Cuffy

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X:1 T:Cuffy L:1/8 M:2/4 S:Liz Slade Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G e/f/|g/f/e/A/ B/A/B/A/|DA/A/ B/A/B/B/|A/A/B c/B/c|e/d/B/(B/ d)e/f/| g/f/e/A/ B/A/B/A/|DA/A/ B/A/B|A/A/B c/B/A|[G2B2] [GB]:| |:B|(B/ d) (B/ d)(d|d/)e/d/A/ (B/A/)d|(e/ e) e/- e(e|e/)f/e/(d/ B)e/f/| g/f/g/f/ g/f/e/f/|g/e/e/A/ B/A/B/B/|AB/B/ c/B/A|(G/ B)(G/ B/)A/ [GB]:||



CUFFY. AKA - "Cuffey." American, Reel. USA; southwestern Va., western North Carolina. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AABB (Brody). Known as a tune and tune-name peculiar to the Franklin/Floyd County area of southwestern Va., say Tom Carter and Blanton Owen (1976); also known as a Surry County, North Carolina, regional tune (says Kerry Blech). It was, for example, in the repertoire of N.H. 'Nicky' Mills, of Boone's Mill, Virginia, south of Roanoke (as identified by Joel Shimberg). Mills was apparently the source for the tune among modern 'revival' fidders. A rather taciturn individual, he valued his privacy and when Armin Barnett visited him he abjured the younger fiddler not to let anyone know about him: "If anyone asks about me, tell them I'm dead." Which Armin did, until it was true. Shimberg doubts whether the tune was current in North Carolina prior to its being disseminated by Barnett. Armin was the source for the tune for the Highwoods String Band, who recorded an influential version on their album "No. 3 Special," after which it was in the common repertoire of "revival" fiddlers of the 1970's and 1980's.

The name 'Cuffy' has a long history in America as a slave name, especially on the minstrel stage where it was regularly employed by blackface dancers and musicians. "For example," says Hans Nathan (Dan Emmett and Negro Minstrelsy, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1962, pg. 44), "{the period actor} Edwin Forrest lent his great talents to a personification of Cuffee, a Kentucky Negro, opposite the black Miss Philisy, in the play The Tailor in Distress; or, A Yankee Trick. Performing in Cincinnati in 1823, Forrest probably enlivened his act with singing and dancing." In fact the name Cuffy (Cuffey, Cuffee) derives from the language of the Ewe tribe from the Volta region of Ghana, in east Africa, who custom it is to name a child after the day of the week it is born on. Thus, Cuffey is the English derivation from Kofi, the name given to boys born on a Friday. Similarly, other slave names were Quack, deviving from Kwaku, or Wednesday, and Quash, from Kwasi, or Sunday.

A man named Cuffee played a role in the Great Negro Plot of 1741, also known as the New York Slave Insurrection or the Great New York Conspiracy of 1741- names given to an incident in which black slaves and poor whites, mostly Irish, were accused of plotting to destroy the city in a conflagration. Tensions ran high in New York at the time due to economic depression, bad weather, and news of slave revolts and conspiracies coming from the south. When the last of a series of mysterious fires was attributed to a black man named Cuffee, he was arrested, and soon, as hysteria broke out and local conspiracy theories took hold, it led to mass arrests. At one point nearly half the city's male slaves over the age of sixteen were in jail. Even a few Catholics were included in the purge, on the suspicion that they were in the employ of the Spanish and sought to burn New England towns. Eventually 17 blacks were hanged along with four whites, and 13 blacks, like the unfortunate Cuffee and another slave named Quack, were burned at the stake. Scores of others were banished from the city and dispersed.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Liz Slade (Yorktown, New York) [Kuntz]; Ray and Randi Leach [Silberberg]; Alan Garren [Songer].

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; pp. 81-82. Kuntz, Private Collection. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 32. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 57.

Recorded sources : - Bobville BC94, "The Pilot Mountain Bobcats." Front Hall FHR-024, Fennig's All-Star String Band - "Fennigmania" (1981. Learned from Allan Block). Rounder 0074, Highwoods String Band- "No. 3 Special" (1976. Learned from Armin Barnett). Wildgoose Records, Rattle on the Stovepipe - "8 More Miles" (2005).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]



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