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Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?

Related threads:
How Do You Pronounce 'Kumbaya'? (13)
Holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya' (68)
(origins) Origins: Kumbaya (105)
Do you still sing Kumbaya (16)
(origins) Lyr Add: Come By Yuh (Spiritual) (18)
(origins) Composer: Kumb Bah Yah (19)
Lyr Req: Kumbaya / Kum Ba Yah (10)


BuckMulligan 16 Feb 08 - 07:01 PM
Leadfingers 16 Feb 08 - 07:05 PM
BuckMulligan 16 Feb 08 - 07:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Feb 08 - 07:20 PM
Joe Offer 16 Feb 08 - 07:30 PM
Little Hawk 16 Feb 08 - 07:33 PM
BuckMulligan 16 Feb 08 - 07:44 PM
John Hardly 16 Feb 08 - 07:46 PM
BuckMulligan 16 Feb 08 - 07:59 PM
Amos 16 Feb 08 - 08:00 PM
Joe Offer 16 Feb 08 - 08:09 PM
Azizi 16 Feb 08 - 09:37 PM
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Amos 17 Feb 08 - 04:47 AM
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Richard Bridge 17 Feb 08 - 09:43 AM
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McGrath of Harlow 17 Feb 08 - 12:48 PM
Little Hawk 17 Feb 08 - 01:09 PM
katlaughing 17 Feb 08 - 01:41 PM
Azizi 17 Feb 08 - 01:44 PM
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Subject: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:01 PM

The preamble to this ponder is that at lost holiday time (Christmas/Hanukkah in our family) I received (mirabile dictu!) a USB-output-equipped turntable, and I've been delightedly and delightfully ripping my old vinyl - cracks & pops and all, since they're part of what these discs mean to me - in odd moments, especially on weekend evenings.

So tonight I'm ripping "Joan Baez In Concert" on Vanguard, from late 1962. (Jesus Christ, that's 45 years ago). It's a very old disc, from the original issue - there was a reissue later that appended "Part I" and added three other tracks not present here.

One of the tracks is (natch) "Kumbaya" and it (also natch) got me to thinking about the disrepute that some of our sentiments from the time & place have fallen, and how those sentiments have been tagged with the title of this particular song, as in "Kumbaya moment" said with a sneer, or a least a slightly snide, supercilious snigger (is there a special word for alliteration that contains more than one phoneme, as in "sn"?)

Anyway, I'm guilty of such sniggery myself. I look back at us, poking our cheapo guitars in student lounges and valiantly imitating the wheezes of the early Dylan, whose wheezes should not have been imitated (but whose words should of course have been sung over & over again, as they have been).

But hearing JB singing Kumbaya, in a concert setting, and hearing the audience response - remember when it was not only ok, but expected, to sing along? Remember when it was not only ok, but expected, for an artist to sing a bunch of songs you knew well enough to sing along with, whether he or she had written them or not? Shit... - anyway, hearing the audience response, from people who are my contemporaries, and my slight seniors, and who are grandparents now as I am, and many of whom of course are long dead, I wonder what's so snickery about "Kumbaya?" What's wrong with the way we felt then? Interesting ponder, that.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:05 PM

That is obviously an Americanism ! Never had any feedback in UK about Kumbaya , except that it is Dialect !


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:06 PM

Yes, quite probably, thanks should have identified the locus.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:20 PM

To quote Richard Thompson "How Will I Ever Be Simple Again". (Here)

Sometimes people get embarrassed at how they have turned out along the years. And when we feel embarrassed, sneering is one way to deal with it.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:30 PM

I dunno, Buck. I think it's a nice song - but it's a nice song that got sung far too often, and it got worn out. It's nice, but not extraordinary; and it takes an extraordinary song to withstand the destruction of overuse.

Still, it brings back sweet memories of my youth, when many beautiful, sincere young women sang the song in my presence. Their thoughts were pure and sincere as they sang, and I suppose my thoughts at the time were somewhat baser....

There were many other songs of the same ilk - "Today," and every single song written by Rod McKuen. They might have been pretty good songs, but they were destroyed by lovely young women who sang them with an overdose of sincerity.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:33 PM

"familiarity breeds contempt"

That's why. It's unfortunate that people are so fickle, but that's what it amounts to.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:44 PM

Well, maybe Joe, but Rod McKuen?

Ick....


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: John Hardly
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:46 PM

David Wilcox wrote a wonderful song -- "Farther To Fall". In the song he talks about walking on a railroad track as a tighrope walker might. Then he notes that as the track goes over a high bridge tressel, suddenly much greater care is taken in the walking.

As he points out in the song:

The balance is no harder, after all
It's just that we have farther to fall.

It's not that there aren't a plethora of lame-ass songs -- just as lame-ass as Kumbaya. These come to mind...

Honey
I've Never Been To Me
Havin' My Baby
Anything by ABBA
Anything by KC & The Sunshine Band

...and we can simply laugh all of those off. They were never taken seriously. As banal as they were, they never pretended to be otherwise.

The folkscare people took themselves and their music WAY more seriously than was warranted by the quality of most of the music. And Kumbaya is one of the most glaring examples of "Farther To Fall" -- people out to change the world -- oblivious to the banality of the song.

Yee gods it was silly.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 07:59 PM

Thanks John, interesting take. You're right, we did take ourselves and the music too seriously. But there was some bad shit happening, and it pissed us off. And we did think we should do something about it, and some of the music expressed that for us and made us think there were enough of us to have a shot at doing something about the bad shit. Silly.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Amos
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 08:00 PM

There has been a lot of sneering, especially from those of a more rightward persuasion, against the courageous if simplistic sentiment that informed the days of Civil Rights and the birthing of the hippy and flower-child generations Moreso as the same generation began to discover capitalism and middle-class comforts.. It is often combined with invective against tree-huggers by those trying to make a profit from something not quite environmentally virtuous. There is no real reason for it to be sneered at except perhaps over-use and the simpleness of its sentiment.


A


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 08:09 PM

I have to agree with your opinion of Rod McKuen, Buck. No "redeeming social value" at all - but I DID know some really wonderful young women who loved him. I married one of them, soon found out there were some flaws in that wonderfulness (rather, she found out there were flaws in MY wonderfulness)...
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 09:37 PM

"Kumbaya" {a Gullah phrase meaning "Come By Here"} started out as a heart felt plea for God to intervene in the lives of enslaved people. "Some one's cryin, Lord. Come by here"... Someone needs you Lord. Come by here. Oh, Lord, come by here".

However, in the 1960s or earlier in the USA, this African American spiritual became popularized by singers such as Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul,& Mary who sung folk songs in support of civil rights and equality for all. As a result, this song was added to the folk song repertoires taught to children & youth summer campers. It seems to me-admittedly from the outside looking in-that the song Kumbaya was added to those campfire song repertoires as a tribute-token or not-to multiculturalism.

