Posted in 4th and 5th Grade, Fourth Grade, Multicultural Activities, Singing

African American Spirituals and “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd”

Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd

In fourth grade, we have been learning about a type of song called a “spiritual.”  The term “spirituals” refers to songs that were created by enslaved African people in the United States.   Our primary focus was on learning the song “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd.  We learned to sing the song, watched a wonderful Reading Rainbow movie, and performed a skit of the story as a class.

follow the drinking gourd

Wade in the Water

Another spiritual we learned to sing was “Wade in the Water.”  It is one of the fourth graders’ favorite songs to sing every year!  Wade in the Water features a “call and response” figure, where a soloist sings, and then the chorus “responds” with a phrase.

“Wade in the Water” tells of a method of escape- by treading through rivers and streams.  Slaves chose this route whenever possible, because the water would erase their scent, throwing off the dogs used to track and capture them.  “Israelites” and “Moses” refer to men and women who would show them the way to freedom.  The song promises also that God will trouble the water: stir it up, giving it a power that would shield them from slave catchers.

Here are some audio clips of classes singing the song.

Wade in the Water: Sung by Mrs. Morrison’s Class (Soloists: Brady, Sophia, Julia, and Melissa)

 

Wade in the Water: Sung by Mrs. Morrison’s Class (Soloists:

 

Wade in the Water: Sung by Ms. Keeley’s Class (Soloists: Hannah, Connor, Kyle, Celia, and Mary)

 

Wade in the Water: Sung by Ms. Grattan’s Class (Soloists: Megan, Eryn, Kayla, Abby S., Sam, Cam, and Ryan)

 

Tue Tue

To accompany the unit, students also learned the African children’s song “Tue Tue,” a song from Ghana, which is sung in the Ashanti language.  Here are the lyrics:

Tue tue, barima tue tue
Tue tue, barima tue tue

Abofra ba ama dawa dawa
 Tue tue
Abofra ba ama dawa dawa 
Tue tue
 (hey!)

Barima tue tue
 (hey!)
Barima tue tue
 (hey!)
Barima tue tue
 (hey!)

Of course everyone wanted to know the translation of the lyrics, but it is very tricky to find!   After a bit of internet research, it seems that the song is an apology song: an apology to an elderly man for accidentally tripping him and causing him to fall flat on his face.  Not a very exciting translation in the end!  😛  Despite the translation, it’s a very fun song to sing, and there is a clapping game that goes with it.  Pictures to come soon!

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