Albert Ssempeke

Albert Ssempeke was not only a gifted musician with a deep knowledge of the music of the royal court of the king of Buganda but also a patient  teacher from whom I, my son Andy and many students were privileged to learn  much about kiganda music. When working in Uganda during the 1960s I knew little about Ssempeke other than obtaining a few recorded items performed by him at a concert in the Uganda Museum, but after my return to Uganda in 1987 we became good friends and I benefitted enormously from his willingness to share and discuss his great musical knowledge and ability.

The following account is little known and deserves re-publication.

The Autobiography of an African Musician

Klaus Wachsmann’s translation of Albert Ssempeke’s “Autobiography of an African Musician” from Music Educators Journal, February 1975, © copyright by the National Association for Music Education.  Reprinted with permission.

Introduction
Albert Ssempeke’s autobiography was recorded on the spur of the moment in Uganda. It was spoken in Luganda, the language of the Baganda, a nation of some two million people within the Republic of Uganda in East Africa. Ssempeke is a child of a generation whose members have learned to take in their stride the many changes that their society has gone through in their lifetimes. He is untouched by the passions of politics and yet committed, conscious of the heritage of his own people and yet interested in innovation, a grassroots musician and yet at home in many different contexts – in short, a real musician
His autobiography vividly portrays his personality and his place in his society, and it also gives the reader a feeling for his culture as seen through the eyes of an active musician. He came to Northwestern University in 1971 under the auspices of the Program of African Studies and the School of Music to teach for one year. He befriended students from all parts of the academic community, but especially those within the interdisciplinary ethnomusicology program that the university had adopted in 1968. He was a resource person, a scholar, a performer, a teacher and a friend.
Klaus P. Wachsmann. Professor of Music History and Literature
Northwestern University
———————–

