In the segment, Paula Larke tells the story behind this song. The song is about a young man and his wife, who escaped a slave ship by jumping the water. They bring along her mother, Carrie. They swim to a place that they think is safe. However, one morning the young man awakes to find that his wife, along with other women, has been taken away. He sings this song as a love song to his wife.
Paula Larke was born in North Carolina and received her professional theatre training with the New York Shakespeare Festival and with touring productions. She combines storytelling with her music and often performs songs and stories from traditional African-American culture. You can find out more about her and her performances at her website.
1. Explore and discuss the impact of slavery on West Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Find Trinidad on a map and study its history and role in slavery.
2. Using other examples from the Old Music for New Ears Sampler, listen to songs that illustrate the lives of slaves. Discuss how music has been an important part of African-American heritage.
3. Discuss pitch and melody, and as a class or individually, have students draw the melodic shape of the chorus to this song by making a line on a sheet of paper that illustrates the general direction of the pitches. Using dots on a piece of paper with no staff lines, draw the placement of notes for familiar songs such as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “Three Blind Mice” and show them to students to see if they can guess what the song is by the shape of the melody.