Melungeon Music
Ancestral Ethnic Music


Links and plenty of 'Em
Credits & Thank yous
Melungeon Musicians
Music from the Hills and Hollows
Ancestral Music

Looking backwards from the mountains of the south east, to the european ancestors who came in the 1800s, back even further to Turkey, and Roma, and Bosnia, and India, the footprints of music have been preserved in inflections of the music and the way music affects one's life.
   In Bosnia, the Shepartic Jews, and the Muslims as well belong to a very singing culture, not unlike the  singing cultures of our mountains.  Not only do the women sing together, the inflections of their voices are the same as some of the Mountain people. Here are some links of other research of the early first recordings of music up in mountains, in South East USA. Carter Family Link

Here is another example of early Bluegrass music. Here is a link to Bill Monroe , Father of Bluegrass singing Mule Skinner.

     Here are some examples of music from places known to our ancestors and the music from those areas. Here is some Turkish Music. Can you hear a bit of Bluegrass influence here? This is a song called Corageasca by a well known Turkish Violinist, Mihai Botofei Click here 
   Here is an example of Albanian music from an old 78, again from Dr Robert Garfias' collection. As noted on his web page, this music is by  unknown Albanian people singing. One can note the voice inflections as being alike to the singing style of the Appalachian Mountain people.
    Here is a link to music in the Congo in Malungo, where some of the Melungeons think the name came from. I could not find a sound bite at this time, however click here to see this site
Here is an example of celtic music. It has traveled as well. To hear it click here.
   There are some wonderful sites online talking about the history of Mountain Music I have included them here. I have included both a link and the URL just in case!
America's Roots Music This site talks a lot about the wonderful movie, Song Catcher.
More on Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Music
Here is article, Author unknown, about the History of Old Time Music.
ONE of the greatest influences on Appalachian music, as well as many popular American music styles, was that of the African-American. The slaves brought a distinct tradition of group singing of community songs of work and worship, usually lined out by one person with a call and response action from a group. A joyous celebration of life and free sexuality was coupled with improvisation as lyrics were constantly updated and changed to keep up the groups' interest. The percussion of the African music began to change the rhythms of Appalachian singing and dancing. The introduction of the banjo to the Southern Mountains after the Civil War in the 1860s further hastened this process. Originally from Arabia, and brought to western Africa by the spread of Islam, the banjo then ended up in America. Mostly denigrated as a 'slave instrument' until the popularity of the Minstrel Show, starting in the 1840s, the banjo syncopation or 'bom-diddle-diddy' produced a different clog-dance and song rhythm by the turn of the century.
Many of the African-American spirituals were discovered by mainstream America, particularly with the collection Slave Songs from the Southern United States published in 1867 and popularized by a small choir of black students from Fisk University in Nashville. With emancipation, black music began to move outside the South. By the 1920s a whole body of parlour songs known as 'race music' became popular. Many Appalachian songs sung today that allude to 'children' in the fields or 'mother' have been changed from 'pickaninnies' or 'Mammys'.
Religious music, including white Country gospel, was probably the most prevalent music heard in Appalachia. During the Colonial period the press was controlled by a clergy which had no interest in the spread of secular music, therefore, not much of the latter survived in written form. There were three types of religious music: ballads, hymns, and revival spiritual songs. The latter directly arose out of the call and response of the African song tradition. These were popularized among the white inhabitants after the revival circuit started in Kentucky in 1800. Their simpler, repetitious text of verse and refrain was easier to sing and learn and produced an emotional fervor in the congregation. Shape-note and revivalist gospel still flourished in the southern mountains after being eliminated in northern churches by the new 'scientific' music led by Lowell Mason and Thomas Hastings.
There were other ethnic pockets in the southern mountains - mostly Czech, German, and Polish - but their music, as well as other cultural aspects, was generally assimilated in an effort to become more 'Americanized'. Still, many songs and tunes - for example, Fischer's Hornpipe - were of German ancestry and became anglicized over time.
The instrumental tradition of the Appalachians started as anglo-celtic dance tunes and eventually was reshaped by local needs, African rhythms, and changes in instrumentation. The fiddle was at first the main instrument, often alone, as a piano would have been too expensive to purchase. Originally the tonal and stylistic qualities of the fiddle mirrored those of the ballad. The 'reel' is generally thought to have developed in the Scottish highlands in the mid-eighteenth century. In the 1740s, Neil Gow, a Scottish fiddler, is credited with developing the powerful and rhythmic short bow sawstroke technique that eventually became the foundation of Appalachian mountain fiddling. More modern repertoires took shape in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with the waltz showing up at the beginning of the 1800s. Square dances slowly developed out of mostly a middle or upper class dance tradition, based upon the cotillion; black cakewalks were a burlesque of formal white dancing; and the Virginia Reel was a variation of an upper class dance called Sir Roger de Coverly.