      My name is Albert Ssempeke.
I belong to the Nkima (monkey) clan, and I am a grandson of Kibiikyo. My father’s name is Semioni Balagadde. Among other things, my father had a job in the Lubiri[1]. He was the keeper of the Ssekabaka gate until old age, when he retired to his home in the country. While he was still working in the Lubiri, my father went out of his way to visit the royal abalere[2], and the more he listened to their playing the more he grew to like the endere and the more he wanted to play it himself. He did his best to learn how to play, but he did not intend to get absorbed too deeply. He was satisfied with playing at home before us, his children, to our great pleasure.
As time went on and we grew older, my younger brother Ludoviko Serwanga, started to imitate a song that father used to blow on the endere . However, that boy never played on father’s flute, out of respect for the old man: instead, he used the stalk from the leaf of an eppaappaali (pawpaw or papaya) tree. The leaf stalk of the eppaappaali is hollow inside: my brother cut it in the shape of the flute endere , with four holes. He began by playing in our father’s style, trying to make sure that the tune was the same as our father’s. After mastering the tune, he often had a chance to perform before old friends of my father when they came to visit and talk about the old days.
On these occasions they would find Serwanga practising on his endere . They would go up to him and say:
“Owange[3] Serwanga, do you know how to play the endere ?” “Oh, well, I am trying to learn.” “Play us a tune.”
And so he would play the endere for them, and I saw how these respectable people reached into their pockets, got out some money, and offered it to him: “Go and buy some bread for yourself.”
You see, in those days to eat a piece of bread was quite a treat; it was considered a delicacy.
This aroused envy in me, and I thought “Yii![4]. How can this child be making money while I, his elder brother, just sit here idly?”
And so I, too, decided to take up the flute, and I imitated the tune that he played. I started by joining him in whatever song he would play. I would follow him carefully. He would play a section, and then I would play it after him. Among the three of us – my father, my young brother, and myself – nobody told the other in words what to do. It came about just by knowing the tune the way it went, and then one would try and get it on the endere through trial and error until it had been learned.
Eventually, I mastered the song that my brother used to play. This particular song was called “Bamutta Olabye”[5], and it went like this:
to le ro le ro
to lo le ro li
to lo le ro le ro li
to lo le ro li ri
to lo le ro le ro li
to lo le to li ri to le ro le ro li
to le ro li ri [6]
Eventually, when I felt I was able to play this song, matching the tune that my younger brother played, it made me exceedingly happy.
From then on, whenever we listened to gramophone recordings, we practised the tunes together. In those days there were very few gramophones around, but wherever there was one in the neighbourhood, we would go there to listen to the recordings. Every now and then we would hear a song in an endingidi[7] ensemble in which the endere was employed. This is so because for music to entertain at parties the endingidi usually combines with the endere . We would then return home and try on our flutes the songs that we had heard on these recordings. We found that we made good progress as we went along.
At this time I also started to go to a baptism class in order to get a baptism name. This was in the year 1937, and it took me one year to get baptised. In 1939, after finishing baptism class, I enrolled in elementary school to learn how to write and count. But because of my great love for musical instruments, I always tried to appear before the minor officials who came to tour our part of the country for inspection.
Some of these people came in the service of Ssabasajja[8]. For example, the Omuwanika w’ebyalo[9] would come around, or the Ssaza (county) chief would come to tour the Ggombolola (sub-county) to see how things progressed.
In our neighbourhood, about four miles from my home, there lived a man by the name of Yeremiya Nkasi, who was one of the endere players in the Lubiri. This man was in the habit of taking walks through our village, and one day he found us playing the flutes. He came up to us and said: “Ooo, muli wano[10], so you play the endere ?” “We try to learn.” “You play on these perishable things?” You see, these eppaappaali stalks did not last for more than, say, a week and three days before they rotted away, and we would have to make new ones. And he said: “I will go to town and get you some real endere .” “That would be good, Ssebo[11]”, we replied.
It wasn’t long before he went up to the city and brought us some endere . When he brought them over to us, he played a song and left us to learn at our own pace. We practised, and eventually we learned it, after he had left. After this, he always came for us whenever there were important people touring the Ggombolola, and he took us to join with some of the endere players from the Lubiri. He could do this because he was the head of a kisanja[12] of the endere ensemble in the Lubiri.
Shortly after this, a man moved to the piece of land next to my father’s. The newcomer’s name was Matiansi Kibirige. As it is the custom for the young people to be quick in making new friends with a newcomer in the village, we paid him a visit. When we looked over his house, we discovered that he had a flute, and so we asked him:
“Owange, so you know how to play the endere ?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Please, may we play it?”
“Do you know how?” he asked.
With this, he passed over the endere to us, and we played.
“Ee[13].” he said. ” You should come here for proper lessons. I want you to be able to play even better than that.” And so we became close friends, to the extent that we even helped him to build his house. We helped him by handing him the fibre with which to tie the reeds. We would begin by practising at 6:30 in the evening and go on to 8:00 at night. In this way, he added to our repertoire by teaching us songs we did not know. The teaching consisted of showing us the patterns of new songs and how to finger them on the endere .
In the year of 1939, Ssabasajja Muteesa toured the counties. This was the very first time that I ever set eyes on the Ssabasajja. It was also the very first time in our lives that my younger brother and I performed together with the royal musicians from the Lubiri. In our part of the world, Ggombolola Mumyuka[14]. Ssabasajja came on tour and slept here, and therefore the musicians from the Lubiri were here, too. Because we were so young, the Katikkiro (prime minister) sent for us. He wanted to know how we had learned to play the endere . Confidently we presented ourselves to him, my younger brother and I, and he asked us to play him a song.
The song he asked for was “Balagana Enkonge.” We were able to play it, and he gave us a reward out of his pocket, which pleased us very much. Even going to school did not make me forget the flute. Rather, my younger brother and I, we kept it up. When people needed us to play, we would ask for permission to leave and go to perform whenever and wherever we were required. The usual occasion was when important people came to tour in these parts. Because they had so little money, my parents were unable to take me very far in school.
I went as far as the fourth grade and then stopped there because money was running low. So I took up a job as a shoe repairer working under a gentleman by the name of Peter Mukasa. He offered to teach me how to make shoes. I worked there for two years, but even while I made those shoes I never neglected the endere .
Now it so happened that a man who lived in our neighbourhood, Mulindwa Israeri, planned to get married. He hired abagoma[15] from Kampala. They were men from the Lubiri; in fact they were from Atyeni Mukasa’s ensemble[16]. However, they did not bring their endere players with them: they brought only the endingidi and the endongo[17] players. But since I was nearby, Mulindwa came to me and said: “Owange, I would like to hire you to come and play the endere at my wedding.”
“But I don’t know the other musicians; I have never seen them before. I don’t know whether they will not play songs that I can’t play.” I replied.
“You just try, and if you fail, it won’t matter.” he reassured me.
“All right.” I said. “I will try.”
I used my skills to the best advantage[18]. Also, my flute, which originally had come from the Lubiri, had the same tuning[19] as the endongo and the endingidi from the Lubiri, so I had no difficulty at all. I was able to play every song they played, even those I had never heard before. Once I had learned the tune, I was able to figure it out on the endere . For this he paid me fifteen shillings, and I was so pleased that I said to myself that I must keep on playing the endere .
I made shoes for two years and then decided to quit. This was after I asked myself one big question, namely: “What capital does a person need to set up on his own in the shoe making business?” The person who was my teacher told me that the tools alone would cost nearly fifteen hundred shillings but in my pocket I could not count even a hundred shillings.
My reply was
“Yii. In this work poverty will kill me,”
and I made up my mind to leave and take up tailoring.
A certain Goan gentleman by the name of Paulo, the owner of the premises on which we conducted our shoe making business called me in and offered to teach me how to use a sewing machine. This Goan did something for me that was incredible: he was willing to instruct me in the use of a sewing machine without charging money. Actually it was the result of the many chats we used to have that he made this offer.
At about the same time when I was learning to sew there was an endingidi player living in a place some seven miles away who had a musical ensemble of his own. This group played for money and got engagements to play for parties. Once during Christmas time they came to my village to play at a party. I asked the endingidi player: “Is there an endere player in your group?” “No there isn’t.” he replied. “Please give me a place in your group. I would like to play the endere with you.”
I pleaded with him.
“Can you do it?” he asked.
“I will try.” I replied.
The next time he had a party to play for, he fetched me. We played well. I made no mistakes to any of the songs they played. Soon I began to feel that the playing of endere was not enough, and I said to myself “Aa. that endongo player, to be sure, I hear everything he does when he plays, why don’t I learn endongo myself?”. Thus whenever he came to the end of his song, I took up his endongo and practised and practised, trying to repeat what he had been playing.
Soon I felt that I began to play his song correctly. This gave me a wonderful feeling. I was learning the endongo and to operate a sewing machine at the same time. Bugutanya’s father was an endongo maker, and therefore I asked Bugutanya to obtain a small endongo for me, for which I could pay him. That endongo was really a small one: they sold it to me for only ten shillings. He tuned it for me properly, and I took it with me to my father’s home. I began to practise, and God did not fail me. He gave to me, and I learned well, and so did my younger brother.
By the time I learned these things, I had also become proficient with the sewing maching. Moreover, my employer who had tought me started to pay me wages, although I was a nonpaying apprentice of his. That is to say, he never demanded any money from me: to the contrary, once he saw that I had learned to sew, he just began to pay me a salary. That salary started at eighty shillings a month. A year later he raised me to one hundred twenty shillings.
One day he asked me a question: “Why don’t you give up playing the endere flute since you have got a job as a tailor here? You see, every Saturday you say ‘I am going for a party engagement.’ And the clothes are never finished. Why?”
I told him:
“Ssebo, I ought to be able to give up the endere, but I cannot do it because although I have learned all these other things, it is the endere that was the very first thing I ever learned. I cannot give it up. There is nothing to compare with the endere:: it comes first. It fed me by bringing in the money that kept me going while I learned all these other things.”
He accepted my reasoning. While I was a member of Balamaze’s endingidi group, I got the idea that since I already knew how to play endongo, why did I not form an ensemble of my own? And so I started. I had an elder brother who played the endingidi. I went to him and said:
“Ssebo, I want us to form an ensemble. I can look for a drummer, and we can form a group of our own.”
He agreed. The understanding was that I was to play endongo, my younger brother was to play endere , and my elder brother was to play endingidi. As for a second endingidi player, I could always get one from elsewhere to be added to our group.
The plan that I thought up worked out well. We started our group. It was in 1948 that I created the ensemble of which I was the leader. We are still together, and at this time we are still going strong. And so I succeeded in combining two things: to be a tailor and to play at parties. The people in my neighbourhood have a lot of confidence in me and my ability to perform at their parties. This is so because once a person comes to me and tells me that he is getting married and wants me to play at his wedding., I always make it a point to go and fulfill my commitment to do the job even if we had made no agreement, as long as we had agreed about the fee.
I pursued my profession in this way when I came here to the Uganda Museum in 1965. It was about 1947 that I became interested in the ennanga. But I had nobody to teach me. I always enjoyed listening to Temusewo Mukasa’s ennanga, both on radio and on gramophone recordings. Once I made an effort to buy an ennanga from Erisa Bugutanya, but when I brought it home, I realized that I did not know how to tune and wind the strings properly[20].
I sat there and tried to figure out how to do it, but I failed and I decided to leave it alone. Later, the harp was just left lying alone.
In 1947, after acquiring a home of my own, I got a wife, and the Lord blessed us with children. One day, I left my ennanga lying about in the house. I went on my duties, and it so happened that my wife was also away. When I returned, I found that the children had got hold of it and thrown it into the fire. It was a very great loss to me, and I said:
“Yii Katonda! [21]. The children burned my ennanga..”
There was nothing I could do. Children will be children; one just has to forgive them. Otherwise, I loved all my music activities. My wife and I are still together taking care of each other, and by now we have eight children.
While I was still pursuing my work as a tailor – the job I worked in for a long time – Evaristo Muyinda[22] came to see me. He said: “Ssempeke, I need you.” For a long time Muyinda and I had been meeting frequently in many places where important people happened to turn up. So we knew each other well, and I often played the flute with him. I get great pleasure from every kind of music including the amadinda [23]. Ee, I would resent anyone disturbing me when I am playing music.
Anyway, when he came for me and said he needed me, I asked: “Where are you taking me?” “You just come. You will find out when I get you there.” he replied. At this time I had a new employer. My old boss – the Goan whom I had used to work for – had died, and so I had taken another job with the Indians. Meanwhile, I had been offered another job by the local school in my neighbourhood as a tailor to make school uniforms
When I arrived at the Uganda Museum, Muyinda introduced me to Charles Sekinto, the curator and head of the Museum. He said:
“All right, let’s go and try. Incidentally, which instruments do you know?”
“I know endere , endongo, and endingidi. These are the instruments that I know.” I replied. “I also know the music of the embaga [24], the baakisimba dance and drum music [25], and the drum parts and styles nankasa, empuunyi, and engalabi.[26]”
He then tested me. I tried my best when he handed me the endingidi, and then the other instruments.
He asked me: “Do you know how to play amadinda?”
“Munnange [27], I know the amadinda only as a listener, but I never tried to play.” I replied.
Oh, he gave me excellent advice: “You should go on learning.” When I got to the Museum, all the instruments were there. I laughed behind my hand; even the ennanga that I could not get before was here, and so were the amadinda and the amakondere [28]. I had heard the amakondere often before in the Lubiri – that was when the people in the Lubiri who played asked me to join them and play there. When I asked my father about this, he answered: “You should wait a bit: you will get there later.”
Once I was at the Museum, I began to feel the pressure. I asked myself: what if they ask me to play amadinda? How can I say that I don’t know? So I began to learn to play amadinda. This was not too difficult for me since I have the ability to hear and remember tunes in my head.
Before very long I found I could play “Olutalo olw’Ensisi” [29], the song that every learner on amadinda gets in his first lesson. I learned it by listening to it with my ears. Then by the same method, I learned another song, and soon I found myself going through song after song. Next I took up ennanga. When Muyinda returned from England, I asked him to show me how it was played. He went through every point with me and showed me how it was strung and tuned. I got well into it and worked on the ennanga on my own, but Muyinda also guided me, showing me how this was done like that and that was done like this.
Up to this hour, today, I am still learning because although I can play ennanga, amakondere, and amadinda, I still need to improve. I would like to see that I can play them much better than I do now. I continue to do all these things, and I would like to see that some of my own children learn to do things of this kind.
This is my life story                            Albert Ssempeke February 1975
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Footnotes
1The palace and the enclosure that is the residence of the Kabaka, the hereditary leader of the former Kingdom of Buganda
2 flute ensemble.
3″My Friend.” a common form of address of some familiarity or kindness.
4 An exclamation of amazement.
5 A topical song about a Mr. Bamutta, who had started a Farmer’s Cooperative but failed. One version of the song goes as follows: Bamutta, you have seen. You ran out of money. When he checked the Bank. He was left with four hundred.
6 Ssempeke sang these syllables at the following approximate pitches:
to = A,
lo or ro = B or C,
le = D,
li and liri = F or G.
lero = D-C.
Actually, the syllables used were only to, lo, le and li, the letter r being accounted for by the Luganda rule that l becomes r after the vowels e and i.
7 A one-stringed bowed lute.
8 A respectful term referring to the Kabaka: something like “His Royal Highness.”, but literally “the father of men.”
9 Literally “treasurer of the villlages.” an official in the Kabaka’s treasury.
10 Literally “Ooo, you are here.”
11 Equivalent to “Sir”.
12 Kisanja is a period of service in the Lubiri, perhaps six to eight weeks at a time, fulfilled in rotation by the court musicians.
13 An exclamation of astonishment mingled with encouragement.
14 A designation of one of the several sub-districts in the county.
15 Literally “drummer”, however, the term refers here to an ensemble of bowed lutes, flutes, a lyre, and drums.
16 A famous group whose recordings were best-sellers.
17 A bowl lyre of eight strings.
18 The word used here by Ssempeke is obukujjukujju, which implies craftiness in addition to skill. 19 The word here translated as “tuning” is the Luganda omuwanjo. It is much used by musicians: sometimes it refers to something like “scale”, and in this context more specifically to the interval of the octave.
20 Ssempeke uses the complex verb form gyenagituningamu. The loan word “tuning” is clearly recognisable. Ssempeke uses yet another phrase in this sentence – okugirega amalobozi gayo, meaning in this case to stretch the strings to the right pitches. The ennanga is especially difficult to prepare for playing on account of the timbre devices: there is one for each string, and each must be adjusted frequently.
21 Literally “Oh God”
22 Muyinda, a Kabaka’s musician and expert on many instruments, was chief demonstrator of music at the Uganda Museum.
23 A “free key” xylophone of twelve keys tuned in an approximately equidistant pentatonic pattern.
24 A feast, generally, but understood more specifically as a wedding party.
25 A dance rhythm and form specifically Kiganda.
26 The three terms designate members of a traditional drum ensemble, each with its own characteristic timbre and musical patterns.
27 Literally “my friend”.
28 Side-blown trumpets played as a set in hocket texture.
29 Literally ” The battle of Ensisi”, a well known song.
——–
1987

Ssempeke and his group of wedding musicians – welcoming the Ssabataka (heir to the Baganda throne) on his first return from exile in London  at Nakivubo football stadium 12th September 1987.

