Corn Grinding, Haiti

Album cover The World of Man: His Work Hard to know where to break into this story. I had it all lined up for last week, and then came the earthquake in Haiti and “sensitivity” got the better of me, so I pulled it. Then I read up more about Harold Courlander, the man who recorded it. He seems to be most famous as the man Alex Haley plagiarized to write Roots. But he was primarily an anthropologist who collected folk tales and music from many cultures around the world and was a particular expert on Haiti. It was one such collection, World of Man, Vol. 1: His Work, that formed the core of Work Songs, the 16th of Michael Asch's series on Folkways Records. And that title raises all the problems that beset the sensitive modern guy. What about women singing while they work? They’re there aplenty. What about a white man appropriating all that indigenous culture, even if he makes it available to all sorts of people who might never have known it, including me? And perhaps the most puzzling of all, who buys and plays (or bought and played) records like World of Man, Vol. 1: His Work? I get so fed up with spoken word on recordings that I edit it out if I can. This time, however, I’ve left them in, as a tribute to Courlander’s lugubrious tones and brio scripting.

So, here are two Haitian men pounding corn (maize), topped and tailed by Harold Courlander. Eat your heart out Jean Wyclef.

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