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Kumbaya – Piano

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Kumbaya

"Come By Here", transcribed by J. Cutting from the singing of H. Wylie, 1926

"Kum ba yah" ("Come by Here") is an African American spiritual of disputed origin, but known to be sung in the Gullah culture of the islands off South Carolina and Georgia, with ties to enslaved West Africans. The song is thought to have spread from the islands to other Southern states and the North, as well as other places in the world. The first known recording, of someone known only as H. Wylie, who sang in the Gullah dialect, was recorded by folk enthusiast Robert Winslow Gordon in 1926. It later became a standard campfire song in scouting and summer camps and enjoyed broader popularity during the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s.

The song was originally an appeal to God to come and help those in need.[1]

Origins

According to Library of Congress editor Stephen Winick, the song almost certainly originated among African Americans in the Southeastern United States, and had a Gullah version early in its history even if it did not originate in that dialect.[1] The two oldest versions whose year of origin is known for certain were both collected in 1926, and both reside in the Library's American Folklife Center. No precise month or day was recorded for either version, so either may be the earliest known version of the song. One was submitted as a high-school collecting project by a student named Minnie Lee to her teacher, Julian P. Boyd, later a celebrated historian. This version, collected in Alliance, North Carolina, is a manuscript featuring lyrics but no music. The other 1926 version was recorded on wax cylinder by Robert Winslow Gordon, founder of what began as the Library of Congress's Archive of Folk Song, which became the American Folklife Center. The singer's name was H. Wylie, and the song was recorded within a few hours' drive of Darien, Georgia, although Gordon did not note the exact location. Between 1926 and 1928, Gordon recorded three more versions of traditional spirituals spiritual with the refrain "come by here" or "come by heah". One of these is a different song concerning the story of Daniel in the den of lions. Of the other two, one has been lost, and one cylinder was broken, so it cannot be determined if they are versions of "Kumbaya".[1]

According to an article in Kodaly Envoy by Lum Chee-Hoo, some time between 1922 and 1931, members of the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals[2] collected a version from the South Carolina coast.[3] "Come by Yuh", as they called it, was sung in Gullah, the creole language spoken by the former slaves living on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, as well as The Bahamas.[4] It is possible this is the earliest version, if it was collected before 1926. Because the individual songs in this society's publications are not dated, however, it cannot be dated with certainty to before 1931.[1]

In May 1936, John Lomax, Gordon's successor as head of the Archive of Folk Song, discovered a woman named Ethel Best singing "Come by Here" with a group in Raiford, Florida.[5]

These facts contradict the longstanding copyright and authorship claim of Reverend Marvin V. Frey.[3] Rev. Frey (1918–1992) claimed to have written the song circa 1936 under the title "Come By Here," inspired, he claimed, by a prayer he heard delivered by "Mother Duffin," a storefront evangelist in Portland, Oregon. It first appeared in this version in Revival Choruses of Marvin V. Frey, a lyric sheet printed in that city in 1939. In an interview at the Library of Congress quoted by Winick[1] Frey claimed the change of the title to "Kum Ba Yah" came about in 1946, when a missionary family named Cunningham returned from Africa where they had sung Frey's version. According to Frey, they brought back a partly translated version, and "Kum Ba Yah" was an African phrase from Angola (specifically in Luvale). Frey claimed the Cunninghams then toured America singing the song with the text "Kum Ba Yah".[1]

The story of an African origin for the phrase circulated in several versions, spread also by the revival group the Folksmiths, whose liner notes for the song stated that "Kum Ba Yah" was brought to America from Angola.[1] As Winick points out, however, no such word or phrase exists in Luvale or any related language.

Although it is often claimed that the song originated in Gullah, Winick further points out that the Boyd manuscript, which may be the earliest version of the song, was probably not collected from a Gullah speaker.[1]

A 45 rpm recording in a contemporary gospel style was released in 1958 by Little Sugar and the Hightower Brothers as "Come by Here", on the Savoy label (backed with "At the Golden Gate").[6]

Folk music revival

The Folksmiths, including Joe Hickerson, recorded the song in 1957,[7] as did Pete Seeger in 1958. Hickerson credits Tony Saletan, then a songleader at the Shaker Village Work Camp, for introducing him to "Kumbaya". Saletan had learned it from Lynn Rohrbough, co-proprietor with his wife Katherine of the camp songbook publisher Cooperative Recreation Service, predecessor to World Around Songs.[3][5][8][9] (Hickerson later succeeded Gordon and Lomax at the American Folklife Center, successor to the Archive of Folk Song.)[10] The song enjoyed newfound popularity during the American folk music revival of the early to mid-1960s, largely due to Joan Baez's 1962 recording of the song, and became associated with the Civil Rights Movement of that decade.

