Friday, March 21, 2014

Canadian Folk Songs 1993

Folk songs were featured on the 1993 Canadian Folklore set issued on September 7, 1993. Canada Post provided this definition of folk songs in Canada's Stamps Details, No. 11, 1993 :
One of Canada's authorities on folk music, Edith Fowke, defined folk songs this way: "A genuine folk song is not a song written within recent memory for commercial profit, but rather a song handed down by oral tradition, usually of unknown authorship and found in more than one version - since as with anything passed on by word of mouth or ear, no two people remember it exactly the same way." Canadians have a rich trove of folk music and these important links with our past are now celebrated in four commemorative stamps, each featuring a different song.

1. Les Raftsmen 

"Les Raftmans" is an Ottawa Valley song dealing with the lumbering trade and is believed to have been the happiest of the French-Canadian lumbermen's songs.

2. "Onkwa:ri tenhanonniahkwe", or "The Bear will Dance"

  "Onkwa:ri tenhanonniahkwe" is a children's song of the Kanien'kehaka (Mohawk) people of Quebec. According to Details, "this song is meant to comfort a child until it goes to sleep. "The Bear will Dance" is followed by a refrain, which says : "Don't cry my child, the bear will come to dance for you." The bear identifies the clan that the child belongs to."


3. "I'se the B'y That Builds the Boat."

 "I'se the B'y That Builds the Boat." is a Newfoundland dance ditty reflecting the Newfoundlander's close links to the sea.

4. "Alberta Homesteader"

 The "Alberta Homesteader", a comic tune, was based on a song from Texas called "The Lane County Bachelor", sung to the tune of "The Irish Washerwoman".

Listen : Lane County Bachelor

1.  My name is Dan Gold, an old bachelor I am
    I'm keeping old batch on an elegant plan
    You'll find me out here on Alberta's bush plain
    A-starving to death on a government claim.
2.  So come to Alberta, there's room for you all,
    Where the wind never ceases, [and] the rain always falls
    Where the sun always sets and there it remains
    Till you [we] get frozen out of your [our] government claim.
3.  My house it is built of the natural soil
    The walls are erected according to Hoyle
    The roof has no pitch, it is level and plain
    And I always get wet when it happens to rain.
4.  My clothes they are [are all] ragged, my language is rough
    My bread is case-hardened and solid and tough
    My dishes are scattered all over the room
    And [] my floor is [gets] afraid of the sight of a broom.
5.  How happy I am [feel] when I roll into bed
    The rattlesnake rattles a tune at my head
    And [] the little mosquito, devoid of all fear
    Crawls over my face and into my ear.
6.  The little bed-bug, so cheerful and bright,
    He [It] keeps me up laughing two-thirds of the night
    And the smart little flea with the [] tacks in his toes
    Crawls up through my whiskers and tickles my nose.
7.  You may try to raise wheat, you may try to raise rye
    You may stay there and live, you may stay there and die
    But as for myself, I'll no longer remain
    A-starving to death on a government claim.
8.  So farewell to Alberta, farewell to the west
    It's backwards I'll go to the girl I love best
    I'll go back to the east and get me a wife
    And never eat cornbread the rest of my life!

Readers interested in folk songs will appreciate this 1976 detailed analysis of Lane County Bachelor :

"The Lane County Bachelor": Folksong on Not?