O Susanna! on Throwback Thursday

This piece comes from new member Keeth Apgar of The Harmonica Pocket.

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O Susanna was written by Stephen Collins Foster and was first published in 1848.  Apparently the song first appeared in a minstrel show, and another version of O Susanna became popular with the miner 49s as they were heading west into California and beyond during the gold rush.  One of the main reasons I chose to record this song was for the irony in the lyrics.  It’s definitely a song I’d like to see stay alive and the way to keep songs alive is to sing them.

On the Ladybug One version of O Susanna I collaborated with Deobrat Mishra and Marco Zonka.  Deobrat is an amazing sitar player and vocalist from Benaras India, and Marco is an accomplished American tabla player.  Over the years I had been inspired by Marco’s versions of traditional songs set in different time signatures.  I came up with this arrangement of this American classic in 5/4 time and presented it to them. LadybugOne.CoverArt72dpi

5/4 is a common time signature in North Indian Classical Music and these musicians had no trouble stepping right in and coming up with their parts.  We tracked the song in an easy afternoon recording session.  Incidentally, Deobrat had never heard the song before performing it!  Nala and I wrote some vocal harmonies and layered that on top of the rhythm section in a separate session.  It’s a pretty straight forward jam without any tricks.

Part of the song’s powerful impact for me is that we are taking a one of the most American songs in existence and giving it a North Indian treatment.  But if you think about it, it is also the other way around.  At a time in world history when intolerance and racism are rampant, we find a meeting place somewhere in between two cultures.  We expose each other to new ideas and ways of thinking, and it is at this intersection that my ethnomusicology and world music interests live.

Marco, Deobrat, and I have co-written and recorded a number of other original songs, and we hope to have a full length release available somewhere down the road.

O Susanna

Well I come from Alabama
With a banjo on my knee
I’m going to Louisiana
My true love for to see
It rained all night the day I left
The weather it was dry
The sun’s so hot I froze to death
Susanna don’t you cry

O Susanna
O don’t you cry for me
I come from Alabama with
A banjo on my knee

Had a dream the other night
When everything was still
I thought I saw susanna come
Walking down the hill
A red, red rose was in her hand
A tear was in her eye
I said I come from Alabam’
Susanna don’t you cry

O Susanna
O don’t you cry for me
I come from Alabama with
A banjo on my knee

To learn more about Keeth and The Harmonica Pocket, check out their website.