Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Native American Funeral, Mourning Songs

Native American Mourning Songs

Native American Mourning Songs

It has nearly always been customary to sing songs at not only funerals, but for varying periods of time afterwards, although these chants may no doubt occasionally have been simply wailing or mournful ejaculation. A writer  mentions it as follows:

At almost all funerals there is an irregular crying kind of singing, with no accompaniments, but generally all do not sing the same melody at the same time in unison. Several may sing the same song and at the same time, but each begins and finishes when he or she may wish. Often for weeks, or even months, after the decease of a dear friend, a living one, usually a woman, will sit by her house and sing or cry by the hour, and they also sing for a short time when they visit the grave or meet an esteemed friend whom they have not seen since the decease. At the funeral both men and women sing. No. 11 I have heard more frequently some time after the funeral, and No. 12 at the time of the funeral, by the Twanas. (For song see p. 251 of the magazine quoted.) The words are simply an exclamation of grief, as our word “alas,” but they also have other words which they use, and sometimes they use merely the syllable la. Often the notes are sung in this order, and sometimes not, but in some order the notes do and la, and occasionally mi, are sung.

Some pages back will be found a reference, and the words of a peculiar death dirge sung by the Senèl of California, as related by Mr. Powers. It is as follows:





Mr. John Campbell, of Montreal, Canada, has kindly called the attention of the writer to death songs very similar in character; for instance, the Basques of Spain ululate thus:

Lelo il Lelo, Lelo dead Lelo,

Lelo il Lelo,

Lelo zarat, Lelo zara,