This gospel quartet caught-on in the U.S. national scene in the 1940s and kept up their popularity & musical quality into the 50s. The great Ray Charles has said that the Pilgrim Travelers, and particularly their baritone Jesse Whitaker, influenced him and his then developing musical style: a brew of blues, gospel and jazz which would eventually come to be known as “soul” music.

This acapella take of “I Was There When the Spirit Came” is vocally tight, light and snappy, especially much of the accompaniment behind the lead.  On the Specialty label out of L.A., which was known for its many excellent black rock & roll and gospel sides, this is a pretty clean copy with plenty of lustre on the shellac, and the voices are clear and really ring out so beautifully.

 

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Laura C. Boulton (1899-1980) was a famous and eager ethnomusicologist from Conneaut, Ohio. She made many trips to remote, strange and otherwise misunderstood parts of the world to record the music of “pre-civilized” peoples: Nepal and Ethiopia to name a couple. She also made recordings of African musicians as part of the Straus West African Expedition of the 1930’s, which was sponsored by Chicago’s own Field Museum of Natural History. Almost all of the material was recorded on sight in rural settings, i.e huts, dirt roads, plains, and called for one-take performances by the best of the local singers and players. At that time recording technology was cumbersome, to say the least, and teams of researchers were required to travel around in truck convoys to transport and operate the machinery needed to capture the inspired magnetism to tape. Boulton made a total of twenty-eight visits to Africa for this project, yielding hundreds of invaluable documents.

The example here is two parts of a long song cycle celebrating former kings who became deities after natural death. The ceremony would last for three months and it was a great orgy of worship, and human sacrifice. The first excerpt is the accompaniment  to the dance of  the wives of the Obba, or “king”. The second excerpt is the Obba’s song which follows immediately in ceremony (as well as on this record). After the last notes, the priest kills the candidates who are then offered up to the gods.

This was recorded in Benin Province in the south of Nigeria by the Bini tribe royal musicians who had all participated in the annual sacrifice. These musicians held incredible prestige in their community and were likened to spirit messengers.

African Music, Rhythm in the Jungle Vol. 1 – Ceremonial Song of Obba’s Wives and Obba <<<PLAY