Albert (playing  his lyre)  is lead singer in this semi-professional group which late that evening drove to play at a wedding at Bukoloto village some 70km from Kampala.

William Dixon’s tunes – again. What’s in a word?

With them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appear’d and serried shields in thick array
Of depth immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
Of flutes and soft recorders; such as rais’d
To heighth of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle,  and instead of rage
Deliberate valour breath’d….
John Milton  Paradise Lost,  bk 1, (1674).

Peter Stewart’s comments on my blog “William Dixon revisited” in his editorial to the latest issue of Common Stock (December 2016) have caused me to think hard about the labels we apply to melodic structures.  He recommends for instance that we use the term ‘Taste’ preferred by Joseph MacDonald in his manuscript A Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe in preference to my use of the term ‘Mode’.  So what’s in a word?

‘Taste’.
This word is an English equivalent of the Scottish Gaelic word blas, which also translates as ‘savour’ or ‘flavour.’  It comes, one source tells us, from Old Irish mlas which in turn has much older Indo-European roots.  MacDonald was probably serving in India at the time when he penned his manuscript and as a musician he was likely to have come across the etymologically related Sanskrit word  rasa, similarly meaning ‘juice, essence, flavour’ which is applied by Indian classical musicians and dancers  to describe the  aesthetic mood,  or flavour of items in their repertories.  Eight rasa are identified in the  in the ancient Hindu text known as the Natyasastra:   love,  heroism, disgust, anger,  mirth,  terror,  compassion and wonder (and later a ninth taste – peace – was also added to this list). (see R. Widdess, article Rasa in Grove’s Dictionary).

Unfortunately Joseph MacDonald was vague about tastes when writing about the pibroch repertory, sometimes using the words ‘Key’ and ‘Style’ as equivalent to ‘Taste’. But he also mentions two ‘Keys’ which he called ‘A sharp’ and ‘G sharp’ (which I interpret as meaning A major and G major respectively).  He gave some examples of tastes or styles for laments,  two examples of a key for ‘martial marches’ and some examples of the taste for ‘rural pieces’. I won’t discuss all of them.

Here is the opening two bars of his first example – ‘A Sharp’; it is widely known as Donald Gruamach’s March.  He wrote  that such  melodies are based mainly around the four notes A, C, E and high A and  are suitable for ‘martial marches’.

p19v-asharp

Of a second example (below) of a “Species of A sharp where C and G are  singularly  applied”, he remarked, “there is no style more martial than this; when this March is well played it certainly is martial. The contrasts of G & D join’d by A & C  makes  the boldness and singularity of the Style…”.  Colin Campbell  called this pibroch Thanig Gorrie (‘Here comes Gorrie”) suggesting that it might indeed be a battle march. But a later source called it the Lament for the Viscount of Dundee).  Could this also be a ‘taste’ for a lament?  Or is this just another example of the unreliability of the varying titles applied to pibrochs over the centuries?

page21rtop

Whichever it may be,  it appears from this example that closely juxtaposed contrasts between G major  sonority (as in bar 1)  and A major sonority  (bar 2), all accompanied by an A drone create a specific taste.

He cites a number of Laments and some appear to overlap with  what he called “rural pieces”.  The well-known Lament for Donald of Laggan (shown below) is headed “Another Key for Rural Pieces & Laments”, about which  he remarked, “The force of this Style or Taste lying on the four notes A, B F and D is well adopted for rural ideas. it inclines by the Taste towards D Sharp [D major] and with this peculiarity that it wholly excludes C and seldom or ever meddles with the Lowest Note [G] as you can see by the Taste and Order of the Notes”.

p20rlaggan

The above two examples are about the closest he came to identifying the characteristics of individual tastes.  The laments he discussed all seem to make much use of phrases containing G, B and D:  in other words a G sonority is established that highlights the comparative dissonance created as these phrases are sounded against presumably an A drone.

In conclusion he added, “Of these Tastes or species of Keys more might be noted down but these being the principal they shall suffice”.  Wisely he had  relied on notations of the opening bars of selected pieces rather than words to try to illustrate the various flavours.  But those examples are not enough.  One would need to  embark on a major exercise, analysing many more from the known repertory of over 300 pibrochs in terms of their melodic content, in order to build on MacDonald’s  explanations and identify more precisely a range of different tastes and their musical characteristics.  Were that to be a successful exercise,  it might then be dangerous to assume that just because the results characterise the pibroch repertory  the same conclusions can be applied to all genres of bagpipe music.

So what about ‘Mode’?
English dictionaries give it as the equivalent of ‘mood’, ‘style’, ‘fashion’ – surely much the same as ‘taste’. The term mode has long been used to specify certain classes of melodies and in the time of the Greek philosopher Plato (c 250BC), ‘mode’ was applied to general musical style, including instrumentation. It is this view on mode which Milton was referencing in my leading quote from Paradise Lost. For Plato, the Dorian mode was one that expressed disciplined valour.  The trouble is that the labels Dorian, Ionian, Lydian, etc.   which are often attached  to ‘mode’ have,  over the centuries,  changed their meaning with regard to pitch content several times since Plato discussed them. As a result  most scholars of Anglo-American song have today abandoned these archaic terms.

I need stress that any such terms are not prescriptive rules, but just handy descriptive labels that tell one a little about the pitch content of a melody. It is less confusing when identifying a complex of musical pitches in a melody to use the descriptive label ‘C-mode’ rather than ‘Ionian mode’ for any seven-pitch melody containing the seven notes of the European diatonic scale (the white notes of the piano keyboard) providing one is able to say that the home note (or tonic) is C. The same seven notes used in relation to a recognisably different tonic give a different taste or mood because the position of the semitones in the scale will have changed: an ascending scale extracted from a C-mode tune begins with the intervals  –  tone,  tone,  semitone,  tone etc. – while the same notes in the F- mode (labelled Lydian by Matt Seattle with regard to parts of William Dixon’s tune Doringtown)  will begin with the ascending intervals  – tone,  tone,  tone,  semitone etc. . This F-mode has a very different ‘taste’ and is a rare one with regard to lowland Scottish music, or indeed all Anglo-American ‘folk’ music. This difference in taste is even more noticeable if a tonic drone is sounding with the melody as with bagpipe music.

However,  problems arise.  Can we always be sure which is the ‘home’ – or tonic – note,  or if indeed there is only one?  Previously some scholars claimed that the final note of a piece of music was a reliable indicator of the tonic (it works for Mozart’s symphonies): but this ignores the fact that many Scottish and English tunes are cyclical, where there is no final resting note.  Though it may be abundantly clear when listening to a tune which is the tonic or home note, it need not be the last note of a tune.  More rarely, some tunes which are not cyclical may also come to rest on a note other than the tonic.  How many who have danced to a Scottish dance band or to an early music consort, have performed a ‘reverence’ (paid one’s respect) to  one’s partner  at the close of a dance to the firm sound of a ‘tonic chord’ sounded by the band, even though the tonic note was not the ‘last’ note of the tune? I have often.

Thirdly,  there is sometimes a question of modal ambiguity. Take for instance  the following Scottish Gaeelic song of an exile,  ’S fad tha mi ’m ònaran (Long have I been alone) (no. 114 in the Elizabeth Ross manuscript). Can one easily decide what ‘key’ it is in? Is it A, or is it the related minor key F# ? An accompanying A drone might help one call it an A-major tune and it is true (not only of Gaelic melody) that using the note F# above a tonic A gives a subjective feeling of unrest, not so much dissonance as a kind of longing or incompleteness, a need to move somewhere more restful such as down a step to E.  In the case of this song, the refrain also ends firmly enough on low F# and this pitch also occurs in a number of structurally prominent places.  The ambiguity is further enhanced by the fact that the tune is pentatonic (and consequently  needs no G# in the key signature).

en114ar

Refrain: Long have I been alone, by myself, far from the land I know.
Here in the shieling of the glen, as I listen to the melody of the thrushes
(the song continues…)
in a little tree-shaded hut, no friend comes to ask for me there.
Carry my greeting across the sea to a house in a glen I once knew well:
Your women would perform a quadrille, while a flute poured out joyful music.