Over time, the song "Kumbaya" became a symbol of and a catch-phrase for Pollyanna-ish racial and ethnic unity.* That same desire for unity across racial, ethnic, religious, and other socially meaningful but ultimately meaningless boundaries is encapsulated in the question that Rodney King asked in 1992 when he was pleading for calm at a televised news conference during the Los Angeles riots- "People...Can't we all get along?"

Unfortunately, the song "Kumbaya" and, even more, the 21st century political colloquialism that people are having a "kumbaya moment" or "kumbaya experience" speaks to this fake sentiment of sweetness and light.

In my opinion, we should not just pretend that differences don't exist, and we shouldn't just act like we have reached a time in the world when personal racism and institutional racism {and classism and gender bias, and homophobia etc etc etc} does not exist. Instead, we take off our rose colored "Kumbaya" glasses, and work for this goal. It's worth it.

So why is "Kumbaya" a dirty word?

Imo, because if we pretend that we have reached the time when racial, ethnic, national, gender, religious, sexual orientation etc differences don't make any difference, we'll never really get to that time.


* "The Pollyanna principle or Pollyannaism describes the tendency for people to agree with positive statements describing them. It is sometimes called positivity bias. The phenomenon is similar to the Forer effect.

The concept as described by Matlin and Stang in 1978 used the archetype of Pollyanna, a young girl with infectious optimism".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollyanna_principle


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 09:54 PM

Correction-

Instead, we should take off our rose colored "Kumbaya" glasses, and work for this goal. It's worth it.


**

Here's two YouTube versions of the song "Kumbaya"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3MiD_U4CHQ
Joan Baez - Kumbaya (1980)

**
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYWcL5YdYhM
Kumbaya Lord - You Gotta hear this version


This second link is to a YouTube video of a multiracial young choir singing a contemporary African American gospel version of Kumbaya.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: katlaughing
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 10:07 PM

There are those of us who lived in more rural settings and/or were a tad too young to be a hippie or a flower child or whatever counter culture thing was going on at the time. We learned Kumbaya and sang it as a family with beautiful "blood" harmonies. The great thing about it was it was meaningful, to us, and simple to sing along with...our friends could learn it and we all sang it in school, too. I don't think we were being pollyannaish, either. We knew about and supported what was happening in the South and elsewhere and as long as a person wasn't a mormon sheepherder*, they were welcome in our family.

It bothers me when folks come along, many, many years later and still denigrate a song which my family and I loved so much. My sisters still sing it because they enjoy it. None of us even knew it was supposed to be "passe" until I came to Mudcat. Buck, thanks for the look back. I guess some us will remain hopelessly naive.

kat

*A long story involving my ggrandfather, a non-mormon cattle man.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 10:34 PM

Joan Baez never let cynicism mar her ideals nor cast doubt upon her youthful dreams. I can't say that of too many people. A song carries what you bring to it, specially a very simple song like Kumbaya. If you have nothing left to bring to it, well, then, don't blame the song.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Greg B
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 10:35 PM

Heh heh--- she said 'Kum'---- heh heh...


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Bee
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 11:05 PM

I think, as well, as we age there is a tendency to remember our young selves too harshly: we remember our own ignorance, we squirm a little at how naive we were, how distant from reality were our ideals, and how simple we thought complex issues could be. We regard those earnest croonings of Kumbaya with embarassment because, however well meaning we were, there was a lot we didn't really understand about even so simple and sweet a song as that.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 11:07 PM

These days, when some call something P.C.--politically correct--it is a way to demean and trivialize programs and points of view that have real merit.--- To me, it is like ending a sentence with the word "so" -- right in the middle of a sentence. It leaves it to the listener to fill in the blanks with mutually held prejudices and attitudes which, to those who "know" are, obviously, too obvious to bother spending the effort to make a clear statement of facts. Liberal is another one of those words. And now this song title is being made into a coded message even as we speak.--- It is a way to condemn without saying anything at all. The inference is enough for the "in group" --- It's us and them---and we know all about them, right?!

Art


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: freightdawg
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 11:11 PM

"Overdose of sincerity." (Joe Offer)

That's why I keep coming back to the 'Cat. When I can finally come up with a phrase like that I will be able to die contented.

Really profound, in a folkie existentialist sort of way.

Freightdawg


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 11:24 PM

You can't have an overdose of sincerity, but you can have an overdose of naivete.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: catspaw49
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 11:42 PM

"If I laugh at any mortal thing, tis that I may not weep."......George Gordon(Lord Byron)

While we can discuss our early idealism and naivete and intellectualize about the follies of youth, the truth is down a few more tiers in our souls. We laugh off and make fun of those things associated with that time to cover our sadness and sorrow over our loss of innocence which we can never recover.

Just my 2 cents............

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Feb 08 - 11:47 PM

Let me try again to say what I meant to say:

Some people sang and/or sing the song Kumbaya because they like the song's words, and its tune, and/or they like and accept and perhaps even live the we-are-the-world view that the song has come to stand for.

Notwithstanding all of that, I believe that the song Kumbaya has become a symbol of and a connotation for an attitude or experience of fake, rose-colored glasses brotherhood and sisterhood.

It's my sense that people who ridicule "kumbaya" aren't ridiculing the song as much as they are putting down the concept that the song connotes-fake, or surface sweetness and light brotherhood and sisterhood.

While I don't ridicule "kumbaya moments", I believe that those experiences should motivate people to work for true equality under the laws and a viewpoint that all of us truly are brothers and sisters and should be equally valued regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, economic class, sexual orientation and other things that have divided people for so long and that continue to divide us.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 12:01 AM

Also, kumbaya moments may have nothing whatsoever to do with singing folk songs around a campfire or otherwise.

For instance, one of the recent 2008 Democratic Presidental debates was described as being kumbaya-like, because the candidates did not argue as was expected, but instead "made nice" with [towards] each other.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 12:08 AM

Too true, Spawdarlin'...:-<

Bang the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly...


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 02:19 AM

Yes, you got it right, Spaw.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: KT
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 03:27 AM

well said, Spaw.       And Little Hawk ~ "A song carries what you bring to it, specially a very simple song like Kumbaya. If you have nothing left to bring to it, well, then, don't blame the song."

This discussion brings to mind an image which likens us to trees....

Like trees, as we grow older, we develop more and more layers, a thicker, tougher exterior perhaps, brought about by exposure and growth and the process of aging. But that purity, that sincerity, that essence of our youth, though now covered by the many layers we've acquired, is still there at the very center of who we are. And on those rare occasions when we connect with it once again, we expereince, for a very brief time, a coming home.
KT


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 03:51 AM

Wise words Azizi (as always, may I say).
Over here, it was also played to death, along with others such as 'Streets of London', a fine and meaningful song about homelessness which also was killed by its own popularity. Sad, but as they say, "That's (musical) Life"!


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 04:26 AM

Just a thought on what happened to that song in the UK. I was made to go to sunday school as a kid in the seventies. The people in change were largely pleasant-but-earnest, tiggerishly enthusiastic, mildly hippyish, Jesus-lovin' types, who would not only make us sing songs like Kumbaya but always close their eyes, raise their hands heaven-wards and put on a pained expression like they were straining to take an almighty dump when doing so...

