Saturday, October 16, 2010

Voodoo Blues, Hoodoo & Magical Practices

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Voodoo Blues, Hoodoo & Magical Practices

Voodoo and Hoodoo have always been one of the main subjects of black American folklore.
 They crop up in the stories of Brer Rabbit and in the “conjure” tales collected by Charles W. Chesnutt around 1900.

But it was blues music that carried the mythos of Voodoo and Hoodoo through the 20th century. 
Blues songs are literally saturated with the bluesman’s belief in Hoodoo. 
This is why the black Church singled out many blues lyrics as proof that the blues was “the devil’s music.”
The faithful were warned not to listen to the blues and were sternly reprimanded if it was found out they did. Preachers called blues performers tramps, drunkards, and immoral vagabonds 
(well, they often did drink and ride the railroads like hobos).
None of this stopped black Americans congregating in the “jook joints”
 (the southern shack equivalent of a night club) to listen to blues performers pump out their riffs 
and holler their heartfelt lyrics.
Magic was always quite literally in the air at blues performances. In his “Louisiana Blues”, for example, Muddy Waters tells of heading to the Voodoo and Hoodoo capital to get a spell, known as a “mojo hand”, to improve his luck with women:

I’m goin’ down to New Orleans

Get me a mojo hand;

I’m gonna show all you good-lookin’ women

Just how to treat yo’ man.

Bluesmen often had colorful names. This was no mere artistic contrivance. It had roots in Voodoo and Hoodoo and right back to the old shamanistic practices of Africa, where names were considered to have power. In his essay “The African Presence in Caribbean Literature” (1973) Caribbean poet Edward Kamau Braithwaite explains that:

The word “nommo” (or name) is held to contain secret power. People feel a name is so important that a change in his name could transform a person’s life.

Faith in the secret power of the name is the reason why blues musicians like Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ma Rainey, Leadbelly, and Howlin’ Wolf changed their names. Whether consciously or unconsciously, it was an act of magical transformation.

Root doctors took on new names for the same reason.
 They would adopt animal names such as Dr Fox, Dr Crow and Dr Snake. 
Like the African witch doctor, they assumed the name of the bird or beast 
from which they draw their power. Taking on a new name was a way of shaping personal destiny.
The most famous “Hoodoo bluesman”, however, was Robert Johnson, whose songs
 “Crossroads Blues” and “Love in Vain” went on to be covered by many famous bands,
 like Cream and the Rolling Stones.

According to legend, when he started out he was – at best – an average guitar player, performing around the jook joints in the Southern States of American during the 1930s.
 He then disappeared for a time. On his return, he was transformed.
“He was so good!” said fellow bluesman Son House. 
“When he finished, all our mouths were standing open.”
Rumors circulated that Johnson had traded his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange 
for guitar expertise. Not only had he suddenly become a brilliant musician.
 But he had gained extraordinary charisma – to the point that his performances 
often moved a crowd to tears. Not surprisingly, his career took off.

This legend lies at the heart of the blues and the musical forms that came after it,
 such as rock and rap – it is where the saying “the Devil has all the best tunes” comes from.

 the full text is here

1.Hoodoo Hoodoo - John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson
2.Mojoe Blues - Charley Lincoln
3.Black Cat Bone Blues - Bobby Leecan and Robert Cooksey
4.New Mojo Blues - Barbecue Bob
5.Black Cat Bone - Sam 'Lightnin'' Hopkins
6.Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues - Ma Rainey
7.Low Down Mojo Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
8.I've Been Tricked - Casey Bill Weldon
9.Goofer Dust Swing - Lil Johnson
10.The Mojo Blues - Jimmie Gordon
11.Somebody Done Hoodooed the Hoodoo Man - Louis Jordan
12.Snake Doctor Blues - JD 'Jelly Jaw' Short
13.Hoodoo Women - Johnnie Temple
14.Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues - Memphis Jug Band
15.Jomo Man Blues -Waymon 'Sloopy' Henry
16.Root Doctor Blues - Doctor Clayton
17.Seven Sisters Blues - JT 'Funny Paper' Smith
18.Hoodoo lady - Memphis Minnie
19.Two faced Woman - Curley Weaver
20.Hoodoo Lady Blues - Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup
21.Hoo-Doo Say - The Sly Fox
22.A Two-Faced Man - James 'Wee Willie' Wayne

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