Archive for the ‘Dewey Balfa’ Category


November 19, 2012

Dewey Balfa plays “Colinda”:

edited from “Colinda: Mysterious Origins of a Cajun Folksong,” by Shane Bernard and Julia Frederick (Journal of Folklore Research 29, 1992):

The Calinda dance survives in several Caribbean locations, including Haiti, Bequia, Carriacou, and  Trinidad.  The main characteristic of the Calinda, according to Mina Monroe (in “Bayou Ballads,” 1921) is stick-fighting, which corresponds to present-day descriptions of the dance in Trinidad.  In 1760, in a study of the French colonies in the Americas,  Thomas Jefferys called it “a sport brought from the coast of Guinea, and attended with gestures which are not entirely consistent with modesty, whence it is forbidden by the public laws of the islands.”

The Provencal troubadour Raimbault de Vaqueiras composed a mildly erotic medieval dance song entitled “Calenda Maya” about 1200 A.D. Romanian rustic Christmas carols, called Colinda, descended from the ancient Roman New Year festival called the Calendae, which persisted in Eastern Europe several centuries after the downfall of Rome.

All these folk traditions are associated with themes of fertility and regeneration.

Harold Courlander suggests that the Calinda could be “an African dance with an African name, or a European dance taken over in part and adapted by the slaves, or a European name attached to a number of dances traditional among slaves.”

Speculation aside, the Calinda originated in Guinea prior to the late-seventeenth century.  It traveled to the New World on slave ships and arrived as several dances or as a single dance that evolved into many related dances in the Caribbean and Louisiana.