Irish immigration also added its own flavor. The sound of the pipes and their drones added a double-stop approach where two strings are usually played together. Popular music - such as ragtime - at the turn of the century started the rocking of the bow, another distinctive Appalachian feature. Players began to use tunings different from the standard classical - sometimes one for each tune - to heighten the 'high lonesome' sound. Many tunes acquired words, so the caller could take over and give the fiddler a break by singing the calls. Dances changed: American squares and promenades featured a change of partners more often than their British counterparts, as it was often a couple's only chance to meet in such isolated communities. It also kept down the fights although, by the 1930s, liquor and fighting had ended most southern mountain dances.
TUNES changed a lot, first with the introduction of the banjo after 1860, and then with the popularity of the guitar, starting in 1910. Early tunes tended to be more rhythmic as the fiddler was often playing alone. With the luxury of percussive rhythm from other instruments, tunes became more elaborate and melodic. Having a chordal structure also evened out irregularities as the guitar produced the even backup of a measured beat. The guitar also greatly redefined singing traditions in the same way. It evened out rhythms and gave singers a 'floorboard' to mount their songs. Bands that used exclusively to play tunes gradually added songs, mostly from popular and commercial sources.
All through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this music was truly 'folk'. Singing was used for personal and group enjoyment and continuation of historical narrative. Instrumentation was used for dances and contests; food and drink and enjoyment were considered enough recompense. Contact was limited regionally as travel was difficult. But late nineteenth century industrialization produced mobility, and the advent of recorded sound in the 1920s brought popular music to the mountains. Mail order and mass production made instruments more accessible. Radio stations started barn dances with live performances of local talent, and styles began to cross over.
Music now known as 'old-time' became prominent in the Appalachians. Henry Ford began to sponsor national contests for old-time music through his auto dealerships; a new interest in fiddling arose, especially as a decline in local dances started, probably owing to the radio's popularity. The 1920s was a decade of string band popularity. A string band was usually one or more fiddlers, a banjo, bass, and guitar, with possibly a piano. In 1922 the first recording of a rural performer, Eck Robertson, was made. Many followed. To the absolute amazement of the urban record companies, recordings made by groups from the mountains sold in huge numbers and an 'industry' was born. Bands were able to quit their day-jobs and make a living from music, although their audiences preferred versions of popular songs played in an old-time manner over the old traditional songs heard at the kitchen table. The length of recording time also shortened songs to a few verses. In the earliest days of commercial recording each band had its own regional sound; later there was a great deal of experimentation with crossovers. Charlie Poole's popularity was based upon parlour pieces, race songs, and vaudeville material, with the guitar and finger-picked banjo following each other in carefully orchestrated progressions. Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers were more spontaneous, with multiple fiddlers, and more of the 'rough and ready' sound heard in earlier string bands. Singing was usually a single male voice; duet harmonies became more prevalent during the 1930s. Ma Maybelle of the Carter Family introduced a guitar style where lead melodies were picked out by the thumb.
The term 'old-time music' began to show up in the early twentieth century. In 1908 a newspaper, the Iredell North Carolina Landmark used the term to describe fiddling and dancing at Union Grove. Okeh and Vocalion Record catalogs listed Old-Time Tunes as a category, and the Sears Catalog of 1928 used Old-Time in its advertising.
The Great Depression of the 1930s put an end to the commercial viability of old-time music. The 1930s and '40s brought in an individual star system with people like Hank Williams, and the advent of Brother Groups like the Delmores, Stanleys, and the Louvins, and the introduction of swing, horns, electricity, and bluegrass. The old traditional music of the mountains gave way to the beginnings of modern commercial country-western music.

BUT the traditional old-time Appalachian music never really died off; it just reverted back to being a participatory 'folk' music. Fiddlers' Conventions, house parties, and back-porch jams kept the music alive. Few old-time musicians can, or want to make a living playing a style now considered archaic by the general public. Many old songs, originally written for commercial reasons, are now considered traditional, their composers gradually forgotten. A visit to the Southern Appalachians, particularly Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, will still find singers and musicians holding forth on banjo and fiddle, still playing Soldier's Joy and Arkansas Traveler with love and gusto.
 Music was found on the following web sites. Garfias,Department of Anthropology UCI