Si Se Puede!|
Si Se Puede!
That's Spanish for "Yes we can!" It was one of the chants called out by a thousand marching apple workers in a labor demonstration I was part of August 10, 1999. Chants have long been a basic part of group demonstrations.
Chants are also a basic part of religious and tribal ritual. The act of all saying the same words together, words that all of you know, builds a feeling of unity. Repetition adds power.
Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy.
Repetition adds power. Repetition can give almost anything a feeling of power. Recently I attended a workshop on indigenous music and dance given by a local Native American teacher named Beaver Chief. After leading us all in a round dance while beating the drum and intoning a traditional local chant, Beaver Chief said he was going to teach us "one of the younger persons' chants." So we danced the round dance again, as he beat the drum in a faster pace and intoned,
Step, shuffle, step, shuffle... beat the drum ... group chant ...
It becomes inspirational. It lifts your spirits. Try it at your next local powwow.
Chants can become more complex than the examples so far, usually by extending the repetition in a formal pattern. One traditional Native American chant that became popular in the new Age culture was:
Now I walk in beauty.
In other Native American traditions, the pattern was of four basic colors, or four tribal totems, or other symbolic sets.
Many activist groups adapt certain chant patterns to specific situations.
What do we want?Becomes in the debate over Seattle's downtown hygiene center:
What do we want?
The form called "the list poem" has a chant quality because of the repetition, usually at the beginning of each line. To me the qualities that make a poem specifically a "chant" instead of a "list poem" or "refrain poem" are the qualities of simplicity, rhythm, pattern, and the emotional effect of binding a community and calling up power.
Exercise: Chants, Basic1) Post a chant that you know and love: it may be a childhood skip-rope rhyme, or a bedtime ritual you chant with your children, a call-and-response from your church that affects you, or a tribal chant you have discovered in reading that you want to share.
2) Identify the elements in the chant that create its effect, for you.
Exercise: Chants, IntermediateCreate a simple chant.
Exercise: Chants, AdvancedMake your simple chant more complex by varying it in some pattern.
Once again --