Drums along the River – from Africa to the UK

 

Sanders of the River poster

We recently saw two old (1930s) films starring the great Paul Robeson. Emperor Jones is a sorry tale of trying to be someone you aren’t and letting it destroy you. The other one, Song of Freedom, uses the story of Emperor Jones in an operatic saga where Robeson returns to the (island) land of his African forebears and does become the King bringing “civilization” to his people.

But he also starred in another African tale, Sanders of the River (1935) set in Nigeria. And this is where the connection with Stan Watkins comes in. He was head of Western Electric in London at the time, helping the British (and European) film studios convert to sound using the WE equipment.

Alexander Korda formed London Films in 1933 and  his first film The Private Lives of Henry VII, starring Oscar winner, Charles Laughton, was nominated for an Oscar.Alexander Korda & Merle Oberon & the Watkins' (2)Stanley and Alex became friends. That’s my mom and dad behind Korda and his future wife Merle Oberon.

Alexander Korda was the producer of Sanders of the River; his brother Zoltan, the director. Stan remembered: During the making of Sanders of the River we met Paul Robeson and his wife. I had liked his singing so much ever since I first heard it. That was when I was helping the Columbia Phonograph people in New York. Their recording director would get me to listen with him to all their new recordings and one day he said to me “Listen to this, it’s a new man we’ve just been recording; we think he’s good.” It was Robeson.

When Saunders of the River was filmed, a production group was taken to Africa by Zolton Korda, Alexander’s brother, to make the ‘local colour’ shots of war canoes and suchlike things. Robeson didn’t go on the African expedition but sang his songs in the Korda studio in front of projected shots from the material brought back by the location group.

In the studio the African parts were taken by a large collection of Negros recruited from the ports of South Wales, mostly from Cardiff. There were no separate washing and WC facilities provided and one day a deputation of actors came to the studio manager asking that the blacks be given separate facilities on account of a difference in body odour that was found to be unpleasant. The interesting point is that the deputation was from the Negros.

Somehow a Zokali drum was brought back from Nigeria for my father and it traveled with him when he returned to New York in 1936, and when he retired, to London in 1948. The sound director on the film was A. W. Watkins – not a relative, but a good friend we knew as Watty. It may have been Watty who arranged that gift, and also three stools, carved by prisoners out of one piece of wood. My sisters and I each have one; mine with curved sides  (OMG! I should have dusted it first!), MA’s with straight side posts, and Su’s is an elephant.african stool 001

The drum was a huge hollowed log about 6′ long with a carved pointy tail about 6″or 7″ long at one end and a pointy-nosed head with ears at the other. Apparently it was meant to be an antelope but it looked nothing like one. The inside of the body was carved away more on one side than the other so there were two distinct sounds – one higher than the other – when hit on the sides with the drumstick. This was a short, stout stick wrapped at one end in raw rubber.

Throughout my childhood I heard the drum beating out the did-did-did-dah that summoned us home for meals, bedtime, or piano lessons. It echoed all over the neighborhood.

Back in the UK, the unkind damp, wet weather finally rotted the old drum away. I have no photo, only a sketch by my father of my 3 year old brother banging on it. But we still have the stools and the memory of the drum beat. The family whistle was, and still is, that same Morse code V: . . . __. Beats having to shout to get someone’s attention.

 

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Color my world – Jazzberry Jam

I got a new piano. At least it wasn’t new by a long shot, but it was for me. I’d been missing one for years and there was a space just perfect for it in the front hall. This was my third and last one, and we had to celebrate.

So we had a Piano Jam!piano 001

Invited the whole d..n crowd, some 50 or so, and everyone who could, and would, had a go and jammed at the piano.

It was a blast!

I bought dozens of tiny glasses from the dollar store and filled them with my prize winning wine jelly.

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We had a ball, made beautiful music, and everyone went home with a pot of ‘jam.’

Wine Jelly

2 cups wine (any kind); 3 1/4 cups sugar; 1 pkt (3 oz) pectin (I use the liquid kind: Certo, here)

Combine wine and sugar and heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved; bring up to a full, rolling boil and stir in the pectin. Bring up again to a full, rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and pot in hot, dry pots.

That’s it, folks. Doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge until opened. Great on cheese, meat, and – according to a friend – on peanut butter toast.

 

 

 

 

one-word-photo-challenge-barn/

http://jennifernicholewells.com/2016/02/09/one-word-photo-challenge-barn/

Jennifer, apologies; I attributed your challenge to our friend angloswiss; she has pointed me in your direction, so here is my barn.

When I saw the great Swiss barn angloswiss posted, I immediately thought of the round barn which I first saw many years ago when on a horseback trip to see some Pueblo stone field garden ruins in Northern New Mexico. It was in a very delapidated state at that time.

I have a photo of the “before” but it is lost somewhere in the dozens of photo albums that we used to use.

