Nina Simone and the Power of Repetition.

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Sun Zulu
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Nina Simone and the Power of Repetition.

Postby Sun Zulu » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:58 am

Peace everyone. We are still working out the kinks as far as video recording and will be conducting this workshop through writing only. Hopefully this won't be a problem in the future and I hope reading isn't too much for everyone ;)

A lot of the material I have comes from my time visiting Chicago and the Young Chicago Authors (peace to the homies Defcee, Add-2 and everyone in the Chi!). One particular piece that comes to mind is a dissection of a famous Nina Simone piece entitled "Ain't Go No..." from her 1968 album 'Nuff Said!. Some backstory about this album: The majority of the album was recorded at the (then-titled) Westbury Music Fair in NYC. The album was released 3 days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the entire program was dedicated to his memory.

So with that in mind where does that leave our understanding? It's always important to understand the background of a piece before attempting to dissect its meaning. "Ain't Go No..." was written and performed during a turbulent climate where everyone around the U.S. is questioning their value and worth in the face of immense hatred and evil (sound familiar?). The song "Ain't Go No..." is the perfect summation of those questions and its point is driven home through one very important aspect of its lyrical composition - Anaphora.

In writing or speech, Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of the first part of a sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora. With Nina's song, this is how we are introduced to her thoughts:

Ain't got no home, ain't got no shoes
Ain't got no money, ain't got no class
Ain't got no skirts, ain't got no sweater
Ain't got no perfume, ain't got no beer
Ain't got no man


She is conveying a sentiment that prevailed a lot through her early life - poverty. Born the sixth child of a Preacher in NC, Eunice Waymon changed her name to Nina Simone later in life to help escape those bonds. Growing up, she experienced many difficulties that were reflected in her songwriting and performances. Instead of taking the time to break down each and every reason as to why she lacks, the repetition of "Ain't go no" drives that point home in a rhythmic way that's easy to understand.

If I were to do something similar, (but through my chosen artistic expression of Hip Hop), it would be like this:

Ain't got no house but I got new shoes
Ain't got no money so I'm fresh but blue
Ain't got no girl so what I'm gonna do?

The repetition of "Ain't got no" drives the point home the same but the difference is that I took the natural rhythm of the anaphora and deviated just enough so that a story is beginning to form. Without that rhythm and repetition, it would be harder to follow my point. Do you see?

While Nina originally starts off expressing what she doesn't have, something changes around the 2 minute mark. What do you notice about the anaphora after this two minute mark? Could you create a similar list with three things using the same anaphora?

Well, that's it for this Saturday. The goal is to keep building on these terms so that they become as fluid as breathing and walking in your life. Please reply below with your thoughts and your own personal examples of anaphora use. I'll keep working to get the video system up and running!


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