Political usage

Beginning in the 1990s and increasing in the following decades, references to "Kumbaya" or "singing Kumbaya" entered idiomatic usage in the politics of the United States, often to suggest that someone other than the speaker is too conciliatory or eager to compromise.[11][12] Professor Richard Vatz of Towson University has characterized these references to the song as sarcastic criticism of consensus "that allegedly does not examine the issues or is revelatory of cockeyed optimism."[11]

For example, in discussing the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, U.S. President Barack Obama commented that the substantive disagreements between the parties "can't be reduced to somehow a matter of let's all hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.'"[13] Many other high-profile political figures have similarly referred derisively to the singing of the song as a way of expressing doubt or disparagement for potential compromise.[12] Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee explained his skepticism that ideologically aligned candidates in the 2012 Republican Party presidential primaries would unite around a single individual by saying, "there's not going to be some magic moment at which three or four of these people sit around a campfire toasting marshmallows, singing Kumbaya and giving the nod to one of their competitors."[14] Businessman and political candidate Herman Cain, speaking to a rally in 2011, said, "Singing ‘Kumbaya’ is not a foreign policy strategy."[11]

Lyrics

Version No. 1[15] Version No. 2[16] Version No. 3 Version No. 4[17]

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone need you, Lord, come by here
Someone need you, Lord, come by here
Someone need you, Lord, come by here
Oh, Lord, come by here.

For the sun, that rises in the sky
For the rhythm of the falling rain
For all life, great or small
For all that's true, for all you do.

Someone's laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Hear me crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Hear me crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Hear me crying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Now I need you, Lord, come by here
Sinners need you, Lord, come by here
Sinners need you, Lord, come by here
Oh, Lord, come by here.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone's crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's crying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Come by here, my Lord, come by here,
Come by here, my Lord, come by here,
Come by here, my Lord, come by here,
Oh, Lord, come by here.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone's praying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's praying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's praying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Hear me praying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Hear me praying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Hear me praying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

In the mornin' see, Lord, come by here,
In the mornin' see, Lord, come by here,
In the mornin' see, Lord, come by here,
Oh, Lord, come by here.

For the second on this world you made,
For the love that will never fade,
For a heart beating with joy,
For all that's real, for all we feel.

Someone's singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's singing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

I gon' need you, Lord, come by here,
I gon' need you, Lord, come by here,
I gon' need you, Lord, come by here,
Oh, Lord, come by here.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Oh, Sinners need you, Lord, come by here,
Sinners need you, Lord, come by here,
Sinners need you, Lord, come by here,
Oh my Lord, won't you come by here.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

In the morning - morning, won't you come by here
Mornin' - morning, won't you come by here
In the Mornin' - morning, won't you come by here
Oh, Lord, come by here.

Guano Apes and Michael Mittermeier

In 2001 a collaborative single by Guano Apes (credited as Guano Babes) featuring German comedian Michael Mittermeier was released under the name of "Kumba Yo!". This song is notable for being the only Apes song to use profanity, with only one use of the word "fucking" in the song and serves as their highest-charting single in their native Germany. The song uses elements of the song "Kumbaya".[18]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Winick, Stephen (Summer–Fall 2010). "The World's First 'Kumbaya' Moment: New Evidence about an Old Song" (PDF). Folklife Center News, Library of Congress. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  2. ^ "Gullah Sprituals". The Society for the Preservation of Spirituals. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Jeffery, Weiss (November 12, 2006). "'Kumbaya': How did a sweet simple song become a mocking metaphor?". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on September 14, 2008. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
  4. ^ "Mama Lisa'a World-Kumbaya". Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Stern, Gary (June 27, 2009). ""Kumbaya, My Lord:" Why we sing it; why we hate it". The Journal News. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
  6. ^ "Savoy Records Catalog: 45 rpm Gospel 1000/1100 series - single index". Jazz Discography Project. jazzdisco.org. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  7. ^ Smithsonian Folkways, We've Got Some Singing to Do, FW02407
  8. ^ Amy, Ernest F. (1957). Cooperative Recreation Service: A unique project. Midwest Folklore 7 (4, Winter): 202–6. ISSN 0737-7037. OCLC 51288821.
  9. ^ World Around Songs: Our History
  10. ^ Zorn, Eric (August 31, 2006). "Someone's dissin', Lord, kumbaya". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
  11. ^ a b c Weeks, Linton (January 13, 2012). "When Did 'Kumbaya' Become Such A Bad Thing?". NPR.org. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Waldman, Katy (March 29, 2016). "How "Kumbaya" Went From Sincere Protest Song to Drippy Punch Line". Slate Magazine. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  13. ^ "Obama says Netanyahu differences go beyond 'Kumbaya'". USA TODAY. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  14. ^ Stephanopoulos, George (January 8, 2012). "Mike Huckabee Says Mitt Romney May Run Table to Nomination". ABC News. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  15. ^ Mitra (September 6, 2009). "Kumbaya" (in English and Persian). YouTube.
  16. ^ "Kumbaya, my Lord" (PDF). evangeliser.nu. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  17. ^ Sacro Capo (March 11, 2009). "Kumbaya my Lord". YouTube.
  18. ^ "Kumba Yo!", Wikipedia, December 11, 2018, retrieved October 12, 2019

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