It’s rare, but every so often a song will catch your ear and demand your attention. I can’t explain what it is about this song, but as it began to play, I dropped what I was doing, walked over to the computer and just stared at it. I was in awe.
Carolina Chocolate Drops: Snowden’s Jig from Tom Ciaburri on Vimeo.
At times the song seems so sad and full of such despair, and at other times it’s quite mysterious and even seductive sounding. I just had to find out more about it.
One of the most difficult songs on the record is a four-minute instrumental called “Snowden’s Jig,” subtitled “Genuine Negro Jig.” The Oxford American Dictionary defines a jig as a piece of music for lively dancing, but this song is anything but that. Starting with Robinson’s ominous rhythm of claps and stumps and progressing into a minor-key melody on Giddens’s fiddle that loops into elegant variations, the song asks for more than one emotional response. Does it convey despair, anger or pensiveness? Or perhaps it is all of the above — an attempt to capture the complex emotions felt by blacks living in the antebellum South.
The history of “Snowden’s Jig” is just as complicated as the melody. Songwriter and minstrel performer Dan Emmett, who received credit for “Dixie” (what later became the Confederate anthem), had learned the song from the Snowdens, a musical black family who composed by ear. Recent research on Emmett and his music suggested it was possible that the Snowden family had contributed to Emmett’s composition “Dixie.” What irony! – Yale Daily News
Give it a listen and let it transport you to another place and time. Of course I’m curious to know, did it grab you the way it did me? Either way, I have to say the Carolina Chocolate Drops just shot to the top of my favorites list.