Practicing and performing the mnemonic rituals of a kinetic orality

[…] In The Games Black Girls Play, Gaunt argues that cheers —
songs and seemingly nonsensical chants performed in conjunction with
handclaps and foot stomps — offer entertainment for black girls across
the country, but they also play a more important role. They teach young
girls aspects of "musical blackness," placing them socially in step
with black tradition. The book examines black girls' forays into
popular culture — whether unconscious or deliberate — and what their
invisibility says about hip hop, musicality in the black community, and
when and where girls enter the annals of music history.

At first
it seems like a stretch to claim that the way girls play has influenced
a commercial behemoth like hip hop. But have you heard Nelly's "Country
Grammar"? Its sing-song chorus was sampled from black girls' games, and
Gaunt suggests that the song gained popularity in part because it was
immediately recognizable to black audiences. Gaunt emphasizes that male
rappers like Nelly use such games as material, but female rappers do
not — an assessment that's blurry and not as convincing as her other
arguments; it doesn't help that the aspiring female rappers Gaunt
interviews about why this might be don't offer illuminating
explanations.

And lest anyone think girls have been passive
creators of sampling fodder for boys, over time girls have appropriated
snippets of New Edition's "Candy Girl" and the Jackson 5's version of
"Rockin' Robin" for their own rhythmic use in games, which underscores
the reciprocal and often unexamined relationship between black girls
and popular music. When Gaunt traces the origins of traditional games
like "Miss Mary Mack" by fusing academic prose with vividly rendered
memories, her journey is refreshing, if sometimes daunting in its
technicality. […]

That's the middle of "Playing for Keeps," a Joshunda Saunders review that C. shot my way a day or two after I saw this Yahoo Buzz Log post last week.

4 thoughts on “Practicing and performing the mnemonic rituals of a kinetic orality

  1. fascinating. I must, must read this book for my novel. I’ve always wanted to know the origins of “Miss Mary Mack”

    thanks for posting. you always have most interesting posts, George. How is the Negrophilia blog coming along?

  2. Not quite what I was expecting from this post. I thought it was someone woman bashing 🙁

  3. AngelaMichelle: I thought so too. That’s why I blogged it.
    ecru: Negrophile turned 3 last month and is in fine fettle.
    Starr: I much prefer bashing expectations, not women.

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