Other tunes can abruptly alternate between two related tonalities  without any change in the array of pitches used.  The following vocable refrain from a song  attributed to the 17th century  poet Mary MacLeod  of Skye is just such an example (see Elizabeth Ross’s Original Highland Airs collected  at Raasay 1812, no. 89).

en089ar-in-a

I would suggest, after singing this refrain several times, that the tonic  or ‘home’ note is also A, despite the fact that it does not appear until bar two, nor the fact that the refrain ends firmly on F#.  (f.n. In modern parlance F# minor is the relative minor key of A major – a relationship much exploited by classical European composers who, however, would have had little influence on the composing of either of the two above melodies.)

Barnaby Brown has argued that when assessing the affect or taste of bagpipe melodies it is essential to take account of the pitch of the  drones  and the varying degrees of  harmonic tension that occur when different pitches of the scale sound against a drone.. (see pibroch.net/articles/bjb/2004.pdf).  While agreeing with him I would go further and suggest that because musical memory plays a vitally important part in our appreciation of musical meaning – for one is constantly referencing what one is currently hearing to what has preceded it, even without an explicitly sounding drone – we create an implicit drone, an appreciation of tonicity, based on musical cues as a tune proceeds.  Our musical memory allows us to savour much of the taste of a tune even when no drone is sounding and to appreciate the varying degrees of consonance and dissonance (or rest and unrest) that different pitches produce in relation to a perceived tonic.  In the particular case of the Mary MacLeod refrain given above, the feeling that A is the tonic is by no means negated by the firm cadences on F# in bars 4 and 8 and one does not need a drone to tell us this. So perhaps this song is a less convincing example of ‘modal ambiguity’.

Weighted Scales.

Are there other ways of summarising the tonal and structural features of such tunes?  When I first visited the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University I found my predecessor, the Danish composer/researcher Thorkild Knudsen,  using a simplified form ‘weighted scales’ as useful information on the melodic content of a melody. So a transcription of an ode chanted by Calum Nicholson of Braes in Skye in 1969 began with the following brief  ‘key’:-

stemless1
It simply indicated that these are the pitches Calum used for his song and that A was the home note or tonic (DS Information 69/1).

Two years earlier when discusssing examples of  ballad tune types he used:-

stemless2

In this case he simply implied that G and E were the most prominent pitches of the six pitches used in his notation of a ballad air (DS Information 67/1) .

A weighted scale goes  further, assigning a durational value to each of the notes occurring in a melody, bearing in mind the frequency of use, position in the metrical hierarchy and durations of pitches used.   So a weighted scale for Mary MacLeod’s tune will look rather like this:-

mmweighted

This shows  F# C# and A as all important pitches, influencing the perceived tonality or taste.

Weighted scales and Doringtown.

Weighted scales do not always work so well for some tunes.

Here are the opening two strains of Dixon’s Doringtown, his manuscript version and also a transcription at the same pitch.

dorintown1-2

doringtowninfsmall
And here a weighted scale derived from these two strains.weighted
This scale hides the fact that Doringtown is clearly, according to Dixon’s notation and, judging by a number of other early records, a straightforward C-mode tune in F major – a fact that is announced from the beginning with the three strong notes of the tonic chord F, namely C F A and with the last bar of  most strains derived from the supertonic chord of G minor which leads one  back to F sonority.  It is a case of  F sonority being established even though the note F does not appear to have the greatest ‘weight’. It also then calls for F as the principal drone pitch.

Closing remarks.
If one plays  Doringtown one tone higher in the key of G on a bagpipe with Highland or Small Pipes pipe tuning,  as presented in The Master Piper , then the fourth degree of the scale will be C sharp rather than C natural.  This allows one to describe it as an F-mode tune or, as Matt Seattle  labels it in The Master Piper, a tune in the Lydian mode). Unfortunately this gives  a different taste or mode altogether from  what is essentially a song melody set for bagpipes.  Transformations like this seem to me not at all ‘exemplary’ solutions despite what the editor of Common Stock diffidently claimed.   In the case of Doringtown the unsuitability of this transformation becomes especially apparent in strains 8 and 12 where we find frequent awkward leaps of an augmented 4th (G to Csharp).

That said, more than three-quarters of the tunes in the Dixon  collection as presented by Matt Seattle in The Master Piper taste well enough on pipes with Highland bagpipe tuning.  The exceptions worth thinking about, in addition to Doringtown, are:- Hacky Honey, The Black and the Grey, Wallington, Hay for Newbeginn, Young and Lustie was I, Ov’r the Dyke & till her Laddy , Saw ye never a bonie Lass  and Berwick Bully.  Many of these would prove satisfactory if pipers could produce C natural  on their Highland Pipes (the equivalent of Dixon’s Bflat) and, of course could play some of them with G drones rather than A. You will need to refer to my earlier blog Dixon Revisited for  more of my thoughts about these tunes.

I have tried to show that ‘taste’ and ‘mode’ are simply descriptive labels that help inform our appreciation of the qualities of melodies.  No-one has yet given names to the different tastes of Highland or Lowland pipe music repertories nor any set of useful verbal descriptions; but  at least the labels C-mode, F-mode A-mode etc. tell us a little  about the pitch relationships that characterize the ‘taste’ of tunes.

Pdf files containing facsimile and edited versions   of Elizabeth Ross’s manuscript of Highland Airs are available here:

I look forward to  reading comments and criticisms regarding the above views.

February 9 2017

 

 

Notes on Evaristo Muyinda.

 

   

Evaristo Muyinda at home with friends, 1987
Evaristo Muyinda at home with friends, 1987

Evaristo Muyinda was one of Buganda’s best known traditional musicians throughout the  second half of the 20th century – versatile and  with a a deep knowledge of the royal repertory.   These are notes cobbled together from my files in response to a query on Facebook.  Inevitably they mostly result from Muyinda’s association with bazungu (Europeans). The last item on this page is an English  translation of a moving story told by Muyinda himself about one of the most famous royal songs, Omusango gw’abalere.

Klaus Wachsmann  invited Evaristo Muyinda (a former member of Kabaka’s akadinda – xylophone – team ) to work with him at the new Uganda Museum in 1948, because as the new curator Wachsmann wanted the museum to be a living museum resounding with the sounds of live music demonstrations and music instrument teaching. It was because of Muyinda that Wachsmann made numerous recordings of the akadinda team in  the Lubiri (the Kabaka’s palace) but strangely none of Muyinda himself though he worked closely with Wachsmann for years.    The akadinda pieces  can be heard on line at the BL Sounds website.   Try a search at BL Sounds for ‘Muyinda’ and they should all be found.

Two important published CDs:-

“EVARISTO MUYINDA:   Traditional Music of the Baganda as formerly played at the court of the Kabaka.” CD 54  Pan Ethnic series  Pan 2003CD   Pan Records  PO Box 155  300 AD Leiden Netherlands.  Recorded on Jan 17 1991 at Kanyanya  by Joop Veuger

 “THE KING’S MUSICIANS: ROYALIST MUSIC OF BUGANDA”. Topic Records TSCD 925. London.   Compiled by Peter Cooke. 2003.  This CD includes a track where Evaristo Muyinda beautifully tells the story of  Ssematimba ne Kikwabanga. This track can also be heard online at BL Sounds, as can his equally interesting telling of the story of the song Omusango gw’abalere. You can read an English translation of this second song if you scroll to the bottom of this page.

Several recordings were made by Hugh Tracey in 1952 during one of his fieldwork visits from South Africa and were later published.  Tracey recordings include:- TR 139.B2  Munya gweriira munale,  also Ssewasswa kazaabalongo.  For a list of Tracey’s Uganda recordings, a number of which involve Muyinda, consult http://samap.ukzn.ac.za/

A few recordings of Muyinda are now archived at the Calloway Centre, University of Western Australia as part of the John Blacking Collection. Until his death John was Professor of Social Anthropology at Queens University Belfast.    He visited Makerere in 1965 to give seminars on music and social anthropology and visited several parts of Uganda with students to demonstrate fieldwork methods.
One of the recordings he made was at a public concert in the Uganda Museum – the song called   Akawologoma – a  royal flute song played on three endere flutes by  Evaristo Muyinda, Albert Ssempeke and Ludovico Serwanga. It was recorded in the rather echo-y  museum hall and is a somewhat distant recording.

Janice Hobday (formerly music teacher at Gayaza Girls School during the period 1960s-70s)   From an interview with Peter Cooke 2014)
“We had Mr Muyinda – the girls learned drumming and xylophone.  He used to come every Saturday.  The girls went to the Uganda Museum first (where he worked) but then he came to them.  We always had an audience.  During prep time they were allowed to go off prep – that was their music prep.”   She thinks he was a very good teacher

Photo by G. Kubik (Interconnectedness)
Photo by G. Kubik (Interconnectedness)

Gerhard Kubik   “In Uganda I was lucky. Almost upon arrival in Kampala, I found a teacher in Kiganda music. In my innocence I did not realize that my search for a Muganda teacher would raise eyebrows in colonial circles. At least those eyebrows did not hurt. I found a teacher in Evaristo Muyinda, who was a former Kabaka’s (King’s) musician. He had worked before with Klaus Wachsmann and Joseph Kyagambiddwa, and was in charge of the performance of court music at the Uganda Museum. Muyinda became a father-like person to me. He was a benevolent and friendly teacher. He began by holding my hands to teach me the correct movement when striking the slats of an amadinda xylophone and he showed me how to keep my wrists flexible when playing in parallel octaves through the equidistant pentatonic system….” (‘Interconnectedness in Ethnomusicological Research’, in Ethnomusicology, 44/1 Winter 2000 p. 1.

