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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Xu Lapi Knewel, New Jersey

Attention Dees fans:

This is the first of 12 posts about the songs on our new album, American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees. Each of these posts will include lyrics + some background info and links. We finally sent the album artwork to the printer yesterday so, yes, we'll have the CDs in time for our release party on Dec. 12th at the Moxie Spot.

We're also finishing our teacher's guide. This will include all the info that you find on this blog + lesson plans, in-class activities, and more. If you'd like one, write us and we'll put one in the mail. We're planning to finish it by the first week of February.

We'll begin, just to be Deedle Deedle Dee-ish about things, with Track 12 and work our way back to Track 1.

Track 12: Xu lapi knewel, New Jersey
album: American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees
words & music by Lloyd Miller
arrangement by Chris Johnson, Ely Levin, Lloyd Miller, and Anand Mukherjee

Cranetown is gone now
Montclair is where she used to be
Communipaw is long gone
Now she's just a part of Jersey City

Where's the wild garden state I roamed?
Au revoir... Farewell... Ma as-salaamah...
I've been looking for my home
Xu lapi knewel (xhoo lah-pee knay-wuhl)
I'll see you again, New Jersey

Hopoghan Hackingh
the land of the tobacco pipe is now Hoboken
Acquackanonk was broken up
into Paterson, Clifton, and Passaic

Where's the wild garden state I roamed?
Adios... Goodbye... annyeonghi gaseyo
I've been looking for my home
Xu lapi knewel (xhoo lah-pee knay-wuhl)
I'll see you again, New Jersey

I was inspired to write this song by fourth-grade students at the Montclair Co-operative School in Montclair, NJ. The Deedle Deedle Dees had been asked by the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University to create an original show and I told them I'd like to make one about New Jersey itself and enlist the help of a local school to help write the songs.

The fourth-grade class I worked with wrote 10 + songs on New Jersey topics of their choosing inlcuding Molly Pitcher, Les Paul, Queen Latifah and Thomas Edison and nearly all of them made it into the show they did with all four Deedle Deedle Dees at the Kasser Theater last February (2009). The one thing I felt like the show was missing, though, was a final number to tie it all together. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to use some of the old, forgotten place names that I'd come across in my own research for the project, but beyond this I didn't know what shape the "tie-together" song would take.

I was especially enamored with the concept of "Communipaw" as put forth by Washington Irving. Communipaw was simply the name for a village/area that became (roughly) modern-day Jersey City. Irving, however, wrote of Communipaw as the center of Dutch culture and the customs and ideals that created New Amsterdam. He, of course, was a myth-maker, and while his "histories" actually have a lot of fact in them, they also have plenty of fancy and exaggeration. I read somewhere that he chose Communipaw as the cradle of Dutchness because he liked the name -- as good a reason as any, I think (but don't trust me: I wrote a song called "Major Deegan" after the notorious expressway.)

"Communipaw" is thought most likely to have come, like so many place names in this area, from the Lenape languages. Conequently, my research on Jersey place names veered into a study of Lenape and culture. "Lenape" is a general term for the Indians who lived in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. It's a misleading term because it's not one any Indian would have used to refer to him or herself, rather it's a classification that exists so that people (like me) can avoid referring to all the different tribes and family groups who populated the greater New York area.

After spending a lot of time on sites that promised to teach me Lenape, Lenape historical society blogs, etc., I came across the phrase that gives this song its title. Language scholars generally believe that Lenape languages had no word for "goodbye." Instead they said "I'll see you again." I knew, as soon as I read this, that I had the core of my song. I then went to the fourth-graders and asked to think of all the different ways that they knew to say goodbye. Kids taught me to say goodbye in Korean, Arabic, French, Spanish, and other languages that were spoken in their homes. I used these various farewells in order to represent and speak for the world of present-day New Jersey as it greets and says "I'll see you again" to Jerseys past.

sidenote: Some Jerseyites will tell you that New Jersey is the most ethnically diverse state in the nation. I don't know if this is true. I feel like California and New York might also be able to lay claim to this title. Will someone research this and let me know?

Further reading:
"Communipaw" by Washington Irving

The Jews of New Jersey: A Pictorial History by Patricia M. Ard and Michael Aaron

It Happened in New Jersey (It Happened In Series) by Fran Capo

By the way, my grandmother, Bessie, grew up in Paterson. I often think of her when I sing this song.

Lloyd (Ulysses S. Dee)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where's the new album?

It's taking longer than we thought!

The new album by the Deedle Deedle Dees, American History + Rock-n-Roll = the Deedle Deedle Dees, is done and we're finishing the sleeve this week. We have about 20 performers on the record, (including Brooklyn kids, jazz legend Roy Nathanson and his son, indy rock goddess Ali Hammer, and the Red Hook Ramblers) and we wanted to include pictures of all of them. Getting all their pictures took some time -- and figuring out how to fit all of them + their performing credits took even more time.

But we're finishing the whole thing this week and sending it to the printer! If you pre-bought an album, it will be there before Christmas. And if you'd like to buy an album, they'll be available on our CDBaby page and at our shows soon.

Speaking of shows...

The Deedle Deedle Dees
CD release concert + video shoot
Saturday, Dec. 12th
10:30 am
The Moxie Spot
Brooklyn Heights