Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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(ii) Social songs.

These refer to daily activities and events in the life cycle (birth, puberty, marriage, death) and may reflect social and moral standards and group attitudes. They include songs of censure and advice. It is significant that most songs of the life cycle are associated with death, perhaps because the life span of the slave was short, and hardship, illness and death were ever-present concerns. Although the rites of death vary, all share the belief that human life is only one stage in the spiritual journey towards perfection. Upon death it is important to find out what the fate of the soul will be, for the form and content of certain ceremonies depend on this information. Some songs are for comfort, others for laughter, to censure the host or to mourn. The singing may be contemplative and comforting, or, more often, strident and full-throated. Gestures and dance movements are at times gentle, at others quite abandoned. On occasion, two different groups gather at the home of the deceased: one remains inside to comfort, the other keeps a little way off to give frank and often irreverent comments and warnings.

Little of the music connected with marriage and fertility ceremonies survives. Weddings are often preceded by celebrations which include songs and dances accompanied by drums, sometimes with flutes, clarinets, guitars and violins, and music and dancing follow the solemnization of the marriage.

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