 Lois Anderson in her doctoral thesis on the Kiganda Miko system. (c 1968) wrote:-
“I went daily to the Uganda Museum and Mr. Muyinda taught me various songs. He followed a definite pattern in his teaching method. When I had learned one of the individual parts of a song to his satisfaction, he would combine the second part of the melody with the part that I was playing to make sure that I was able to sustain my part. At this point I would notate the part that I had just learned in cipher notation. I followed the same procedure in learning the second part to the melody. In order to learn the precise method of interlocking the two parts, I played Part A, the first part, over and over while Mr. Muyinda inserted a few notes of Part B, the second part, at the exact place where the two parts should be combined. He repeated this process until I learned the precise place in Part A where Part B was inserted and also the particular portion of Part B which was used for this process. We then changed roles and it was my function to put into practice the process of combining Part B with Part A correctly. I then made notes of the manner of combining Parts A and B.” (Anderson 1968: 3-4)

Robert  Walser   from his MA thesis lodged at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
“One of Wachsmann’s key contributions resulted from his hiring Evaristo Muyinda (born 1914) to give musical demonstrations at the Uganda Museum where he worked from 1948 or 1949 to 1982.   Muyinda was a member of the kabaka’s akadinda team and learned to play other instruments as well eventually becoming a key link between European scholars and Ugandan music, particularly the amadinda xylophone.  The first European to write of learning under Muyinda was Gerhard Kubik.”

From Kasule and Cooke’s article in African Music Journal, Vol. vii/4, (1999), 66-72  “The musical Scene in Uganda”
“This diversification of instrumentation was partly inspired by the former National Ensemble which, under the musical leadership of the distinguished muganda musician Evaristo Muyinda, had been resident at the National Theatre in Kampala up to the early 1970s and had provided much music for the national dance troupe Heartbeat of Africa. This was Muyinda’s so-called ‘Kiganda orchestra’. Its personnel were mixed ethnically (though with baganda and basoga musicians forming the majority) and the whole was modelled on the lines of a western ensemble with groups of instruments of contrasted tone colours (tube fiddles, lyres, flutes, pan-pipes and zithers), mingling and contrasting their sounds with those of xylophone, drums and rattles.”

Peter Cooke and his son Andrew (born in Kamapala in 1965)  worked frequently with Muyinda. Cooke senr.  came to teach at Makerere College School in 1964 and found Muyinda teaching kiganda music and dance there on Wednesday afternoons. Muyinda’s dance group together with the school choir won the Caltex Festival Cup in 1965.
Both Peter and Andrew met with Muyinda again much later –  in 1987 and 1988 – when Muyinda came with his group to perform in the UK and Europe. While on tour in London in 1987 Muyinda fell seriously ill as a result of an enlarged prostate.  Both Cookes (in Edinburgh) telephoned the doctors at the London hospital to persuade them to operate – they had been unwilling unless Muyinda could produce in advance the money to pay for such an operation and apparently the British Council which had facilitated the tour would not or could not help.  The hospital surgeon was persuaded to deem Muyinda’s problem ‘life threatening’ in which case the operation could proceed without prior payment.  The operation went ahead and Muyinda returned to Uganda with a bill for several thousand pounds  (which all knew – hospital staff included –  that he would never be in a position to pay). A very satisfactory outcome!  He returned to good health very quickly.
Both Cookes visited Evaristo Muyinda at his home when they returned to  Uganda later the same year.
——————–
The following recordings of Muyinda are excerpted from Peter Cooke’s index to his tape archive.  All recordings are available at Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Archive  and at British Library’s on-line  archive (BL Sounds).

numb PCUG87.13.4
plac Mr Muyinda’s home at Mpererwe (Gayaza road)
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr and Mrs Muyinda and friends with Andrew Cooke
titl –
type General cries of welcome and chat in Luganda
summ Recorded during first visit to Mr Muyinda after his trip to UK. Sounds of ndingidi being tuned up in background

numb PCUG87.14.1
plac Mr Muyinda’s home at Mpererwe (Gayaza road)
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr and Mrs Muyinda and friends
titl Twabalamusa ffenna bwetwa alaba ‘agenyi
type Trad. Kiganda song.
summ Begun with Mr Muyinda announcing the tune on an endere
(flute).     Accompanied with handclapping. Interrupted – was only a practice.

numb PCUG87.14.2
plac Mr Muyinda’s home at Mpererwe (Gayaza road)
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr and Mrs Muyinda and friends
titl Twabalamusa, ffenna…
type Trad. Kiganda song.
summ Repeat of first item but with drums and rattles as well as flute.     Played in honour of Andrew Cooke.

numb PCUG87.14.3muyinda003
plac Mr Muyinda’s home at Mpererwe
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr and Mrs Muyinda and friends
titl Omusango gw’abalere (the case of the flutists)
type Trad. Kiganda historical song
summ With flute, ndingidi, rattle and drums. Mr Muyinda singing many of the solo lines and playing ndingidi.  Has a false start.  Translation. by Miriam Zziwa.

numb PCUG87.14.4
plac Mr Muyinda’s home.
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr Muyinda
titl Akawologoma (little Lion)
type Trad. Kiganda historical royal song
summ Mr. Muyinda plays baakisimba and ngalabi simultaneously to  accompany his singing. Moves without a break into the next item

numb PCUG87.14.
plac Mr Muyinda’s home.
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr Muyinda
titl –
type Trad. Kiganda drum rhythms with words.
summ Mr Muyinda drums while chanting the appropriate words for a variety of traditional rhythms.  Duration 1’40”

numb PCUG87.14.6
plac Mr Muyinda’s home.
date 17.9.87
inf  Mr and Mrs Muyinda and friends
titl -?
type Trad. Kiganda song
summ Opening phrase missed. With a full drum and rattle accompaniment. Two different soloists, Mr Muyinda and another. Tape runs out before end.

numb PCUG87.27.2
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda
titl Ssematimba ne Kikwabanga
type Historical song sung to endongo (lyre) accompaniment
summ 4’50”

numb PCUG87.27.3
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
date 28.9.8
inf  Evaristo Muyinda
titl Ssematimba ne Kikwabanga
type Historical tradition – story of the two princes.
summ told by E. Muyinda., with explanations of song text. Followed by questions from fieldworker about which groups perform the song. The song is sung at mourning rites and at okwabye olumbe. Hudson Kiyaga adds a little information on this at end of Muyinda’s contribution.

numb PCUG87.27.4
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda
titl Omusango gw’abalere (the case of the flutists)
type Historical tradition linked to the song – Long v. interesting story.
summ Speed switched to 3 3/4i.p.s for this story.

numb PCUG87.27.5
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda
titl Asigala atalama (He who does not depart, cannot make a will)
type Historical tradition associated with the song
summ Recorded at 3 3/4 ips.

numb PCUG87.28.1
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda’s group
titl ?
type Kiganda baakisimba dance song
summ Drums rather loud at start. Songs begins with tube fiddle. 2 tube fiddles, singer and amadinda xylophone. Muyinda changes to ndere later. Singing stops well before end of item. A good ending.   Switched back to 7 1/2 ips

numb PCUG87.28.2
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda’s group
titl Namayanja webale  (Thankyou, Nnamayanja)
type Kiganda baakisimba dance song
summ instruments include 2 tube fiddles and xylophone and drums. A good ending.

numb PCUG87.28.3
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda’s group
titl ?
type Kiganda embaga dance song
summ Hot drumming! Good singing and good ending. Fairly short song.

numb PCUG87.28.4
plac Evaristo Muyinda’s home
date 28.9.87
inf  Evaristo Muyinda’s group
titl Olwaleero (Because of today)
type Kiganda baakisimba dance song
summ 2 tube fiddles and endongo (lyre). Good ngalabi playing. Balance fairly good – rattles and ngalabi rather loud at one point. Neat ending.

nu PCUG92.9.2 (pgm 02)
d 7.2.92
pl Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
in  Evaristo Muyinda
t Veneneka     (Veronica)
ty Amadinda song on small amadinda.
su   Preceded by chat with Muyinda asking if he knows certain songs. Mr Muyinda says he doesn’t know entenga music.  Plays Veneneka on his small amadinda with Andrew  Cooke.   Playing begins c. 6′  Okunaga part is played over.

nu PCUG92.9.3 (pgm 03)
d 7.2.92
pl Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
in Evaristo Muyinda  with Andy Cooke
t Mubandusa (Ebyasi…)
ty Amadinda song on small amadinda.
su Muyinda sings versions of the song

nu PCUG92.9.4 (pgm 04)
d 7.2.92
pl Evaristo Muyinda’s home .
in   Evaristo Muyinda  with Andy cooke
t Nandikuwadde  (Kalagala e Bbembe)
ty Amadinda song on small amadinda
su  Mr Muyinda plays with Andrew on small madinda and then sings texts beginning c. 17′ 34″

Nu PCUG92.9.5 (pgm 05)
d 7.2.92
pl Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
in   Evaristo Muyinda with Andy  Cooke
t Kawumpuli  (Plague)
ty Amadinda song on small amadinda.
su  Muyinda sings words beginning c 20′ 20″.  Muyinda is asked for the story about the song.  Gives a brief explanation.  This plague works very quickly, by one or two oclock one is dead.    Possibly dates back to Kabaka Kyabaggu.   Then he takes his harp to tune it and is recorded doing so.

