Saturday, August 16, 2008
I had the joy of attending a concert at the Hilton Head Arts Center. The performance began with the primal beat of drums, then the Hallelujah Singers walked onto the stage, black skinned and dressed in white. They swayed and moved to the beat and began to sing. The hair on my arms stood straight up...the sound was amazing. Deep, rich and multi-layered harmonies that hit me in the heart. What a night.
The Hallelujah Singers are of the Gullah Culture and sing music that has a strong spiritual history that dates back to a time before slavery and comes from the West Coast of Africa. The Gullahs live on the Islands of the low country of South Carolina and are the descendants of the slaves that worked the rice plantations. They say "Gullah" is an interpretation of "Angola" where many of the people came from who were sold into slavery. The closest experience I've had to what I heard, was in Tahiti on the Island of Bora Bora, in a local church. The harmonies are coming from a place of spirit....they flow and build naturally. It is a wonderful sound.
Marlena Small is the guiding force of the Hallelujah Singers. She is working to save the Gullah Culture through the music and story telling. She is a force of nature and I was blessed to hear her and her Singers. Now I am obsessed with learning more and more about the Gullah Culture...and the music.
I found music CDs on Amazon.com and have ordered them all. Check out the Penn Center on St. Helena Island in South Carolina....they are all about Gullah.
It is a fasinating history.