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Some of the first African slaves in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, after toiling on the plantation each day, secretly engaged in a form of call-and-response singing while moving in a circular pattern, accompanied by others hand-clapping, stomping, and pounding broomsticks. Different than spirituals or gospel, this activity—-associated with the Gullah, the culture of African-Americans who retained more African cultural and linguistic practices than other black Americans—-became known as the ring shout. Tonight on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, and Thursdayat lunchtime at the Library of Congress, Georgia descendents of these slaves, the McIntosh County Shouters, will demonstrate the ring shout.
Touring as a professional unit since 1980, the McIntosh County Shouters not only keep this form of religious praise and storytelling tradition alive, they demonstrate the vibrancy of this style of music and dance. There’s nothing staid about it. The call-and-response vocals are precisely rendered and inspirational in their delivery, and the stomping and broomstick pounding are as rhythmically interesting as anything you hear in hip-hop, go-go, or contemporary gospel.
The McIntosh County Shouters perform for free today from 6 to 7 p.m. on the John F. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F Street, NW. (202) 467-4600.
The McIntosh County Shouters perform for free Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. at the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building’s Coolidge Auditorium, 1st and Independence Avenue SE. (202) 707-8000.