Every friggin' week. For what seemed like years.

So please excuse me when I say it's ALL about context and for me, when this song is mentioned, I want to run a mile. Pavlov and his dog got it just about right!

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Amos
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 04:47 AM

For an old fart, Spaw still has one helluva serve.....but I dunno. Lost innocence repined?   

Is there really a there there?


A


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 05:37 AM

It's the ethos of Kumbaya that is being denigrated and not the sentiments expressed in the song, that is at the root of the remark about "A Kumbaya moment"
The same can be said of several 'feel good' songs like, Last Night I had a Wondrous Dream, Ebony and Ivory, and even White Cliffs of Dover.
What is says to me is that the impact of the song and the sentiments it expresses, disappears with repetition.
It proves the saying that one can get too much of a good thing, and it also explains why we get fed up with the same message repeated ad nauseam, till we despise the messenger, and in so doing dismiss the message.
I can think of several people and politicians who follow a monotonous course through life, banging on and on about the same thing, and have thus turned me and others, from friends and disciples, to apathy or dare I say it,adversaries.
So next time you hear (The Bloody Awful) Fields of Athenry, don't shoot the singer, not unless he/she is really bad that is.

Giok


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 08:02 AM

Backwoodsman,

Thanks for your compliment!

An unexpected compliment is the best kind.



By the way, your check is in the mail.

:o)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: catspaw49
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 09:29 AM

Repined? I dunno' Amos, I think I'd prefer to do it over in a nice birdseye maple...............

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 09:43 AM

Have you checked out its meaning in other languages?

Maybe it may have negative content in some foreign tongue


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 09:43 AM

I don't recollect Kumbaya in the UK ever having the hint of despair, possibly even the despair that leads to revolution, that the familiarity with Gullah might have given it in the USA.

It just sounded kind of twee, and we were not taking our hope from religion in the 60s (except in a Timothy Leary sort of way). From the UK perspective of the Aldermaston march the hint of uprising in "We shall overcome" spoke in a way that was easier to relate to.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Amos
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 10:49 AM

reápine

INTRANSITIVE VERB:        Inflected forms: reápined, reápináing, reápines
1. To be discontented or low in spirits; complain or fret. 2. To yearn after something: Immigrants who repined for their homeland.
ETYMOLOGY:        Middle English repinen, to be aggrieved : re-, re- + pinen, to yearn; see pine2.

I still ask if there is a there there. :D


A


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: John Hardly
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 11:03 AM

"It's the ethos of Kumbaya that is being denigrated and not the sentiments expressed in the song, that is at the root of the remark about "A Kumbaya moment""

If by "ethos" you mean the naive notion that sitting around in a circle, holding hands and singing a really lame song was the same thing as doing something ...or even came anywhere near appropriately framing a grievance, then, yes, I agree with you.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 11:12 AM

As with other wonderful songs with a rich complex history, this one got worn out but will be rediscovered and enjoyed again by another generation.

I remember teaching it to a group of South African refugee students who were at my school in Ethiopia in 1966, when I was a Peace Corps teacher. They were fine singers, and my only regret is I lost a tape of their own wonderful songs.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 11:13 AM

Just about John. It sort of ties in with the Hippy Drippy sentiments that were around then too. [Not that they've totally gone!]
G


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 12:43 PM

No problemo Azizi, credit where it's due!
Best,
J


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 12:48 PM

Songs don't get killed. People get tired of them, but often that's just part of getting tired of themselves. The temptation is to blame the song for the disappointment we feel. Rather analogous to blaming the messenger for the bad news.

Lumping Kumbaya in with some of the other rather second rate songs mentioned isn't justifiable. (I don't mean they are all second-rate.) Kumbaya is not a second-rate song, though often enough like any good song it's been sung in a second rate way, and without much understanding. Often sentimental and wishy-washy.

I started writing this and I was called away, and before I came back I saw a bit of a TV programme about Archbishop Tutu, and one of the songs featured a South African group of singers with a version of Kumbaya. Nothing sentimental or wishy-washy about the way they sang it.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 01:09 PM

Right on.

Now THIS is the real reason why "Kumbaya" is a dirty word. It means "Go f*ck yourself!" in Navaho. It's even worse than saying "Kimosavay" (which means "you are the progeny of a wild dog and a traveling snake oil salesman")! So never ever sing "Kumbaya" when you're visiting the Navahos, but feel free to sing it anywhere else you please without hesitation.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 01:41 PM

So, singing We Shall Overcome = doing something about it

singing Kumbaya = wannabe, naive idjits who do nothing

I had no idea all of our actions meant absolutely nothing since we were, at times, singing the wrong song

That is fucked up...


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 01:44 PM

Little Hawk, I suppose that your 17 Feb 08 - 01:09 PM post was snark.

But giving that meaning even in jest to the title of a religious song seems quite off-putting to me...

However, I guess to each his or her own.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 02:06 PM

It all depends on whether you take it seriously or not, I suppose, or whether you take it on the level it's intended as...pure satire. One thing I have discovered is that when one engages in any form of barbed satire, someone out there is always offended....and who does one hear from? Not the 99 people who weren't offended, but the one who was.

I was defending the song "Kumbaya", Azizi, by satirizing the very idea that it is "a dirty word" in such a way as to say that that idea is ridiculous. If you read all my remarks in context throughout this thread, you will see that I am defending the song "Kumbaya". I agree with Spaw's remarks and McGrath's...people who object to something they themselves once participated in with open hearts...or that other people did...are most often people who are experiencing considerable inner sorrow over their own lost youth and the idealism that was once a part of their youth.

The strength of a song like Kumbaya is that it is simple in structure and perfectly set up for many, many people to sing in unison. It's good for people to sing together like that. It joins their hearts in a common upliftment, rather as a good chant does. Your favorite candidate, Mr Obama, seems to be well aware of that, and he is finding his own ways of doing something along that line.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 02:44 PM

Little Hawk,

I appreciate your response.

However, I'm old school enough to be turned off by the words you used to make your satirical point, especially when those words are used for a religious song. I also was turned off by your put down on the so called Navaho word or phrase.

But, I'm not going to belabor these points. I understand better than I did before you wrote your response that you really didn't mean anything negative by what you wrote.

Again, it's a matter of different strokes for different folks.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 03:06 PM

Maybe it's because it is religious that it seems so wet?


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: SINSULL
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 08:06 PM

Like "Where Have All The Flowers Gone", "Kumbaya" was done to death. I cringe in unison with other members of the audience when anyone starts either one though I love both songs. Go figure.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 08:13 PM

I suppose it's unnecessary, but "dirty word" was a metaphorical phrase; in no circumstance did I mean to imply that anyone as far as I know actually think that "kumbaya" is a nasty word. If anyone got that impression, mea culpa for not making myself clear.

So do all the truly great and thoughtful responses to "Kumbaya" as a song and a concept also then apply to The Times They Are a'Changing and Blowin' In The Wind (as well as some of the other naively hopeful songs already mentioned like Last Night I had the Strangest Dream, etc.)? (tough to handle punctuation in a parenthetical).

