NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 66

“Black Beauty” T R A N S L A T O R ’ S N O T E S : Your breasts of black satin the blood pulsating, racing your arms, supple, long the sinew showing through, burnished and your eyes smiling their bright whites against the deep night of your skin rouses in me tonight the muted rhythms of hands beating a soft recitative rhythms from over there, in Guinea the rhythms that intoxicate our sisters there black nude rhythms that wake in me tonight — African twilights falling, voluptuous and heavy — 1 Armstrong, Louis Daniel: Jazz trumpeter, cornetist, bandleader and vocalist born in New Orleans in 1901, Armstrong achieved international prominence as the most innovative and inventive cornetist and trumpeter of the first half of the 20th century, and is credited with having developed the unique Jazz singing style known as scat. He portrayed himself and characters based on himself and musicians of his generation in film and film shorts. Originally known among friends as Satchelmouth, soon abbreviated to Satchmo, he was later also known as Pops, a term of respect and recognition of his senior status among musicians. Along with studies of the impact of his playing, singing and performing methods and style, biographies and studies of his career in the context of American racism continue to be published. Armstrong died in his adopted home of Queens, New York in 1971. 2 Goffin, Robert (1898–1984) was a Belgian poet, attorney turned Jazz aficionado, and author of Louis Armstrong: le roi du Jazz (Pierre Seghers, 1947), published in the US as Horn of Plenty: the Story of Louis Armstrong (Allen, Towne & Heath, 1947), as well the earlier La Nouvelle-Orleans: Capitale Du Jazz (1945) and Histoire du Jazz (1945). 3 “Shine”: The song by African American lyricist-composer Cecil Mack (1873–1944) and composer Ford Dabney (1883–1958) was originally published in 1910 by Mack’s Gotham-Attucks Music Publishing Company, and introduced by Aida Overton Walker in the 1911 Broadway musical, His Honor the Barber. Mack’s original lyrics include the seldom sung lines: “….I was strolling down the line / When someone shouted, ‘Fellas, hey! Come on and pipe the shine!’….because my color’s shady / …. / That’s why they call me Shine!” Recorded by Armstrong in 1931 (Odeon) and later performed in the film short, Rhapsody in Black and Blue, (UM&M TV Corp., 1932), the song became an Armstrong signature. for the soul of that black land where the ancients sleep lives and speaks tonight 4 case: The French word, case, meaning “small house,” in New Orleans musicians’ hip-speak of Armstrong and musicians of his generation was typically one’s “crib,” a term dating to Storyville (1897) music halls and cabarets. in the restless power curled at the small of your back in the slow seduction of your proud gait trailing — as you go by — the wild call of the night that swells that answers the pulse of the tam -tams fevered, deep for in your voice, above all your voice that vibrates and weeps and remembers tonight the soul of the black land where the ancients sleep 5 lévriers: Literally, greyhounds, the word is translated here as bloodhounds, the dogs used to track, hunt and capture escaping slaves in the United States. m 7 morne/s: The word for “hill or bluff ,” in Antillean Creole, refers to a particular geological and geographical feature of the Caribbean, and frequently appears in place names of Guiana. 8 bois: Informal usage of boisson, “a drink” (from boire, “to drink”). 9 bûcher/s: The word has the double meaning, as a noun, of “woodshed” and of “funeral pyre.” As a verb, it means “to work hard,” “to grind,” as in the expression used by Jazz musicians, “wood-shedding” “being on fire,” and “burning up.” Brenda Marie Osbey New Orleans 6 Danglemont, Richard: Afrofrancophone Caribbean literary figure, possibly an editor or literary sponsor, or patron of the Négritude era? (Any useful information is appreciated.)