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uploaded: Sat, Feb 3, 2007 @ 12:28 AM
FeaturingEzwa and Vieux Farka Toure'
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For this piece, I converted the wave file of Vieux Farka Toure’s “Ana” into a MIDI file, and then reconfigured the MIDI piece to create the melody of this piece. I thought the great singer from Mali might be paired with a great poem from Dunbar, one of my favorites among the 19th Century American poets. The poem is from the public domain, found at, and read by Ezwa, to whom thanks is given (and of whom little is known).

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1878 in Dayton, Ohio. He self-published his first book of poems, working as an elevator operator to repay the printing debt. Some scholars claim, with justice, that Dunbar was the first great African-American poet.

The poems “Sympathy” and “I Wear the Mask” are staples of the Americana poetry canon. “Sympathy” provided the line made famous as the title of poet Maya Angelou’s first volume of autobiography, which is in turn a staple of many American secondary school literature courses.

Dunbar published a dozen books and gained wide fame in his time, but died of tuberculosis at the age of 33.


I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

Paul Laurence Dunbar

by gurdonark

2007 - Licensed under
Creative Commons
Attribution Noncommercial

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