Call-and-response music came to North America with slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa and over time it became one of the major elements of the blues.
Call-and-response also characterizes the form of Zen practice known as kong-an training, in which a student and teacher connect wholly and intimately with one another. Here's an example:
One evening, after a Dharma talk at the Cambridge Zen Center, a student asked Seung Sahn Soen-sa, What is love?
Soen-sa said, I ask you: what is love?
The student was silent.
Soen-sa said, This is love.
The student was still silent.
Soen-sa said, You ask me: I ask you. This is love.
Today's posts features three different versions of John the Revelator, an ancient blues song that has its origins in call-and-response.
Blind Willie Johnson performs the first version (the earliest recorded) and you can hear the call and response throughout the song. The second version, by Son House, has been profoundly influential on modern blues. Finally, Gov't Mule offers a more recent version of the song.
Please enjoy all three versions!
Thanks to James Ford for posting the Gov't Mule version on Monkey Mind and thus inspiring this post.