They must. What were we thinking back then, then? And what has changed in us?


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 08:14 PM

Sorry, that last GUEST post was me, forgot to login on the home machine.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 08:19 PM

They should've said that "it was a Waltzing With Bears moment." That I could've got behind.

Art


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 09:46 PM

I don't think you are thinkng of teh songs as you read teh words written here about them, Buck.

Times they are a-changin neatly expresses the scorn that youth always has for its parents. That saves it from soppiness.

Blowing in the Wind teeters on twee at times, but again there is there is the rhetorically expressed anger - How many times must, etc


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 10:13 PM

Somewhat off-topic:

Richard Bridge,

In two of your posts to this thread you used the word "twee".

The first time you used it, I wondered if you were referring to the "Twi" language and culture of the Akan peoples of Ghana, West Africa.

But the second time, I figured that was probably not the case. So I decided to look up the meaning of the word "twee". I'm posting that definition here in case there are other "UnitedStaters" and folks from other countries reading this thread who also don't know this word:

twee
One entry found.

twee

Main Entry: twee
Pronunciation: \ˈtwç\
Function: adjective
Etymology: baby-talk alteration of sweet
Date: 1905
chiefly British : affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/twee

-snip-

Oh, what you were saying is that the song Kumbaya has become corny {and maybe sappy is another adjective that fits that definition of "twee"}.

Okay. I get it.

Thanks, Richard, for providing an opportunity to learn that British colloquial term!


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 10:18 PM

Hmm, I thought I saw the definition "corny" in that dictionary entry, but apparently not.

Are corny and sappy what you meant by "twee", Richard? Those descriptors seems to fit what some people think of the song Kumbaya instead of [the American definitions of] "affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint".


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 10:43 PM

I have nothing against Kumbaya. I don't have much feel for it, either. I was first exposed to it by camp counselors at a church camp I was sent to in the summer after fourth grade, when I didn't want to go. I was uncomfortable with the forced comraderie and the buddy system (when swimming). I liked the fact that the counselor's played instruments. Perhaps watching them play guitars and banjos warped my young sensibilities. But Kumbaya seemed to be more force feeding of the religious subtext of the whole camp thing. I thought the counselors seemed to have more fun playing their instruments with each other after they sent us all back to our cabins. I'm perfectly willing to say when voicing my opinion on the song that one should consider the source, before making their own judgement.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 17 Feb 08 - 11:20 PM

TWEES

I think that I will never see
A poem as bad as Kilmer's Twees
So here I leave the rhyme scheme of that horrid verse
With hopes that never e'er shall I be known to write
A poem that's any worse!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Janie
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 02:18 AM

I'll risk making a fool of myself here.

I think it a lovely song of sorrow in search of solace.   A prayer.

Janie


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 03:21 AM

Perhaps there is another Atlantic gulf here - but I am not sure that I am wholly clear about "corny" - the usage you suggest indicates to me something different from the way I would use "corny".

To me "corny" implies a fashion that has become dated. An old joke is "corny". Those metal bars with a little weight on the end that held shirt collars down are now corny. A song expressing old fashioned popular values may be corny.

"Sappy" I don't know of being used in England in the way you imply. "Sappy" to me would indicate young flexible wood growing with vigour, and by analogy a young person's vigorous pushing aside of the old.

"Twee", to me means excessively socially sweet or "nice" (but not "nice" in a good way), cloying, saccharine - overly inoffensive, self-consciously winsome. Beatrix Potter's books and animals in Victorian dresses are twee. The Rev. W. Aldry's books (the original "Thomas the Tank Engine") are twee. "My Little Pony" is twee. Most things chintzy are twee. Constance Spry verses in greetings cards are twee. Cards for mothering Sunday (a specified date on the Christian religious calendar) calling it "mother's day, or worse, "Mummy's day" are twee. A woman of 30 or over calling her mother "mummy" or her father "daddy" is twee. A man of over 30 doing so is nauseating. I would not equate twee with daintiness or delicacy, and certainly not with quaintness which implies old-fashioned.

"Cute" to mean "attractive" I also find nauseating. I object to its colonisation of the English language. It can mean acute or adept (as in "a cute trick"). It is a word I almost never use, and certainly never in the American way which I also find imprecise (maybe because I am too busy vomiting to think about its meaning). The use of the word "cute" however, is twee. Where others might say of a baby girl that she is "cute" I would say "pretty" or "attractive" or "fetching".

I hope that clarifies what I was meaning.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 04:30 AM

Like the poem Art 'McGonigle' Thieme.
G ¦¬]


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: KT
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 06:13 AM

Janie, you're a treasure!

KT


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 07:18 AM

Richard, thanks for that clarification. One of the interesting things about this international forum {Mudcat} is to come across different slang and word usages and meanings between American English and other forms of English.

With regard to the American {United States} meanings that I meant for the adjectives "corny" and "sappy",   

www.answers.com gives this definition for
the adjective "corny"- " Trite, dated, melodramatic, or mawkishly sentimental."

In my sentence, I meant the last definition given for "corny":
"Some people think that the song Kumbaya is corny {mawkishly sentimental}."

**

Also, answers.com gives these definitions for the adjective "sappy":

1.Full of sap; juicy.

2.Slang. Excessively sentimental; mawkish.

3.Slang. Silly or foolish.

-snip-

In my sentence, I meant the second definition of "sappy". "Some people think that the song Kumbaya is sappy {excessively sentimental}.

So, it can be said that some people think the song Kumbaya is twee.
But those people don't include me.

:o)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Tinker
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 08:51 AM

Perhaps as time goes on Kumbayah isn't quite as over done as we think. A couple of summers ago I took a group of kids on a Church sponsered mission trip where we met up with kids from churches from through out the mid west US.
One evening the activity was a simulation on economic injustice. As the upper 5 percent were seated and waited on with soda and popcorn directly infront of the movie screen the next 10% sat on the floor behind them and were told to be quiet and not disturb the people in front of them. They had a handful of popcorn and a juice box.
The "masses" were then brought to the back of the room and basically bossed around and given nothing.

The kids from my rather liberal eastern suburb had done this type of thing before and all began assorted protests.... But when it became clear they needed to organize the other 50 kids to acomplish anything I suddenly heard ... "Look we'll march up to the front singing Kumbayah..." "What's that ???" Not a single other Church group new the song. They ended up singing Row Row Row your boat because it was the only song they all knew.
The actions were louder than the words. But part of me wishes the other kids had known the words.....


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 09:18 AM

Good point, Tinker (and Azizi too, as always)

What's it's easy to forget is that to us been-there-done-that oldies, Kumbayah is over-familiar because we've all heard it sung and sung and sung. But to kids it's still a new experience, and I think it's right to introduce them to it. As has already been pointed out, however tired of it one may get, it's still a beautiful song with meaningful words (good scope for harmony singing too, an important aspect for me).


