The melody for Bamboula is a Creole song called ‘Quand patate la cuite na va mangé li!’ (‘When that ’tater’s cooked don’t you eat it up!’). Bamboula? It is a Negro dance derived from the name of the primitive tambourine which accompanied the dance. (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, incidentally, also wrote a piece called Bamboula, a rhapsodic dance for orchestra, premiered in Norfolk, Connecticut, in 1910.) Gottschalk’s family lived in Rue des Remparts, two blocks from Congo Square in New Orleans where the Negroes gathered at weekends. In ‘The Dance in Place Congo’, an article written in 1886 by George W Cable, we read of ‘the booming of African drums and blast of huge wooden horns’, the use of ‘triangles, Jew’s harps, rattles, banjo, and the slap of bare feet on earth’. It is scarcely credible that the singing and drumming could not have been heard from the balcony of the Gottschalk’s home or that the young man would not have been taken to watch the spectacle on Sunday afternoons: Gottschalk’s Bamboula is a distillation of a vivid and familiar childhood experience.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 1997
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