Monday, August 27, 2007

Songs of Sweated Labour

From the nz-folk list, John Archer writes:

Attention has been drawn to the sweated labour of young girls in South China. There are several New Zealand folk songs denouncing this abomination.

From Neil Colquhoun's Song's of a Young Country

Who robs the young girl of her right
by work that takes her day and night
to earn her poor starvation mite?
The sweater.

Who is it that will cheat and lie
and every cunning trick will try
his greed of gain to satisfy?
The sweater.

He is society's disgrace
and must be told so to his face
so out with him. Leave him no place
The sweater.

From Rona Bailey's Shanties By The Way

In the lands beyond the sea
where Khan and Sultan rule
Where they drink their coffee thick and black
and sip their sherbet cool
They have white Circassian girls for slaves
as well as nigger black
And now it seems in our own free land
that slavery's coming back.
It's fenced about with common law
and given a pretty name
But despite the paltry wage that's paid,
it's slavery all the same.

Such a good woman is Mrs McFee,
toiling with voice and hand
In the cause of the little Chinese girls
away in a distant land
Such a good woman is Mrs McFee,
for hers is an open door
And her name's at the top of the charity list
for the wives of the drunken poor
But Amelia Jane has a hungry look,
with hollows under her eyes
She says she was starved. But everyone knows,
Amelia Jane tells lies.

Silly and light is Amelia Jane,
she has no ideas of her own
You would never think her the bright little girl
that you one once on a time had known
She was clever enough when she went to school
she was pretty enough in her way
She hasn't improved, her schoolmates think,
when they met her in town today
It's all her fault, for whatever the cause,
I'm sure that Mrs McFee
Is a model mistress in every way,
and with that you will agree.

And my aunts taught me this song - there was a young boy on a the next
farm to theirs in South Taranaki in the 1920s who worked from dawn
until after dark seven days a week.

One day when I was out of work a job I went to seek
To be a farmer's boy ....
At last I found the very job at half-a-crown a week
To be a farmer's boy ....
The farmer said, "I think I've got the very job for you
Your duties will be light, for this is all you've got to do....
Rise at three every morn, milk the cow with the crumpled horn
Feed the pigs, clean the sty, teach the pigeons the way to fly
Plough the fields, mow the hay, help the cocks and hens to lay
Sow the seed, tend the crops, chase the flies from the turnip tops
Clean the knives, black the shoes, scrub the kitchen and sweep the flues
Help the wife wash the pots, grow the cabbages and carrots
Make the beds, dust the coals, mend the gramophone....
And when there's no more work to do.... the rest of the day's your own"

I would like to feature these on the NZ Folksong website and I would welcome any song-writer's compositions on the current New Zealand practice of conspiring in the deaths of young Chinese girls by buying sweated goods.

John A

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A True Heritage Instrument

From the nz-folk list, Noelle Jakeman writes:

"I am trying to find out about my randfathers kauri timber elaborately Maori wood carved lap steel guitar with paua shell inlay and all original 8 ivory keys which has been handed down to me. It opens out in the back and the electricals inside are in need of repair and needs new strings however the body is in excellent condition and is a beautifully handcrafted instrument. My mother had bought it for my grandfather back in the 1960's from a music store in Queen Street Auckland called 'Harmony House' which has since closed down and no longer there. I was contemplating selling it and had emailed images of it to vintage guitar dealers and collectors overseas and was surprised to get some very interested responses that it has since prompted my interest to find out the guitars origins and history. I did manage to speak to a local lapsteel guitar enthusiast here in Auckland who had mentioned these guitars popularity back in the 50's and 60's with country and western and Maori showbands and I've been trying to make contact with other NZ music stores in the hopes finding out more about these guitars as well, anyone there able to shed some more light on these guitars for me?"

John Archer wrote:

"That carved Hawaiin guitar a piece of folk history. Haere mai, everything is kapai - Daphne Walker - Sam Freedman - Johnny Cooper and His Range Riders.
"The expert on evaluating and repairing that is Simcha Delft in Otaki.
Eight years ago artist Michael Parekowhai put on a fancy installation in a
posh Auckland gallery with ten beautifully made f-hole inlaid paua
guitars. Maori bro's sat around on beer crates playing the guitars while
Jafa glitterati stood around drinking champagne.
"Parekowhai was commenting on the detribalized de-cultured urban Maori of the 1960s. But Noelle's lap-top is a much more poignant relic of that
time. Once Were Warriors - Paradise Lost."

There were a few other posts imploring Noelle not to sell it, to which she most eloquently replied:

"Greetings all,
Thank you all who have responded to my inquiries about my grandfathers lap steel guitar with some great advice and wonderful information. To perhaps answer some of the questions some of you may of had about my earlier notice and intention to sell the guitar I hope the following will offer you some insight. The guitar was a a gift my Mum had bought new for her Father around the 1960's from a music store in Auckland. It is a well loved family instrument and I've been told that my grandfather and muso granduncles would play this guitar and have jam sessions back in the day.

"It is a well loved family instrument and being Maori myself I am aware of the importance of family taonga and have discussed my intentions to sell the guitar with my Mum who had handed the guitar down to me. The guitar has been in my care for a few years now and I've been able to admire its beautiful craftsmanship and uniqueness however as I travel a lot and have very few personal possessions I would much prefer to have the guitar in someone elses care who'd appreciate and hopefully play it again.

As a recently self employed artist relying totally on the income from my artwork this is the only item I have of value and I know that should I eventually sell it, it would help a lot toward much needed tools and equipment that I need to continue making my work. I believe this to be an honorable purpose for selling the guitar and my Mum has given me her full support as well. I plan to make sure that should it eventually get sold it's to an appropriate person that will appreciate care for and hopefully get it playing again.

It's only been just over the last week that I've made inquiries to various NZ music/guitar stores and sites along with vintage guitar dealers and collectors overseas trying to find out a little more about the history of these guitars and an idea of it's value. So far most of the responses I have received back have been from the US and UK. All have been guitar enthusiasts who've only had positive things to say, and as well as admiring the Maori carvings they've also been really helpful with information about the lap steel guitar as an instrument. I have been involved in the Maori visual arts scene for many years now and am very aware of the exploitation of our Maori taonga and imagery and others ignorance as to the importance it is to our people. However it is a family taonga and I have asked the appropriate person in my whanau to do this, the notices I have sent out has been in no way to exploit or disrespect my Maori culture and I too believe that this is a wonderful piece of our NZ music history and would like to eventually find a good home for it. Regards, Noelle

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Southern Man Song

I've been noticing one of the more frequent key word searches within the KiwiFolk site has been for "southern man". I was there (in my role as a Pog) at its inception and it's still one of the most requested songs in my repertoire.

I've written up the history of the song as it relates to the Pog Band but it would be good to hear anyone elses point of view. Particularly, it would be good to get some dates around those rugby games.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Tommy Makem dies age 74

From the nz-folk list:

Irish singer, songwriter and storyteller Tommy Makem has died after a long battle with lung cancer. For over fifty years Makem entertained the world with self-penned songs and Stories. Makem died in Dover, New Hampshire (USA) where he lived.

Makem grew to international fame with The Clancy Brothers in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Listen to Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem:
When The Ship Comes In' (YouTube)
'Ballad Of William Bloat' (YouTube)
'Red Haired Mary' (YouTube)

VIEW PHOTOS: Makem's career spanned more than five decades
TALK ABOUT IT: Share your memories of Makem's life and work
ARCHIVE 11/21/06: He still sings to Irish ears
On the Web: