Van Varen en Vechten

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Program: #10-39   Air Date: Sep 20, 2010

Which means "of sailing and fighting," gives the recent effort from our Dutch friends the Camerata Trajectina a good jumping off point for a program of sea shanties of the Dutch East India Company.

Note: All of the music from this program is performed by the Camerata Trajectina: Suze van Grootel, soprano; Nico van der Meel, tenor; Hans Wijers, baritone; Saskia Coolen, recorder and voice; Erik Beijer, viola da gambe; Louis Peter Grijp, lute and cittern; Annelies van der Vegt, violin; Johannes Boer, violone; Verenigd Oost-Indisch Mannenkoor. The CD is on the Globe label and is # GLO 6054.

1.  t'Samensprack tusschen een Schipper en Timmerman (Dialogue between a Skipper and a Carpenter) 
2.  Oost-Indisch Vaarders Lied (East Indiamen's Shanty) (tune Ik ging op eenen morgen) 
3.  Matroos Af-Scheyt (Sailor's Farewell) (tune Bocx-voetjen) . 
4.  Een Calis-Liedt (A Bald Nit Shanty) (tune Oosterlingh' seyd sy Oosterlingh) 
5.  Aurora Brengt den Klare Dag (Aurora Brings Broad Daylight) (tune Adieu nu Vrienden) 
6.  Oost-Indische Venus-Liedt (East Indian Venus Shanty) (tune Als 't begint)  
7.  Op de 7 Oostindische Kermis Schepen (About the Seven East Indian Fairtime Ships) (tune Wijs van Lonl) 
8.  Merkwaardig Verhaal Van Een Dienst-Maagd (The Striking Story of a Maid Servant) (tune Indein ooyt). 

9.  Reys na Oost-Indien (Journey to the East Indies) 
10.  Journaal van de Fluyt Delfs-Haven (Journal of the Flute Ship Delfshaven) (tune Schaamt u gy Brabants)

11.  Een Vieuw Matroos-Liedeken (A New Sailor's Shanty) (tune Van de Mossel-kreeckse pape) 

12.  Aan Alle Matroosen: Algemeen Artykel-Brief, round (To All Sailors: General Article Letter) 

13.  Matroosen Tegenzang, round (Sailors Counter Round) 

14.  Een Droevigh Liedt van 't Schip de Swarte Haen (A Wad Shanty About the Ship de Swarte Haen) 

15.  Een Nieuw Liedt van Malacke in Oost-Indiën (A New Song About Malacca in the East Indies)

16.  Afscheid-Lied, voor het Scheeps-Volk van het Schip Maria Adriana (Farewell Song, for the Crew of the by Traditional
Performer:  Annelies van der Vegt (Violin)
17.  De Blaeuwe Vlag die Wayt (The Blue Peter That Flies) 
18.  Matroosen Wellekomst op de Rede van Batavia (Sailors Welcome to the Roads of Batavia) (tune Vrolijck). 

19.  Een Nieuw Osst-Indisch Lied (A New East-Indian Shanty) (tune Lesmaal in't reyze van een Koele Morgen) 

20.  Aanhoord Dog Zee-Luy Al (Listen All You Sailors) (tune Van de Spaanze Ruyter) Performer:  Saskia Coolen (Recorder) 
21.  Op de t'Huyskomende Oostinde-Vaarders (About East Indiamen Returning Home) (tune Waarom verlaat je)  
The Perfect and Well-Equiped Ship
The Perfect and Well-Equiped Ship (Het volmaeckte en toegeruste Schip) is the title of a song book of a retired Dutch skipper, Willem Schellinger, published in Amsterdam, 1678. It is a unique lyrical retrospect of an intelligent seaman, who had sailed all over the world in his long carreer: to Greenland, Russia, Africa, Indonesia, the West Indies and so forth. Schellinger opens his song book at the very beginning: he orders a ship from the ship carpenter, who answers the skipper to the tune of the folk song Spindly-leg's delicious childeren. It is this art of ship carpentry which Czar Peter the Great regarded as the basis of the amazing commercial success of Holland, which developed itself in the 17th century to the greatest mercantile power of the world – and the Czar decided to learn this craft himself, in the town of Zaandam, north of Amsterdam.

Starting with this ship carpenter's song, Camerata Trajectina brings the world and spirit of these audacious entrepeneurs and sailors alive with a choice from the many shanties which have been left from the 17th and 18th centuries: about journeys to the North (where the Dutch hoped to find a way to East-India), including Spitsbergen, Nova Zembla and Archangel), the Middle East and the Far East.

Most appealing to the imagination of the singers was the trade on what is nowadays called Indonesia. In 1602, at the insistence of the State General, the Dutch East India Company was founded, bringing together several initiatives. For almost two centuries, until 1795, the Dutch East India Company possessed the Dutch monopoly for trade with Asia. It grew to become an important territorial power, that did not just have sailors in service but also soldiers. The indisputable trading capital of Asia was Batavia, founded in 1619 by Jan Pieterszoon Coen near the city of Jayakarta that he had destroyed.

The journey to the Orient took about seven months. The sailors usually only returned after about five years - if they survived all the dangers. During the monotonous journey, they whiled away the time with various forms of music and song. People passed on commands and signals with drum and trumpet, or flute or shawm. When the drum was beaten around the town, the men knew they had to go aboard. If battle was entered with a hostile ship, then the trumpeter blew the Wilhelmus (nowday the Dutch national anthem) from the mast before the first salvo was fired.

Some musicians went along on board and there were sailors who played the violin, flute, oboe or bass. Their music could be used to augment diplomacy. When it was necessary to flatter a native ruler, musicians were sent in advance with gifts. Such a ruler could be very impressed by a Dutch peasant dancing.

The sailors sang as they worked on board. Hauling the ropes and raising the anchor were most often accompanied rhythmically. When changing the watch, at fixed hours, they sang quarter watch songs. During prayers in the morning and evening, the whole crew sang psalms, with psalm books being handed out.

In addition to such functional and ceremonial music, enjoined from above, the crew also sang for their own entertainment. Often sailors' songs they had written themselves, reflecting the world of the crew from the moment they signed on and said farewell to their lovers. They serenaded the voyage out with its many dangers, arrival in Batavia and life in the Indies, the return trip and arrival home - and after one or two months of celebrations, when the money has all gone, they signed on again. The whole East India cycle can be followed in the songs. They were printed on song sheets or in song books, some of them targeted specially at sailors and East India men, such as the Matroosen vreught (Sailors' Joy, 1696), De Vrolyke Oost-Indische Wellekomst-Drinker (The Cheerful East Indian Welcome Drinker, ca 1740) and De Oost-Indische Theeboom (The East Indian Tea Tree, 1767).

There are songs that fortify the novice sailor in his intention to sail to the Orient. They serenaded the wealth of those who returned, the delights and wealth waiting in the Orient. Anyone who calls himself a man takes no notice of the lamentations of mothers and girls and serves the fatherland. A less positive motivation can be heard in the song of the kalis (bald nit) who can no longer support his wife and children and is forced, from pure poverty, to sign on for a journey to the land of plenty in the Orient. There he would forget his cares. If women spoke out in farewell songs, it was to express their fear they would lose their lovers to death, or – equally terrible – to the salacious East Indian women who were on the lookout. The songs recount the route of the journey or adventures on the way: bloody confrontations with pirates – especially North African 'Turks' – shipwrecks and the all-consuming starvation and thirst that could eventually drive shipwrecked sailors to cannibalism. The arrival in Batavia is also the subject of a song, including the Chinese and native merchants who stormed the arriving ships with their wares.

Women obsessed in the sailors' thoughts and singing. The white loves they had to say farewell to, the whores they visit on the way and the native women and half-breeds who were to welcome them. Quite a few songs are about willing East Indian women who pick up men, indulge them and even give them money. That really is a land of plenty! Ingratitude is however the wages of the coloured women, whose love is enjoyed during the stay in the Orient, but who can be thrust aside like 'black horny cattle' when it was time to return home. At that point, the superior 'white ass' beckoned.

After saying farewell to Batavia – Most East Indian songs are set around this city – there were again dangers to face on the return voyage. Crossing the equator had a positive influence on morality – and thus on singing. Once home, the money earned could immediately be spent: publicans and whores were eagerly waiting. Quite a few moralistic songs make fun of the 'six-week gentlemen', who could not keep their money in their pockets and with their wives, who apparently brought several children into the world during their absence, or found work in a brothel. After that six weeks of squander, they were back to square one, the bald nits they were – and easy prey for the press gangs – and the story started afresh.

CD Info

# GLO 6054

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