Residence: Charlottesville, VA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/21/19
Primary Language: English
This piece is about a rain song that is sung at Living Earth Camp when it hasn’t rain in awhile. It stems from “native” songs, but there is no evidence.
“L: I went to like a nature camp in the years I was in middle school over the summer. So it was like a sleepaway camp, but it only lasted a week. And it was weird because it was mostly white people, but they’d be like “oh this is the ancient song, this ancient rain song.” I don’t think they realized how problematic it was. We had this one time when it hadn’t been raining lately, like we we in a drought or something, so they took us down to the river and said “so we’re going to sing this rain song.” So you sing this when you are splashing the water around and it goes like “wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah, wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah. Washa-ta-day-ah-day-ah-day-ah.” And you do that over and over again. And it actually ended up raining the next day.
C: Wow, so it worked?
L: Yeah, so now I have all this white guilt singing it.
C: What is the camp’s name?
L: Living Earth Camp. And it was or felt very spiritual and connected to nature. But it was still like a $500 camp for a bunch of kids to cover themselves in mud.
C: Where was it?
L: Like an hour away from where I lived, so still in Virginia.”
The informant is a 19 year old girl from Charlottesville, VA. She attended this camp for 3 years in middle school and learned this song the first year she was at the camp when she was in 6th grade.
Rain songs that are based on “native” traditions never seem quite genuine, but the intention behind them is interesting. I thought it was curious that a rain song has to have roots in “native” folklore, and not from somewhere else. This reminds me of learning of tourist items that were labeled as “authentic” or “native.” I think a lot of people try to go back to the roots of Native culture because of it’s connection to the Earth and spirituality. Though there is more to Native culture than that, in today’s popular culture that is what is most projected. Since children are little, we learn that there are certain things to sing to cause things to happen. When we want the rain to come, we sing things like this – the rain song, to bring rain. When we want rain to go away, we sing “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” It is important to recognize when songs are a bit problematic like the informant did as well.