The traditional music we listened to took us into a different and disappearing world where music and singing are still an essential accompaniment to life. In the sincerity of these voices something real and authentic can be found. This may, in turn, help us to find something real in ourselves.
‘In some of these traditional songs I’m struck very much by the singers’ voices – by an authenticity, a simplicity, a lack of artifice, as if they’re not “trying” to be expressive or to put emotion into their performance, but it is simply there, naturally, undeniably, because they are alive in their bodies and feelings, and the singing is a part of life for them.’
Romanian Gipsy Music
‘These are songs about the fundamental aspects of life – love, death, nature, joy, grief, celebration, lamentation. They seemed to me to blend the beauty and sorrow of existence and I felt a deep emotional response.’
For the Ouldeme people of North Camaroon, music is part of all aspects of their lives. There are songs for everyday chores, the changing seasons, the weather and the cycle of life.
‘We listened to African women singing as they milled grain. We were all struck by the sense of community in their shared work. The singing seemed to help them to carry out their task at a steady rhythm. There was joy in their voices, and they sounded relaxed and content, though the work was evidently hard.'
We learnt that in the past singers spent many years acquiring the skills and sensitivity needed to express their tradition as faithfully and exactly as possible. One singer in particular, Jeannie Robertson, seemed to exemplify this.
‘We all felt that there was a quality in her singing that was what we had been looking for. It seemed to come from her valuation of the tradition she served, and an emotional link with it. There was no ego; she was a vehicle for the song. It gave an astonishing strength and impact to her singing.’