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 09:35 AM

Every genre has its own dirty-word songs. In our circles, "Amazing Grace" is one of the least welcome requests (among others), and I believe that Seamus Kennedy has his own list of "No" songs.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 10:17 AM

"...perfectly set up for many, many people to sing in unison." Room for some good harmonies as well.
......................................

"Cure" is an interesting word - in Irish usage it means "clever" or "cunning", maybe related to "acute". (The word for the My Little Pony type "cute" is ""doty".) Does that apply among Irish Americans?
........................................

Folkies can sometimes get horribly smart-arsed and snobbish about the business of what songs are seen as out of bounds. More often than not the list would include most of the songs that would most likely be welcomed and appreciated by ordinary people. And yet the essential ethos of "folk music" is that it is the music of "ordinary people" (even when they don't know it.)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Cats
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 11:04 AM

Last night there was a TV programme about Desmond Tutu. It was 'Songs of Praise' on BBC1. Now, I am not a follower of this programme at all but I count Desmond Tutu as one of my all time heroes. On it there was a South African choir singing a wonderful arrangement of something that was vaguely familiar but I couldn't think what it was until about 2 minutes in when it dawned on me it was Kumbaya. I have to admit I cringe at the mention of Kumbaya but this version was absolutley superb and definitley worth going onto the BBC website just to hear it.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 11:59 AM

IMO, the problem with the song is nothing to do with music--as a song, it's fine--nor with the meaning, alleged meaning, pseudo-meaning, pseudo-porno-meaning or other-meaning of the word. I am still chuckling over the idea of American "familiarity" with Gullah. That in itself, to me, is a Kumbaya moment. What the problem is, I think, is the naive belief that massive socio-economic problems can be easily addressed. Best example was a friend of mine saying that if we ever catch Osama bin Laden, we should just all sit down and sing "Kumbaya" together. Solving problems and eliminating differences is a laudable GOAL, but given human nature, it will take more than wishing.

Oh, and LittleHawk, the next time you have such a lovely inspiration for raising the level of discourse, would you do me a favor and keep it the eff to yourself?

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 12:24 PM

Of all the explanations and theories, my favourite remains Spaw's from yesterday. "... sadness and sorrow over our loss of innocence which we can never recover", yes that hits home.

And we shouldn't forget either that youth is a time to be innocent and idealistic to the point of naivete. If we don't dream, we never strive and achieve, only survive, and sometimes not even that. And here is what saddens me most: when I see youngsters disillusioned.

So, nothing wrong with having once sung "Kumbaya" with arms interlinked at some concert or round a fire, and nothing wrong with having had strong emotions at the time. And if the same doesn't ring as true today as it did then, well guess what, the song hasn't changed. Only we have. And if maturity means becoming emotionally arteriosclerotic and jaded, then f*ck maturity; it's just a form of slow death.

The Who's lyric was wrong - it should have been "hope I die before I get cynical".


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 12:33 PM

Takes more than wishing - but without wishing there isn't a chance in hell of achieving those things.

All this has an interesting echo in the current pre-election goings-on in America, with exchanges about "hope" between Clinton and Obama. I anticipate that at some time Obama will get slagged off as "the Kumbaya candidate", if that hasn't happened as yet.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: meself
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 01:14 PM

[Re: 'cute'. In some rural areas of Canada it is indeed used in the sense of 'acute', 'sly', 'tricky' ... Whether this comes from Irish usage I don't know, but the regions I associate this usage with do have considerable Irish influence: Newfoundland and the Ottawa Valley].

Re: Kumbaya. Once again, I'm struck by how much our reaction to certain songs depends on the specific circles we've travelled in - or spun out of. I sang Kumbaya enough as a kid in the 'sixties to get mightily tired of it, but I don't think I ever associated it with civil rights or the saving of the world generally. I understood it to have vaguely African origins, but this was just a point of interest without political overtones. It was simply, like Michael Row the Boat Ashore, an appealing (for awhile) spiritual that everyone could join in on. When we sang We Shall Overcome, on the other hand, I think most kids were aware of its connection with the civil rights movement, which I'm sure we all (as good Canadians) felt was a worthy enterprise, but I certainly didn't imagine that a bunch of us singing it around a campfire was going to change anything. It was something to sing, and an inspiration to think a bit about people who were in a tough situation, and were struggling to do something about it ... So I don't feel any embarrassment about any of those songs - but that has to do with my own experience, and not with the songs themselves.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 01:43 PM

I learned this song in my Junior High Chorus Class. It was 1964 and I had never heard of the song before.It really seemed kind of exotic, in its African words and styling. We learned to sing trailing harmonies to it, with the basses and tenors singing Kumbaya just before the altos and sopranos shadowed the word with their higher harmony. We sang it in the gymnasium to an assembly of our schoolmates and teachers, and I can recall that the usually rowdy crowd was silent as the echoes of the song reverberated in the hall. It was always the kind of song that had a sort of magic in it, that sounded better unaccompanied by instruments, that sounded, as Janie said, like a prayer.

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya!
Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya!
Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya!
Oh, Lord! Kumbaya!

Someone's crying, Lord, Kumbaya!
Someone's crying, Lord, Kumbaya!
Someone's crying, Lord, Kumbaya!
Oh, Lord! Kumbaya!

Someone's singing, Lord, Kumbaya!
Someone's singing, Lord, Kumbaya!
Someone's singing, Lord, Kumbaya!
Oh, Lord! Kumbaya!

Someone's praying, Lord, Kumbaya!
Someone's praying, Lord, Kumbaya!
Someone's praying, Lord, Kumbaya!
Oh, Lord! Kumbaya!

Beautiful in its simplicity, the song bears no reponsibility for how it was used, whether as a civil rights anthem or an anti-war hymn. It also transcends its use as a chide. When I hear it, it lies beyond those connotations, somewhere in the heart of a thirteen year old boy, where it still resonates.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 01:50 PM

Richard - thanks, but I didn't imply that I thought the songs were in the same category, I expressly wondered whether things expressed here also applied to them. Appreciate the clarification though.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Pinetop Slim
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 02:51 PM

Thanks for posting the lyrics, Lonesome EJ. Insert the meaning of Kumbayah as posted earlier -- Come By Here -- and it reads like a very lovely benediction. If such a benediction has become a cliche, we all may be in deeper trouble than we thought.
And if we're ashamed to admit to idealism or, worse, inclined to sneer at it, we're in deeper trouble still.
Kumbayah needs a Willie Nelson, someone able to pick a worn-out song off the trash heap and breathe new life into it.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 05:04 PM

God helps those who help themselves.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 05:28 PM

But God help those who only help themselves...


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 06:40 PM

Folks,

Try "Amazing Grace" with the tune of the old TV show theme from Gilligan's Island. They go great together!! ;-)

Art


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Art again
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 06:47 PM

I once heard Bob Gibson sing it:

Someone's kidding lord, Kum ba ya!
You've got to be kidding, lord, kum ba ya...

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: KT
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 07:07 PM

"When I hear it, it lies beyond those connotations, somewhere in the heart of a thirteen year old boy, where it still resonates."