Nu PCUG92.9.6 (pgm 05)
d 7.2.92
pl Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
in Evaristo Muyinda
t Kansimbe omuggo awaali kibuka
ty Ganda trad. song sung to ennanga (harp accompaniment).
su  Muyinda first tunes his harp .  Brief performance begins c 30’nu PCUG92.9.7 (pgm 05)

fw Peter Cooke
d 7.2.92
pl Evaristo Muyinda’s home.
in  Evaristo Muyinda
t Gganga
ty Royal  song to ennanga harp accompaniment
su Brief performance.   begins c. 31′ 30″:  some chat and gentle playing follows this, with a fragment of Olutalo Olwe Nsinsi. (Andy Cooke probably playing harp).

The Story of “Omusango Gw’Abalere gwegaludde, Bantwale e Bbira  gye banzaala”.    Everisto Muyinda, tape PCUG87.27.4
translated by Miriam Zziwa and Dr Sam Kasule.

        That song, “The case of the flutists has been exposed, Let them take me to Bbira where I was born’”. It started like this:-
Long ago – [during the time of ] the Kings of long ago, there were flutists who were in the palace of the king.  One of the ways of the palace was that if you were a servant in the palace – inside the palce compound, – you all called the king your ‘husband’.  Now everywhere it was the custom that you must follow proper traditions inside the palace.  You must greet a royal man and show him the respect that his royal rank deserves.   You should also show respect to to the royal women.  You don’t stand anyhow when greeting them – and [when greeting] the wives of the men of the palace you don’t stand anyhow.  To stand anyhow  means standing and greeting them in a casual manner like you do with  any ordinary person with  “How are you?  How are things at your place”.    Well then – you must humble yourself for him or her, or if you have knelt down  – for it is the tradition everywhere that you kneel.
But in the palace there were flutists, the flute ensemble.  They were the ones that laid down grass in the houses of the wives – for those wives were not allowed to go cutting tteete  grass in the jungle for spreading down in their houses.  Those flutists were the ones to come and lay the grass in the wives’ houses.  But one day those flutists refused to greet the Kabaka’s wives while kneeling, saying instead  “All of us [you too] have the same husband [i.e. we are equal in rank].  We call him ‘our husband’ and you call him ‘your husband’ and so why should we kneel for you?  We will not kneel for you.”
Now the matter was taken to the king, their ‘husband’ and they told him that the flutists this day have rebelled – ‘they have refused to greet us in a proper way.  After that we quarreled and they look down on us.” Now, when he heard  – you understand – such words coming from the wives as they heard it, the king was annoyed, he ordered those flutists to be detained and brought before him, bringing them by force if need be.   Now the beloved women – when they reached the flutists  – the flutists had already got to know of the plan and they ran away from the palace, breaking out and running off to their homes.
Now they had their village – Kalungu – the place where the flutists used to gather and where the leader of the flutists who instructed them in fluting had his home.
Now,  they went there, but around that time – as you know illness comes without warning – the king died while the flutists were still away.   After his death this child who succeeded him [Daudi chwa], who took his place as king, had learned to enjoy listening to flutes very much and he asked of his father’s flutists who used to play the flutes, “Where did they go?”  And they explained to him that – eh – they went away and are at a village called Kalungu.  And he said “Aah”.  Then he sent a messenger whom he told to go and bring them.   OK, when they reached Kalungu they were informed that the Kabaka needed them.
Well, because they had left the palace for doing wrong they thought, “Oh!  That crime that we committed has been raised again.”  Being raised again means to resume.  “So it has resumed – oh dear!  This is  a sad event.”  And they began assembling and played their flutes, sounding a song for mourning, just mourning.  And saying “Yi!” – the flutists – “this crime has been taken up again.  Now let them take us and let us plead our case”.  Because during that time the Kabaka used to listen to cases at Mugema’s place and Mugema used to live at Bbira village – him, the grandfather of Buganda.  Now they started to sound that song on their flutes “Omusango gw’abalere gwe galudde, Bantwale  e Bbira gye batuzaala” [The case of the flutists has been taken up again, let them take us to Bbira where we originated], “For what will we say?  There’s nowhere we can go”.
They came [to Bbira], and when they reached the place of judgement they processed along sounding the song on their flutes and beating their drums – but it was that lament, as the words go- “The case of the flutists has been taken up again”.  There they are – going along and playing and singing that song, and it amused the Kabaka very much.
Now when they finished there he commanded a page to ask of them saying “What’s the name of that song?”.  Now when the page asked them, instead of replying that we call this song “Omusango gw’abalere..” they changed the name and said that they call the song “Ndigenda n’abalere gwegaludde ab’e Kalungu, bantwaale e Bbira gyebanzaala” – [I will go with the flutists of Kalungu, let them take us to Bbira where I was born].  Oh! Oh!.  He was delighted and he gave them drinks and gave them eats and he provided many little delicacies and treated them extremely well.  The flutists found their confidence restored when he made this following request, “My dear friends, I also want to learn the flute.”  That flute which they cut for him  and prepared for him, they called it “Lumonyere, the flute of Ssuna.”  Because [Kabaka] Ssuna also was very fond of the flute and he was always asking them, “Play my song,” over and over again –  and that was how he learned the skill.  Now because he used to say this repeatedly like ‘olumonyere’ which means ‘something that never stops, on and on, on and on, “do that again.   Do that again” – that is what is called ‘olumonyere’.  And even his flute, he called it “Olumonyere, the flute of Ssuna”.  And he played the flute so well with the result that the flute became the favourite and their master was taught well.
That is where that song originated.  But because when you are singing you cannot sing isolated words “I will go with the flutists of Kalungu, let them take me to Bbira –  I will go with the flutists.”  Well, they go joining the words all together.  They would go singing and with the instruments all sounding, beating nicely on the bakisimba (dance drum), the engalabi (long drum), ensaasi (rattles), and the flutes – which altogether are six in number in their group.
Now round about the time that they were singing there was a child who was disrespectful to his mother.  There was this child and in his father’s house there were two mothers.  On the one side there is this small child –  on the other, this old parent- his stepmother, and she sent the child saying,  “Fetch me some fire.”  The child refused her bidding and yet this woman’s children had died,  and in spite of this fact this child hurt the stepmother’s feeling.  And he told her “Sekatumira abaana, atumatuma abaana ababo bewazala – “You, bossyboots, where are  the children you gave birth to?” “Oh, Maama!” sighed   the mother,  “Ah! My child, you are such a sweet young creature!  Don’t be sarcastic  like that. I bore mine for the soil”.  Then the child replied, saying. “If you bore them for the soil, call them to come and bring you fire”.  “Right, said another one there,  “When I looked at my mother, I saw she was helpless,  to look at [Father***?**  ]  I saw he is all alone.”  Then this woman wept and while she was weeping another child asked her “Mama, you, – Daddy’s friend, seated by the door post crying.  What can tears bring back?  Calm down, I’ll bring the fire for you.”

This other child helped the woman and brought her fire. Right then, the story goes  on – “You who like to order children about, show us your own children.”
It continues like this:-
“You who order children about, show us your own children”.  If you  talk like that tears will be the outcome.  Looking at my mother I see she is alone, I can see she is helpless.  The bushy plot behind the house became the track  of the civet cat.  Because then her plantation had become overgrown,  because she was helpless and unable to cultivate it.  Because what used to be a house has become couch grass smothering the house.
Now, they continue singing – “What used to be Father’s  plantation , Maama’s plantation that’s where hunters look for game.”  Those  gardens that belonged to  Father,  builders collect reeds there because the gardens are now  wild, they collect reeds there.  Now, more words are added on to that song .  Because of grief, “I don’t know if I will go  into space [as a spirit] “,  – You know when you die they bury you in open space, the sun shines on you – ” Or if I will be put into the tall grass – which will prick my body”. Now they continue singing that song  until they add on more words and it grows large.
Now imagine for example that when you die your father is dead, you may say , “Ayi!  Father’s gardens have grown wild.   Now builders collect reeds from there.  What used to be coffee trees are now dried  and gone wild                                                                     and have been burnt as bush and you collect firewood from there since they are dry.  Now, my friend, this lonely journey disturbs my mind. Oh my friends”.  When you die they bury you on the edge.  Because they don’t bury you in your compound as if you never used to sweep it.  That used to make people cry a lot.  “If you die they put you in the garden as if you never built a house  – they remove you from your house and put you outside as if you never built a house.”
Now that song continues collecting such ideas about human grief and they sing that song “Omusango Gw’Abalere gwegaludde Bantwale e Bbira  gye banzaala”. That’s how it goes. Those words as sung in the song while they are playing instruments, or blow flutes or sing, or beat the bakisimba or play the xylophone.  If one knows how to sing well with the xylophone or with the harp he sings such words because he can see that they are all concerned with human grief:  this is all connected with the original lament of the Abalere.  Now it touches everybody who has any sorrow in their hearts.   My friends, those are the texts to sing for the song “Omusango gw’abalere gwegaludde“.

William Dixon’s tunes re-visited – the problem of key signatures.

