Gullah: The Voice of an Island is a multimedia, multidimensional look at the music, history, culture and language of the Gullah people of South Carolina. In its first year, this multi-year project will focus first on the spirituals and praise houses of St. Helena Island.
Due to the island’s unique history and geographic isolation, many of the Gullah Spirituals have remained unchanged for over 100 years and still retain melodies, song texts, and rhythms from West Africa and the early south. Unfortunately, the current lack of interest by the island’s youth and the advanced age of the island’s remaining song leaders casts doubt on the continued survival of these vital cultural artifacts.
Through working with the Penn Center, churches and Eric Crawford at Norfolk State University, this project has recorded over 80 hours of spirituals and stories. Students in history, music recording, digital media, English, photography and design combine original recordings of elder song leaders on the island with research into the rich musical and spiritual traditions of the Gullah people. The resulting project, described by the Penn Center as "exquisitely educational" and "soul-stirring," brings these 200-year-old songs to a new audience.
The project is just the first phase in a multi-year concentration on Gullah culture and communities on the South Carolina coast. The Press is continuing to build out its digital publication and build partnerships with community organizations over the 2014-2015 year. To inquire about future directions, or to stay updated on this project, please contact us.
Celebrating an Island's Spirituals - Post & Courier
Four St. Helena soloists featured on Gullah spirituals CD - The Island Packet
Video from the July 11, 2014 Launch on Saint Helena Island - The Island Packet