Beautiful, LEJ! That's the core I was talking about way up there (17 Feb 08 - 03:27 AM )

KT


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: KT
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 07:15 PM

So now I'm thinking about how one would define "Kumbaya Moment." In it's simplist form, doesn't it mean, having one's heart wide open with hope and longing for what is good and right? Nothin' wrong with that.

I'm reminded of a phrase from our own George Papavgeris - "Where are the flowers that we put into the muzzles of the guns?"

KT


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 07:21 PM

When the word "naive" comes into play, there's a proverb of William Blake that seems curiously relevant: "If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise."


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,LDB
Date: 18 Feb 08 - 08:38 PM

Art, I know you only by your recordings and appearance at Winfield, but I heard this the other day and thought this might have been something you would have taken further even if it was from Kilmer.

I think that I shall never see

A conservative who loves a tree.

LDB


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 11:50 AM

KT, the photographer who took the famous flowers in the gun muzzle just died this past year. I started a thread about it, but it didn't get many hits.:-)

LeeJ, thanks...that's exactly what meant.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 11:59 AM

This may have already been said, somewhere in the thread. Kumbaya is a lovely song, but it's one of those songs that's been played just one too many times for me. I have one or two like that, that were in my repetoire, but I'm now resting them due to over-exposure.

Charlotte (the view from Ma and Pa's piano stool)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 12:09 PM

I think we are mostly now embarrassed by what we fervently believed in when we were 13, aren't we?


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 12:30 PM

So true! I fervently believed in a girl named Pam Ford when I was 13. She was the most popular girl in my class. She even became a cheerleader and I think she was Prom Queen too. I doubt that we would find much to talk about now.

Now, then, how about "hootenanny"? Anyone remember when that word became totally passe? It wore out a lot quicker than Kumbaya did.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 12:34 PM

"...it's one of those songs that's been played just one too many times for me."

When was the last time you sang it or heard someone sing it? Not for a good few years I bet. Sometimes these "overexposed" songs don't in fact get any exposure at all.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 12:36 PM

when was the last time I sang it...about 2 months ago, on request from a member of the audience...have a NICE day.

Charlotte (knows of what she speaks)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 01:17 PM

Living in a culture accustomed to sound bites, "buzz words" and catch phrases, it is easy to wear things out from overuse. I do happen to find the sentiment in "Kumbaya" a little simplistic and naive, but isn't altruism, while possibly also simple and naive, a deeply valued social tradition in many cultures?


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 01:21 PM

There are people that love the song. I was part of a team that went around to retirement homes and sang and played for the residents at the time I last sang Kumbaya, and one of the said residence said to me afterwards about Kumbaya, the old saw..."they don't write them like that anymore, and you know what? That woman was right.

Charlotte (performs for all the community)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 05:48 PM

I'm not embarrassed by what I believed in 1962. (I was a tad bit older than 13 though) (ok, sixteen).

I'm embarrassed that I let so much of it fall away, in fact. I guess it makes a difference what you believed when you were 13.

Kumbaya is, after all, a luulaby, not a protest song (as Richard so correctly pointed out). (Sorta).


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 06:13 PM

I'm not embarrassed by what I believed when I was thirteen. I believed what I believed then, I believe what I believe now...why be embarrassed?

Charlotte (the view from Ma and Pa's piano stool)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 07:06 PM

When I was thirteen? Quite a few changes, nothing to be embarassed about- why should there be, as Charlotte said there.

Twenty and up - not too much change, basically.

"Oh, my friend, we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts, the dreams are still the same"


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: meself
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 07:20 PM

I dreamed I would be wiser - wise as I was ... Ah, but I was so much older then ...


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Slag
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 07:29 PM

Maybe most of you are to close to the subject to see that when those in the media use the term "Kumbaya moment" it is synonymous with claptrap. It is a song everybody knows and salutes. Yes, maybe smarmy to some but it's really about putting something forward that is not new and doesn't raise anyone's hackles. Leastwise, that's my take.

I like Kumbaya. I never got to hear it enough. Too much rock on the stations where I grew up.

As for Joyce Kilmer, yes smarmy and boy, could he ever mix metaphors!


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Feb 08 - 07:55 PM

Here's a political quote that addresses what the phrase "Kumbaya moment" has come to mean in the USA:

"KUMBAYA

In what may have been the most nonpartisan moment of this past summer, the official White House portraits of Bill Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, were unveiled in an unabashedly sentimental ceremony. President Bush praised his predecessor as a man ''with far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need,'' and ''42,'' as Bush nicknamed him, was grateful ''for all those kind and generous things you've said.'' David Sanger, a Times reporter, wrote, ''Graciousness oozed from all sides,'' and Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who had been one of Clinton's most effectively partisan White House aides, noted, ''I thought everybody was going to break out in 'Kumbaya.'''

As the campaign heated up, the conservative radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham told Larry King of CNN that ''while this kumbaya moment that we're all sharing about party unity is wonderful, the truth of the matter is -- '' and then popped Senator Kerry for his blast at the president for outsourcing the hunt for Osama bin Laden. John Tierney of The Times, in his lively Political Points column, quoted Kerry's call for a ''more sensitive war on terror'' and awarded him the ''Kumbaya Prize.'' "

http://www.cmicdf.org/News/the--62-magazine-62-on-language-gaming.html

-snip-

So what does "Kumbaya moment" mean?

How about "an occurance or event noted for its participant/s expression of fake admiration or affection for an individual or for a group of people, or for an another person's accomplishment/s"?

Needless to say, I'm open to "hearing" what you think this relatively newly coined phrase means.

{Relatively newly coined=less than 10 years old. That's just a guess as I'm not sure how long the phrase "kumbaya moment" has been in use. But I don't think the phrase has been used for a long time}.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Slag
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 01:29 AM

How about Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" That moment NEEDED Kumbaya.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 02:03 AM

"Overdose of sincerity."

As actors are taught - 'when you can fake sincerity, yuo can handle anything'...


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Rowan
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 06:06 PM

Great stuff, Azizi. As usual. And there's been some impressive sensitivity on display from most on this thread.

In Oz, I recall Kumbaya being sung a lot but the contexts and overtones seemed (to me) to deal with group cohesion and unity of purpose. There was some connotation with American Civil Rights but I suspect only those rare individuals who'd spent time in the Carolinas would pick a Gullah connection and, while recognised as having lullaby atttributes I can't recall anyone identifying the song as such, specifically.

You don't hear it much these days, probably because it has become what Poms and Aussies would describe as "hackneyed". At a time when the scout movement was a major location for informal group singing, the 1st Hackney Scout Troop put out a hardbound songbook; I still have my father's copy from the early 1930s. It had the words of a lot of English "traditional" or "folk" songs (both sensu latu and sensu strictu); Tom Pierce is an example. When the folk revival got going in Oz (anywhere from the late 50s to late 60s depending on your definitions) there were a lot of English folk songs being sung, but very few dared to sing such things as Tom Pierce except as parody; the ridicule from those who thought themselves the 'masters of the genre' was intense. I suspect Kumbaya might, nowadays, frequently be given the same treatment in Oz, irrespective of contexts.