This is an updated  version of the brief article published in the December 2016 issue of Common Stock, the journal of the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society.  Here the article has been expanded by the inclusion of more music notations and some audio examples.

———-

Anyone familiar with Dixon’s fine collection of tunes that were probably circulating on both sides of the Scottish border during the early decades of the 18th century will know of the problem of how best to interpret his notations.  They stem from the facts that he did not identify the instrument[s] he was writing for,  that he used a four-line music stave and moreover that he included no key signatures.   The solutions proposed below emerged from a close examination of the melodic content and the sonorities of Dixon’s tunes and it is this that prompts me to suggest a different scale/tuning for the historic Border pipes than that commonly used today.

Throughout the collection Dixon specified the lowest line of his stave was for the note G, so I have added a line below each four-line stave to create the  modern five-line treble clef in the examples I give below. I believe that no transposition of pitch is needed except for the very first tune in the manuscript (initially labelled  Dickes a way) for this seems to have been a ‘false start’ to the collection. It is clearly in a different hand and a close examination of the first few pages of the bound volume shows no watermark on these pages, unlike the later pages.

These early pages also show evidence of having been bound together at a later date with the main body of the collection which begins with the tune Doringtown. While the first tune (Dicke’s a way, later labelled Watty’s away) is written on the recto and verso of a single sheet and numbered pages 1 and 2, the first page of  Doringtown is also numbered page 1 and subsequent page numbering follows on from there throughout the manuscript.  This strongly suggests that the very first tune formed part of an earlier start to the collection which was perhaps abandoned and furthermore that the accompanying instruction – to transpose tunes down a tone – should apply only to that first tune which occupies the recto and verso of a single sheet.

Since Dixon felt it unnecessary to include key signatures I have needed to consider the best musical sense the tunes make to me when choosing suitable key signatures , and it was also important  to compare them with other early versions – (sources such as the Balcarres,  Sinkler and Vickers  manuscripts) and my own appraisal of the general melodic features of early 18th century Lowland Scottish and Border songs.

But firstly, what instrument did Dixon write his tunes for and how were they tuned?  Can we be sure he was writing for bagpipes?  Consider for example the low octave of a modern treble recorder (in F) which fits the tunes perfectly.  Recorders did not have a standard scale in the 18th century, but the use of cross- fingerings often allowed one to play chromatic changes of notes B, F and E and hence to play tunes in the keys of C, F,  G and G minor and Bflat with ease. Admittedly much writing for recorder  spans more than nine notes, though some recorders  were notoriously out of tune in their second octave and rural players of Dixon’s time may well have confined their playing of ‘local’ tunes to the bottom octave.  It is known that recorder  tunings were not standardised in the 18th century and the many contemporary fingering charts varied, especially with regard to the low B – flat or natural.

I’ve mentioned the recorder as just one example of other possible instruments than bagpipes for Dixon’s repertory. If, as many of us accept, he was indeed writing for bagpipes then a lack of standardised  tuning could also have been true for bagpipe chanters in and around the Scottish borders during Dixon’s time. Any evidence that professional or amateur woodwind instrument makers of his day were producing Border bagpipe chanters that had one standard tuning would be welcomed.

What then could have been the scale of the Dixon’s instrument[s]? We  cannot rule out the possibility that Dixon noted down tunes for more than one type of bagpipe.  His notations range over a 9-note scale from nominal low F to high G.  This works well for a 9-note bagpipe chanter, though like others before me (e.g. Hensold) we can accept also that a number of Dixon’s tunes with a range of only 8 notes could fit an 8-note Northumbrian Smallpipe.  Close examination of the tunes leads me to suggest that the nominal scale of any conical border chanter which he played would have sounded close to that shown below, including flat or neutral tunings of the notes B and E. By neutral I refer to a note whose frequency lies roughly halfway between two adjacent semitones (such as B and Bb, or E and Eb, F and Fsharp). Depending on their surrounding musical context, neutral tunings today are usually perceived as either one or other note in our modern chromatic pitch system, because music psychologists have shown that humans categorise musical pitch – though categories vary from one culture to another. (Siegel et al). For instance, the early church missionaries in Uganda found that their  native church members found it impossible to sing semitone intervals (e.g. te to doh) because their own music was  based not on seven pitch categories but five, from which semitone intervals were absent.  Working with his own field recordings Percy Grainger  in 1908 made a fairly convincing case  in relation the use of ‘neutral modes’ in  English folksong when he discovered that some of  his informants consistently sang 3/4-tone intervals when performing for him (Grainger,  see also Boswell ) .

scale

Two 8-note scales are also indicated: this allows for the possibility that Dixon also played the Northumbrian Smallpipe or wanted to include such tunes in his collection. In this case the flat B and E might not be needed in the G scale. In this G scale also an Fneutral or Fsharp  would prove an acceptable ‘leading’ note for many of the Smallpipe tunes, though some of those 8-note tunes listed below call for prominent Fnaturals, even though by the early 19th century many similar tunes were notated with Fsharp.  As for drones to suit these scales then at least F and G drones should be available. Other drone tunings for the Border pipes such as Bflat are also possible, for at least two tunes classified below as having a Bflat sonority sound pleasant to a modern ear with such a drone, though a G drone also works reasonably well with them.

It now remains to be seen how well this proposed bagpipe scale might fit Dixon’s repertory.

A brief summary of Dixon’s nine-note tunes.

All the following tunes make better sense with Fnaturals and Bflats, as well as possibly neutral Es (or a fingering that allows a pitch of Eflat to be produced).

F major sonority   –          needs Fnatural and a flat or neutral B.

Doringtown.           (Rhythm rationalised in strain 2):-   [click to enlarge]
doringtowninfsmall
Most early versions of this tune are in the same major sonority.  John Rook simply seemed to have forgotten to change his key signature from that used for the previous piece on page 126 of his collection. Dixon’s version is not really ‘polymodal’ but for many strains it does venture upwards into dominant sonority (key C) for three bars before usually returning to F via the same cadential  phrase as in his opening strains.  In the last two strains of this 14 strain tune the seemingly deliberate discords that occur when the note E is stressed are intriguing but discomforting to some listeners.
(All the audio excerpts that follow  have been created using a keyboard and an equal temperament Korg synthesizer).

The Black and the Grae.      This is very similar to Margaret Sinkler’s The Horseman’s Port with its alternating  Fmajor and Gminor  sonorities, though she does not use a one-flat key signature and specifies Bflat only for the fourth bar from the end of each strain. Other versions contain alternating  phrases in F and G major sonorities which might suggest that Bneutral fits the tune better, unless Dixon’s pipes could sound both Bflat and B natural by using cross-fingering.  Later, however, Nathaniel Gow printed a version alternating between F major and G minor sonorities, i.e. using Bflat throughout, in his Complete Repository (vol 2. p 8-9).

Berwick Bully.                  Here the note E only occurs as a passing note (mostly unaccented) among running quavers so the tune could be acceptable  with any of the E tunings. A brief sample follows. There is doubt about the pitch of note5 in strain2 bar 3 (Dixon wrote F).
berwick-bully-in-f

B flat major sonority           Needs Fnatural and Bflat (or Bneutral) and Eflat (or Eneutral).
Hacky Hony.                     Better with Eflat.
A brief sample  (in this case with a Bflat drone) with the notation:

hackyin-bflat
Hay for Newbeginn
.       Better with Eflat.  See and hear the setting further  below.

G sonority     Needs F natural top and bottom and – if in a minor sonority – B flat or at least B neutral.
Have a care on her Johnie
.    Effective  with Bflats and probably better with Eflat or neutral than with Enatural.
Cuddy Clad her.                In other versions, both G major and G minor sonorities are found.
Cock on the midding.          Could be major – though minor also sounds acceptable.
There was a weddin[g] etc.       Strain 2 goes into relative major (B flat sonority). Are Eflats or Eneutrals also needed?
Saw ye never’ a Bonie [lass].      Probably with Enatural or Eneutral if it is to correspond with Vickers: I do not accept that Vickers’ inclusion of Bflat was probably a mistake.  See the discussion of this tune below.
Wallington.             A problem tune because there exist so many versions, some in major and others in minor sonorities. Clough’s version is interesting – its minor feel ties in well with Dixon’s setting which could then be seen to employ the two alternating  sonorities, G minor and F major.

More ambiguous G sonority.
Hit her between the legs.       Could it earlier have been Bneutral or Bflat?
She will never be guided.       Needs at least Fnaturals.
Golden Lock[s]                         Certainly needs Fnaturals.

F and G (minor?) sonorities
Dickes a way                            Marked by frequent abrupt changes of sonority between F and G. Bflat and possibly Eneutral can sound acceptable.

 C sonority
If thou wert my own thing.       Hexatonic (no Bs in the tune) needs Fnatural

Indeterminate.
The New way to Morpeth.      Opening strains 1 and 3 sound as if in F sonority with Bflat or Bneutral. Other variations are in C sonority with Bnatural or neutral which contribute to a seeming mixter-maxter  of tune phrases.  One wonders if these other variations  represent in fact the ‘new way’ of performing the work and also what the ‘old way’ might have been like.

DIXON’S 8-NOTE TUNES.

All the following tunes with the exception of the last two could have been set for (early) Northumbrian Smallpipes though some of them could also have been played on the 9-note pipes and so could have had Bflat available (e.g. John Cudbursun’s Fancy).

