Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-Jubi (part 1)

The first thing that crosses someone’s mind when encountering this phrase, and certainly the most natural, is: ‘what is it’? But this is not an easy question to define because the answer lies in that fact that it is a style of Music and Music needs to be listened to to be understood, more so than described in words. That having been said, it could also be noted that Musical styles and categories are often things developed by Theoretical Musicologists or perhaps promoters within the music industry and Ubi-Jubi is something acquired and developed by the Practical Musician: the Player of Music.

To do the phrase justice, we ought to note that there is a location attached to the ‘Ubi-Jubi’ part as well. In placing that location in the goodly land of North Carolina (from which many Authentic and Original Musicians hail) it is only fair that we include most of the entire Piedmont area of the Southeast; in particular North and South Carolina and parts of South-side Virginia. Coastal Plains communities with their Provincialisms are often masking enclaves of Ubi-Jubi as well. So we begin by noting enclaves and communities which are somehow tucked away and insular from the tide of blandness which sweeps across the more populated areas of mass transition. This would include the branch-heads and back-woods hollows as well as the smaller villages which still retain their original populations of pioneering families whether colonial or displaced by historical circumstances (richly diverse and many). That these communities are vestiges of fugitive conditions, as fascinating as that may be, does not necessarily impact the nature and style of the music, in my opinion. It only addresses the ‘why’ of insularity which helped to preserve its Authenticity because the refugees preferred the isolation. Now we understand the ‘where’ but let us pursue the ‘what’.

At its Living Roots, Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-jubi grows out of the Rhythm. Therefore it is Rhythm first and foremost. Music without Rhythm is like a car with no engine: it doesn’t go anywhere. We must be straightforward in the statement that there is a special gift from the Mother Continent inherent in Ubi-jubi which is indigenous Afro-Caribbean. That Africa is the source of the special syncopation is easy to follow but why the Caribbean influence? It is my opinion that something Caribbean was acquired during the North American Passage while at way-stations in Haiti, perhaps. Without going into the scholarly details about the French, English, Dutch and Spanish imperialism and their respective Island provinces, it would be plain enough to set the Haitian influence into situations which resulted in influential New Orleans styles (and the Early Roots of Jazz). That these influences play a part in Ubi-Jubi is plain enough but does not entirely address the locational aspect of Piedmont Ubi-jubi. That the English colonization of Jamaica resulted in Cameroon insurgency may serve to explain the Roots of certain features of the Piedmont Ubi-jubi (more on this later) is not enough to explain the Indigenous influence on Piedmont syncopation. To explain this (in my very humble opinion) we would need to look to the Coastal Communities of South Carolina, even as far as Charleston and Savannah (Ga.). This opinion is because the Virginia Africans consisted of ‘Domestic Populations’ centered around Richmond. As painful as these theorizings are, it is just to proceed with an account of the Afro-Caribbean influence in Ubi-Jubi Music. Let us now consider something more comfortable about this influence.

The Magic Aspect of this Syncopated Jubi is that it ties together Strong Personalities of the Diverse Community in a Unified and Harmonious Way without sacrificing the Originality of the Individual Personal Resonance. Remember that the Indigenous African Tribesman was Strong and Indomitable but contributed Strength to his Community through the Tribal Council, and this council was underscored with the oneness of the Drum Circle. That the Celtic Scot could be assessed similarly might be addressed in a later essay, which speaks to the Piedmont refugee situation mentioned above. Anyway, for now: Okra, Syncopation, the Blue Note, and of course the People are the most precious gifts to come across the Atlantic from Africa and grace our fair land, contributing greatly to what we are (and where we are to go). And Syncopation, like Okra; is the Ingredient that thickens the Stew and holds the Pot together. During Improv, it is easy for the combo to come unglued (unrelated diversities) unless the Recipe is based on a syncopated root-structure. This Syncopated Root is what holds the Improvising personalities together during performance. It is really Magical.

What happened that brought the Coastal Influence upward into the Piedmont uplands? The answer is at once completely obvious and at the same time intensely personal and therefore almost hidden in secrecy. Without belaboring the point, it is clear enough to point out that this leadership by Tribal Council became incorporated into the Institution of the Church, especially via the fervent Independence of the Missionary Baptists. That the Local Church meetings play a crucial role in the operation of local black communities is perhaps an understatement. And what characterizes perhaps the second most beloved aspect of the local church-service? Why Black Gospel, of course! And so Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-jubi has almost one foot still in the pew, as it draws heavily on the influence of traditional backwoods foot-stompin’ gospel styles. Though gospel styles are many, I would conjecture that the roots go back to a South Carolina Gospel style and become mediated as per the variant locations encountered along the way.

Part Two will continue with more on this elaborate and fascinating discussion of Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-jubi, with respect to the Harmonic Structure.

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