuts into this newscast. Where they go to interview the guy who found them, who is like just as animated as the guy from this video.

But then the video starts getting like remixed. Just like this. So then the theme for the show is actually a remixed version of the news coverage from the show. Which of course brought me back to this guy. And so I Youtubed it again. And I found their channel, and I saw that the guys who made this, actually made that video too. So I thought that was kind of cool.”

ANALYSIS:

This is unique because it is an example of how folklore actually infiltrated into the mainstream. After doing some research there was a video of the “interview” of the character from the television show who is remixed.  Meaning that the writers probably wrote the script for the interview, and then really gave it to the makers of the other songifyed videos and let them go to work, which is kind of cool.

The original of course is a mashup in that it is someone on television news being remixed. Who is the owner? Who is the genius? The man, the music, or the producer for choosing to interview him and keep him on air for that long? It really it could be argued any of them are. It is interesting then that the television show, which is on an entirely online streaming platform, Netflix, chose to tap into this internet folklore. It is savvy to attract the younger viewers, it’s catchy, and it is true to how it is that we interact with news stories like this normally.

Folk Dance

Skanking

About the Interviewed: Spencer is a former student of the George Washington University, now graduated and teaching English overseas. He describes his ethnic background as “Potpourri”, with his family having a mixture of Scottish-Polish origins with some Irish thrown in the mix. His family has lived in North America for generations, so he prefers to identify ethnically as just that. He is 22 years of age.

When I was a student at the George Washington University, my friend Spencer got really into Ska music.

Spencer: “Ska is a genre of music best described as a combo of Jamaican Reggae and [Western] rock music.” Spencer tells me. “It involves a combination of electric guitar and jazz instruments. It’s pretty uptempo.”

Spencer then tells me about a type of dancing unique to a “Ska” performance.

Spencer: “When you listen to Ska, you’ve gotta Skank. That’s just how you do it. When you Skank you’ve gotta just move to the music. You’ve gotta move to the beat.”

Spencer then gets up and gives me a small demonstration. He performs a sort-of hopping motion accompanied by a fist pump. He hops and jerks to the rhythm of a song I’m playing  on my ipod. As the music grows more uptempo, he begins to hop in a running-man pose. It’s important to note that his Skanking embodies a sort of lock-step movement. It’s a quick transition, and then a freeze; almost like a kind of rhythmic freeze-tag.

I ask him if he’s seen Skanking performed in other ways.

Spencer: “Yeah, people just go crazy. Ska is really loud so people just sort of let themselves go. Sometimes people shake around, they kick and stuff. I’ve seen crazy-ass stuff go down. I’ve seen people get hurt – they Skank so hard.”

Summary:

Skanking is a form of dance closely associated with Ska music. It is accomapnied most often by Ska music, and it consists of bopping and/or running in place to the beat of a song.

Like Ska music itself, Skanking embodies something wild and free. Not unlike “moshing”, Skanking allows an audience to participate in the culture of the music they are receiving. Essentially, they’re taking the positive energy they receive from the music, and sending it right back to the performers in an epic loop of positive feedback.

Regrettably, by his request, I was unable to record Spencer’s Skanking demo, but I’ve found some videos that seems to capture the spirit of the dance pretty well.

 

Customs
Holidays
Material

Birthday Pan Dulce

My mother told me about this piece of Mexican birthday folklore from her family. Her father is from Mexico (Zacatecas specifically), and her mother is Caucasian, so she learned this tradition from her father (who learned it from his parents) This folklore is very important to my mother, because it’s a connection to her father’s heritage and is also a fun family tradition.

Every birthday, the birthday person is woken up by the other family members in the household by playing the song “Las Mananitas” (the morning song) The family members start the music while entering the birthday person’s room with a bed tray of Mexican sweet bread (pan dulce), Mexican hot chocolate, and presents. The pan dulce can be purchased from a local bakery (panaderia) or made at home, although the process of making it can take a long time, because the bread dough has to rise twice. So, having homemade pan dulce was always a very special occasion.

Because this only takes place within the family, it has become one way to indicate who belongs in the family. For example, after my cousin got married to her husband, when it was his birthday, my cousin’s family came into his room playing the song and holding pan dulce. It was surprising to him, but it was also an unofficial way of welcoming him into the family.

 

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