If for early Northumbrian pipes the pitch of the high F is not known, then it could have been natural or neutral enough to suit different modal requirements. There is evidence that decades later Peacock and others sharpened Fs that earlier were natural (or possibly neutral) when setting tunes for the Northumbrian pipes. Note that none of these tunes insist on the need for Bflat other than the last three listed here as having mixed sonorities

 G major sonority      There is often uncertainty about the pitch of the high leading note F and it is worth noting that many prominent high Fs among the next batch of tunes are given ornament signs (presumably trills or turns), perhaps to disguise the fact the F available may not fit well with the surrounding melodic context or the drone.
John Cudbursun’s Fancy.                Major moving to A minor sonority for last bar of each strain.   The note F is only sounded within quaver running figures.
Minuat – King Edward the Second.      Probably major.
The Stool of Repentance.                 Major. F sounded only within running figures
High Lands Laddy.                           Major
Wally as the Marques ran.            Major with F sounded only within running figures
Soulters of Sellkirk.                          Major – with ?F neutral.
Lasses bushes Brawlie.                   Prominent Fnaturals (or neutral)
Adam a Bell                                        Major. The ornamented  minim F in bar1 strain2 may have been Fnatural. Later versions use Fsharp.
Gingleing Gordie.                              Major. Unlike Dixon, Vickers  includes a high A. This supports the view that Dixon’s version was for Smallpipes.
My love comes passing by.             Major. The ornamented  minim F in bars 2 of early strains may have been Fnatural.  Later records show the use of  Fsharp.
The Prentice Lads of Alnwick.        Major
Cut and dry Dolly, new way.           Major
Nickle Foster’s horn pipe.                Major
Mock the Soulders Lady.                  Major
The newe way to Bouden.                 Prominent Fs which could be natural or neutral.
Jake Lattine.                                          Major
Ratling Roring Willie.                         Major with F naturals.

C sonority
Lases make yo’r tails toddle.           Needs Fnaturals.     Could join the 9-note group.
Cannie Willie Foster.                          Also needs Fnaturals and could join the 9-note group.

8 notes but probably intended for 9-note Border pipes.
Mixed sonorities
Little wee winking thing.                   Begins with A minor and G major sonorities but  Cmajor also featured.   Needs high Fnatural or neutral.).
Young and Lustie was I.                    Ambiguous mode. Certainly needs F natural: also Bflat or Bneutral and Eflat or E neutral.
Here it is with E flat:-

And here, a fragment using Enatural:-


Ov’r the Dyke & Till her.                    G minor sonority. In the manuscript this follows immediately on from Young and Lustie was I.  But see the discussion below.

Finally – there are precedents for arguing that some minor sonority tunes can have been changed to major during the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is especially likely to occur where neutral tunings have been ‘rationalised’.  One very recent fiddle music example is the Shetland tune Da Boanie Isle o’ Whalsay. Today it is played with A major sonority but in the 1970s some fiddlers were playing and singing it with neutral Cs while a 19th century manuscript shows it set in the minor sonority (with Cnatural) (Cooke, p. 101).  Among Dixon’s tunes Cuddy clad Her is such a possibility.

Some further examples.

Hay for Newbeginn  Here is the facsimile of the opening few lines in Dixon’s manuscript:

Hay for Newbiggen

Below are the openings of two versions for consideration. Neither of them represent the way current performances  sound when the melody is transcribed for playing on the modern Lowland pipes (or the Highland bagpipes for that matter).
Version 1:hey-for-newbiggenThis calls for an ability to sound Bflat and Eflat on one’s instrument (or at least neutral Es – neither flat nor natural) and gives a sonority fluctuating between Bflat major (C-mode) and G minor (A-or D-mode). As a bagpipe tune G would be a good drone pitch though Bflat is a possible alternative.

Version 2:    Here Dixon’s tune has been transposed up one tone:-

hey-for-newbiggen_5This transposition would call for A or C as a drone pitch. As with many Scottish and Border melodies there is the same fluctuating sonority here, moving between major opening (C sonority) and its ‘relative minor’ (A).  The beginning of the third strain is included to show that for a keyless Northumbrian Smallpipes of the early 18th century then this transposition goes too high. But at this pitch it agrees perfectly with John Bell’s version (in his Northumbrian manuscript dated  c1812), the sole reason for including this transposed version here. Bell  gives only two strains – as follows:

bell-hey-forIn both Dixon’s and Bell’s versions  there is an absence of tritone relationships that one finds in other transcriptions  (intervals between notes such such as Csharp and Gnatural or Bnatural and Fnatural).  This can be a particular problem if one plays this on the Highland bagpipes or smaller pipes with a similar scale. Such intervals, awkward to sing if not to play, are not a common feature of Lowland or Highland Scottish traditional song style, though one can find tritone relationships in later recorded versions which have clearly been modified to suit the addition of triadic harmonies for keyboard accompaniments.

Ov’r the Dyke & till her Laddy is another tune which demands both Bflat and Eflat or Eneutral.  Here are the first two strains:-

ovr-the-dyke

Without a Bflat this transposition would again produce frequent uncomfortable diminished 5th (tritone) intervals in relation to the Fnatural.  The Eflat also seems necessary  to complement Bflat and make the tune modally more like many Lowland Scottish songs that float between a minor sonority (in this case G) and its relative major (Bflat). I’m grateful to Peter Stewart who drew my attention to a setting of The Peer of Leith in Adam Craig’s Collection (1730, p.14) which is almost contemporaneous with Dixon’s manuscript.  This tune has a recognisably similar opening and sonority to the version above though it is set at a lower pitch. Two other early versions of Ov’r the Dyke  are in the Balcarres lute manuscript(no. 24)  and in Vickers’ collection and both feature the same minor sonority as Dixon.

The problem tune (8 notes)
Watty’s away.  
What can we conclude about the very first tune, erroneously labelled  Dickes a way and written in a different hand from all other tunes?   If the advice on the facing page is followed and the tune is transposed down a tone it gives it a clear Bflat sonority just as with Hacky Hony and Hay for Newbeginn. Vickers’ version called Cock up thy Bever is written a tone higher but has an identical sonority to Dixon’s.

Note the style of the minims.
Note the style of the minims, quite unlike the style of minims in later tunes..

Here it is, accordingly transposed down a tone as advised.
wattys-away_4
Saw ye never a bonie Lass.
A final example reinforces my view that Bflat (or at least a neutral B) is called for in the scale, though it leaves me feeling less certain about calling for a flat E rather than a neutral E.  The tune, which has a G minor sonority, sounds convincing using either the note Eflat (making it, in recent terminology, an A-mode tune) or  with a neutral or plain E (which makes it more a D-mode tune), though my personal preference  is for the second.  My choice is endorsed by Vickers (p. 76) who, a generation later, notated his version, called  Kis’d Hir under the Coverlid,  with the same tonic and with a single Bflat for his key signature.  Nevertheless, the final undulating strain sounds particularly effective sounding Eflats and with a G drone.  Take your pick!

saw-ye-neer_4Here it is using Eflat.

And here a slightly  shorter version with E natural.

There remain a couple of problems for those wishing to play this repertory and stay faithful to what I think Dixon intended.  Firstly  – we don’t know enough about his pipes with regard to what drone pitches would have been available to him. I have suggested some but there are others where it may be difficult to  conclude which drone pitch best suits a particular tune even if that that pitch were  available.  Lastly, if my recommendations are accepted, it must be clear that a number of Dixon’s tunes, even if transposed,  cannot be well represented  using chanters with Highland bagpipe tuning (from low G up to high A with C# and F#) unless they are equipped with keys or unless the scale can be temporarily modified in some other way.

References.

George W. Boswell :   1970. ‘The Neutral Tone as a Function of Folk-Song Text’, Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, vol2 (127-132)

Cooke, Peter: 1986. The Fiddle Tradition of the Shetland Isles.  Cambridge University Press, (101)

Craig, Adam: 1730.  A Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes,   Adapted For the Harpsicord or Spinnet and within the Compass of the Voice, Violin or German Flute. Edinburgh.

Hensold, Dick: 2004. ‘Smallpipe Tunes in the Dixon Manuscript and the Peacock Collection’ in Out of the Flames – Studies on the William Dixon Bagpipe Music manuscript (1733), (19-25)

Grainger, Percy: 1908–9. ‘Collecting with the Phonograph’, Journal of the English Folk Song Society, vol. 3,  (147–162)

Peacock, John: c1800-1805. A Favorite Collection of  Tunes with Variations Adapted for the Northumberland Small Pipes violin or Flute.  Printed by W. Wright, Newcastle.

Siegel,  Jane A: Siegel, William: 1977. “Categorical perception of tonal intervals: Musicians can’t tell sharp from flat,  Perception & Psychophysics,  Vol 21/5: 399-407).

Sinkler, Margaret: 1710. Fiddle and  keyboard book,  National Library of Scotland MS 3296 (Glen 143i).

Spring, Matthew: 2010 The Balcarres Lute Book (2 vols.) Universities of  Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Vickers, William: c1770 Tune Book  Manuscript available on line at:-. http://www.farnearchive.com/detail.asp?id=R0300000

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Updated April 20, 2017.