chapter  3
29 Pages

Everyday Ethiopians

The presence of both amateur and professional black musicians would have been retained in collective memory up to the time of Rice, Sweeney, Emmett and their many British imitators. By 1861, a magazine writer regarded Ethiopian serenaders as promising to become 'almost as permanent an institution' as Punch and Judy: 'the hold which they have taken on the national mind is audible in the number of amateur performers on the bones among ambitious gamins'. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods blacked-up performers were a staple feature of street carnivals, pageants and parades. Although minstrel shows could be highly accomplished and musically refined, the performance of a locally configured minstrel troupe could also be relatively straightforward in the skills demanded of its members. The Delaware Minstrels were an amateur London troupe of 'nigger vocalists' whose daytime occupations contrasted radically with the ragged, down-at-heel personae they adopted when performing.