But, sung with serious intent, almost any hackneyed song still is capable of giving goose bumps. To the audience as well.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 06:15 PM

Just as an aside, Foolestroupe...we had a prime minister in Canada who was an absolute master at faking sincerity...so much so that he became known as "Lyin' Brian". He was a real smoothie. That was Brian Mulroney. He was Canada's chief exec through the Reagan years, and he and Reagan just doted on each other. He gave us NAFTA (so-called Free Trade, but it ain't!) He remains the single most detested political leader in Canada's history...but MAN, could that guy ever sound sincere!


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 08:44 PM

The other thing is when people go in for faking cynicism, because they feel embarrassed at letting their real feelings out,

There's quite a lot of that about too.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 09:25 PM

Here is a longish (and interesting) article about the song and the sneers thaty thisthread have explored - "Someone's dissin', Lord, kumbaya"


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 09:47 PM

Various Matters:

My thanks to those who have complimented me in this thread.
Your compilements were not only unexpected, they were also unsought. Yet, given the topic of this discussion, I feel the need to say that although I am very modest, my modesty still permits me to believe that your kind words are not examples of any Kumbaya moments.

:o)

**

The subject of Kumbaya is meaningful to me, partly because og my interest in African American cultures.

This subject is also meaningful to me since my first post on Mudcat was in reference to this song. That post was rather bitting-for me. But it was heartfelt. And I still stand by those words today.

thread.cfm?threadid=65010#1264364

Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Azizi - PM
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 05:17 PM

I am a guest of your site and polite guests are supposed to ignore any crap they see or smell, but it makes me puke to read the comments that the song Kumbaya comes from Africaaners,the same people that brought us apartheid.

As a non-Gullah African American, I stand by the position that this spiritual is from the Gullah traditions and means "Come by here".

We {African Americans} need to be better at protecting our heritage from well meaning misstatements and conscious theft.

That being said, I do like reading posts here and am learning more about folk music in the United States and across the Atlantic.

However, it doesn't appear to be very many African Americans or other people of color posting here.

Sometimes race and ethnicity does matter".

**

Here is another post that I wrote on that same Origins-Kumbaya thread which speaks to a sub-topic of this thread- how some folks disparage this song:

Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 08:57 AM

In true full circle effect, I found this online column http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/08/someones_dissin.html
[Eric Zorn; Change of Subject
A Chicago Tribune Web log; Originally posted: August 31, 2006]
that references this Mudcat thread as having the best online discussion of the origins of Kumbayah.

{On behalf of the other posters to this thread, "Thanks for the shout out, Eric!]

Here's an excerpt from that article:

"Someone's dissin', Lord, kumbaya

Poor "Kumbaya."

Its title has become synonymous with sappy, saccharine naiveté and peace-`n'-love, all-join-hands Pollyannaism that afflicts the starry-eyed. I've used the metaphor myself, even though I know it's a cliché that unfairly maligns a stirring and storied piece of music.

"Kumbaya" - also commonly spelled "Kumbayah" and "Kum-Ba-Yah"- is a glorious song, really. That's how it got popular enough to become a cliché in the first place.

The stately melody invites harmonies and is as simple as the words to the refrain: "Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya" repeated three times. Then "Oh, Lord, Kumbaya."

Its origins are in dispute. Some folk historians say it started as "Come By Here," a 1930s-era composition by New York City clergyman Martin Frey. Missionaries took it to Africa, where natives pronounced the title, "Kum Ba Yah."

Others say the song originated far earlier among the Gullah people-- African-Americans living in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia-and that "Kum Ba Yah" is "Come By Here" in their dialect.

Either way, the song had cross-cultural bonafides that lifted it out of the ordinary when it appeared on the scene during the folk boom of the 1950s and 1960s.   It's gentle call for divine presence struck a spiritual but non-sectarian tone.

The Weavers, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and many others covered "Kumbaya," and it turned out to be perfect for campfires, hootenannies and guitar masses (giving rise to the expression, "Kumbaya Catholics"). Perhaps too perfect.

Chicago folklorist Paul Tyler says that the song "became banal at the hands of non-African-American camp counselors and church youth workers--include me in that number--who stripped it of any rhythmic integrity." (more from Tyler below)

The stately melody turned into vanilla dirge. And, in the backlash, "Kumbaya" came to represent shallow goodwill based on nothing more profound than the humdrum participles that differentiate the verses ("someone's sleeping, Lord..." "someone's praying, Lord..." and so on)...

[Pete Seeager interview cited]:

The man who wrote "Kumbaya my lord, Kumbaya," thought he wrote that until the day he died, he was sure he wrote it. He was very proud that African-Americans had speeded up his song and they liked to sing

"Come by here my lord
Come by here
Oh Lord, Come by here."

However, in the Library of Congress they played a recording for me of that song sung in 1920. Marvin Frey made up the slow version about 1936 or 37. He taught it to a family of missionaries that was going to Angola, and there they changed 'come by here' to Kumbaya,' the African pronunciation. Then it was brought back here." ...
-snip-

That online Chicago Tribune column starts with a link to this Youtube clip of a TV commercial for Bazooka bubble gum which began airing in August 2006:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XId0KW9Uy0U&eurl=

Here is Eric Zorn's description of that tv commercial/YouTube:

Smarmy, 20-ish bearded dude with hair down to his shoulders, wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and head scarf and sitting at a campfire with a guitar on his knee: Hi kids, welcome to Camp Chippewa. And let's all sing "Kumbaya."

Contemptuous campers, rhythmically: We don't want no "Kumbaya," All we want is bubble-gum! Bazooka-zooka bubble gum.

The Heights, a rap group, suddenly appearing: Bubble-gum! Bazooka-zooka bubble gum! Some gum!"

-snip-

The hyperlink to the Origins-Kumbaya thread is found at the top of this thread.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 09:49 PM

Wow, McGrath of Harlow!

I posted my comment before reading your post about that same "Someone's dissin', Lord, Kumbaya" article...

Great minds and all that!

:o))


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 10:34 PM

It's interesting that some people equate the song Kumbaya-or at least the phrase Kumbaya moments-with fake comraderie for that African American spiritual was originally a heartfelt plea by enslaved peope for divine intervention.

There actually is at least one African American spiritual that talks about fake comraderie. That song is "Scandalize My Name".

Scandalize My Name

I met my brother the other day
And gave him my right hand
As soon as ever my back was turned
He scandalized my name

Now do you call that a brother?
No, no
You call that a brother?
No, no
You call that a brother
No, no
Scandalize my name

I met my sister the other day
And gave her my right hand
As soon as ever my back was turned
She too scandalized my name

Now do you call that a sister?
No, no
You call that a sister?
No, no
You call that a sister?
No, no
Scandalize my name

I met my preacher the other day
And gave him my right hand
As soon as ever my back was turned
He too scandalized my name

Now do you call that religion?
No, no
You call that religion?
No, no
You call that religion?
No, no
Scandalize my name.

http://www.lyricsdownload.com/paul-robeson-scandalize-my-name-lyrics.html

**

This past summer, I had the pleasure of hearing and singing the song "Scandalize Your Name" at my home church in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Reverend Bey, the lead minister of Union Baptist Temple started singing that song in response to another song that the choir had just sung. That song {whose title and words I can't remember} had a line in it about ministers doing wrong. I think that I remember the song "Scandalize My Name" so well partly because I had never heard it before, and partly because I admired the improvisational way the minister riffed on the choir's song.