But here is the “after” and look at it now!

 

A year ago for Valentine’s  Day we gave each other  a joint treat at the Ojo Caliente (Hot Springs) Spa with wonderful mineral pool soaks and massages, plus reflexology (mmmmm, feels so good) & exfoliating for me; my, did I feel smooth and pampered afterwards. We also took a walk up into the ruins of a former Pueblo and to the Round Barn. That’s my lovely PA posing in front of it.

Everyone should have a spa day at some point; there is nothing quite like it. But all I can send you are happy wishes for this Valentine’s Day, whatever you are doing, and wherever you are.

 

Understanding

 

I wrote this in response to a blog from Australia some time ago:

There are a lot of common experiences between Australian Aborigines and Native Americans. I live in the SW among the Pueblo, Navajo and Apache tribes. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque New Mexico is not only displaying the historical background since Europeans arrive in the Southwest, but also the 19 Pueblo tribes’ own cultural learnings from time immemorial. Called Cultural Narratives, this exhibit helps the non-Indians to understand what isn’t in the history books.

And it reminded me of a lovely poem I was given, written by a dear Pueblo lady, now no longer with us, alas. But her words remain. Bless you, Lucy Lowden of Acoma Pueblo for sharing this with me.

TO MY NON-NATIVE FRIENDS

I will come to you

and take you by the hand,

Let you walk with me in my paths,

The paths of moccasin footprints,

In search of things

of my people I love,

We will call on the stars to guide us.

We will follow the music

of the Fluteplayer in the air we breathe.

When we have reached these places

of worship,

these humble places

where my ancestors once stood in silent prayer,

I will try to explain the meaning

of our beautiful prayers from the Old Ones

And why my people are the way your eyes see them.

And you sometimes cannot understand.

I would teach you names of Mother Earth’s

creatures and all her gifts.

I would share my moccasins with you

And let you walk my paths,

my cornmeal paths,

my yellow-pollen paths

That you may know

And hear the echos of the past

As I do.

Then you will know why it is not easy

sometimes

to be an Indian,

And live as you do, my non-Indian friends.

You are also great people

with much to learn,

much to give.

Together we will walk

On this, Mother Earth’s land

in peace

with love and respect for each other

As only Mother Earth intended.


 



 


	

Color your world – Grey

DSC09955

A collection of ancient Pueblo pottery shards (or sherds, if you prefer) that were scattered around the ruins of an ancient Pueblo village in Northern New Mexico. The paint might be finely ground mineral pigments – frequently used where the vegetation is sparse; further south black paint can be made by boiling down the shrub called Bee Brush.

After admiring a shard, we are urged to replace it just where we found it, but people cannot resist displaying their finds in a cluster.

Just take photos; just leave footprints.

 

One Word Challenge – Barn

This is a challenge from my friend, angloswiss. When I saw the great Swiss barn she posted, I immediately thought of the round barn which I first saw many years ago when on a horseback trip to see some Pueblo stone field garden ruins in Northern New Mexico. It was in a very delapidated state at that time.

I have a photo of the “before” but it is lost somewhere in the dozens of photo albums that we used to use.

But here is the “after” and look at it now!

A year ago for Valentine’s  Day we gave each other  a joint treat at the Ojo Caliente (Hot Springs) Spa with wonderful mineral pool soaks and massages, plus reflexology (mmmmm, feels so good) & exfoliating for me; my, did I feel smooth and pampered afterwards. We also took a walk up into the ruins of a former Pueblo and to the Round Barn. That’s my lovely PA posing in front of it.

Everyone should have a spa day at some point; there is nothing quite like it. But all I can send you are happy wishes for this Valentine’s Day, whatever you are doing, and wherever you are.

 

Color Your World – Eggplant

angloswiss cooked up a delicious looking ratatouille. (Didn’t you love the cartoon with the little French mouse chef called Ratatouille? The pun appealed to me, and the film was delightful)

My comment about bruschetta made me think of my recent tasting which led to this blog about a theatrical event.

Had some delicious bruschetta the other night at an after-party for a new performance of “Ever the Twain: William Shakespeare in Mark Twain’s World” written by Lois Rudnick and Johnathan Richards. The Folio is visiting our Art Museum in Santa Fe so everybody is trying to put on something Shakespearean at the moment. Even my PA is learning a bunch of his sonnets; not my favorite verses, but I’ve heard werse (sorry).

And while I’m being punny, wasn’t Eggplant that book by Goethe? I think we did it in German class, though I cannot remember it at all. Only the name – sort of.

My dad was a punster, and my brother and son have inherited it. So their comments on Facebook often elicit groans.

Getting back to Eggplant, I like the long thin ones I get at the Chinese supermarket, and we love the Thai curry which uses the small, round green ones. But when I see the dark, shiny Aubergines on sale, I cannot resist. Whatever they are called, and whatever color they are, they are delicious.