The choir's song occurred right before Rev. Bey was to give his sermon. However, after the choir ended their song, instead of reading the scripture that his sermon was based on and then going into his prepared sermon, Rev. Bey made a jocular comment something like "Oh no, you had to go and talk about the pastor, didn't you? Well, that puts me to mind of this song". And then he started singing the song, and after the first line the pianist played accompaniment and the choir and the congregation started singing the song.

This experience was memorable for me because it "put me to mind" of olden day, downhome {Southern} Black social, good natured give and take experiences that I've read about but rarely if ever before this had experienced. The fact that the sung was unplanned and was in response to another song added to the experience for me.

**

Here's a link to a YouTube video of "Scandalize My Name" sung by two great vocalists-Jessye Norman And Kathleen Battle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4ZktluC0Mg


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Feb 08 - 01:00 PM

I got curious about the Gullah language, and which part of Africa it linked with - some say Angola, other from the Gola people in Sierra Leone/Liberia.

So I started googling around and I found this Library of Congress site with a bunch of interviews with former slaves (not Gullah speaking), both audio and written - Voices from the Days of Slavery Fascinating, and moving.

I'm rather glad this "Kumbaya moment" nonsense doesn't seem to have made it across the Atlantic. Or the Pacific either, it appears from some of the posts on this thread.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Rowan
Date: 21 Feb 08 - 04:55 PM

I'm rather glad this "Kumbaya moment" nonsense doesn't seem to have made it across the Atlantic. Or the Pacific either, it appears from some of the posts on this thread.

Ditto, McGrath!

Although I was ignorant of the Gullah in the 60s-80s I did learn about them when I lived in South Carolina for a while in 1991-2. Even then I didn't learn of their connection to the song until I read this thread.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Feb 08 - 06:02 PM

I have to say, Azizi, I LIKE that scandalise song. Not my tradition, but merited fire in the belly.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Feb 08 - 06:42 PM

Yes, Richard, I love the spirit behind "Scandalize My Name".

I should mention that in the rendition of that song that I heard, the last line of the verse was "Scandalize my name". There was no "too" in that last line. So, instead of the way the song is written on that website I quoted from {as sung by the great Paul Robeson}, the song went like this:

I met my preacher the other day
And gave him my right hand
As soon as ever my back was turned
He scandalized my name

-snip-

I recall that there was a Mudcat thread in the past year in which folks discussed church practices such as "extending the right hand of fellowship". However, I can't remember the name of that thread.

Here's an excerpt from an article that refers to "extending the right hand of fellowship":

"...the Baptist tradition of extending the right hand of fellowship to new members finds its scriptural basis in Galatians 2:9: "and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised" (NRSV). Furthermore, to this day, extending the right hand of fellowship to new members continues to be the norm among American, Southern, British, and Canadian Baptists".

http://www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/2-r3.htm


-snip-

Unless I'm remembering it incorrectly, in my Black Babtist church, and other Black Baptist churches, "extending the right hand of fellowship" meant shaking hands and also exchanging hugs at the end of the formal Sunday church service. This was a way of demonstrating and reaffirming the connectedness {one family under God} of all persons who had attended that church service-whether they were actual members of that particular church, or whether or not they were "born again" members of any church.

In the context of this thread, the point I want to make was that this custom didn't seem fake to me, but certainly within churches, as within all other communities there are people who smile in your face, and will talk about you "soon as your back is turned".

Which reminds me of another great song from the great Son House:

Grinnin' in Your Face by Son House (transcribed from a record)
Don't you mind people grinnin' in your face,
Don't mind people grinnin' in your face,
Just bear this in mind-
A true friend is hard to find;
Don't you mind people grinnin' in your face.

You know your mother will talk about you,
Your sisters and brothers, too;
Yes, don't care how you're trying to live,
They'll talk about you still...
Yes, but bear this in mind,
A true friend is hard to find;
Don't you mind people grinnin' in your face.

Repeat first verse

You know they'll jump you up and down

thread.CFM?threadID=1309

Here's a link to a funky* YouTube video of this song by an group called BluesCulture:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqFsilhXnZU&feature=related


* In this context, "funky" is a compliment.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Cornishmessenger
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 06:23 PM

Check this link it explains what the word means for those who are ignorant

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbaya


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 06:40 PM

There were parodies on American Peace Corps Volunteers who were for the most part of a liberal persuasion who would sing "Kumbayah" and "Puff, The Magic Dragon" as a kind of uniting anthem.

The idea that people would come together to sing for inspiration was a source for many
newscasters and Right-Wing Pundits to use this as an analogy for people "to make nice" with one other.

When candidates agree, for example in an election, the newscasters say this is "Kumbaya".

We all know that newscasters in general do not want candidates to get along with each other. If they fight, that makes news. More credit to Obama and Hillary for being civil and substantive in their debates. Newscasters can call this "Kumbayah" if they want to but it really is a compliment though the newswhores don't mean it that way.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 06:49 PM

Here's that hyperlink, GUEST,Cornishmessenger:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbaya

And btw, when you call people ignorant, smile!*

*Hat tip for that saying to Owen Wister's 1902 classic novel The Virginian


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 06:57 PM

Cornishmessenger,

let me hasten to say that I think you weren't really calling people ignorant. I think you were sharing a link to an information resource that some folks might not have known about.

However, I couldn't resist an opportunity to show off my knowledge about that saying from the The Virginian novel.

No harm meant, okay?


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 06:58 PM

Ugh, double "the"s...

Oh well. Maybe I am ignorant.

:o)


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 07:14 PM

In case you missed it, CornishMessenger, this thread is not about the literal meaning of the title of the song in question, but rather about the connotation. Implying that the several dozen people who have contributed to this thread are ignorant was unjustified, not to mention rude. Have a nice day, but please have the rest of it quietly.

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Janie
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 07:57 PM

Thanks for the Blues culture link, Azizi. I really enjoyed that....and where it led me as I followed the cajon videos.


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Subject: RE: Why is Kumbaya a dirty word?
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Feb 08 - 08:29 PM

Yes, Janie, those musicians and that singer were really kickin' it.
That square drum that was played by one of the musicians is straight out of Africa, and is also found in the Caribbean. The second musician played a harmonica and the third musician/vocalist played an electric guitar.

Here's the myspace for that group:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=145162891

Would you believe that they're a Blues, Acoustic, Jam Band from Hamburg, Germany! Alright, Germany!

**

Btw, Janie, this is somewhat off-topic, but did you notice that familiar riff [is that what you call it?} that the guitarist played towards the end of that song? Was that from "Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry?" or is it "Hambone"? Or are they the same tune?


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