African descendants sang songs in a variety of languages at the Sunday gatherings.  The Creole slave songs were the most documented among these, and a number of them originated in the West Indies. Although the Creole songs remained popular throughout the time of the gatherings, musical instruments and songs of European origin and English language increased in popularity with the onset of American rule and the rise in the domestic slave trade. 


Regardless of the language, the gathers continued certain African singing styles such as “call and response.” Improvisation, embellishment, trills, slides and ululations were among other techniques that singers employed. Another feature of Creole slave songs was the habanera rhythm and its derivatives, which musicians continued to incorporate in their indigenous New Orleans styles including jazz. 


Several writers collected Creole slave songs including Clara Gottschalk Peterson, Camille Nickerson, Maude Cuney Hare, Lafcadio Hearn, and George Washington Cable, Henry Krehbiel. Several composers of classical music based their compositions on the appealing melodies and attractive rhythms of these songs including Louis Gottschalk, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Henry Gilbert.   

Quill Tune

The following Creole slave song, “Salangadou,” is about a distraught mother searching for her lost or stolen child.

Salangadou (Echo Song)

(Louisiana Creole)
Salanga-dou-ou-ou, Salangadou-ou-ou,
Salanga-dou-ou, Salangadou,
Coté piti fille la yé,
Salangadou, Salangadou?

Salanga-dou-ou-ou, Salangadou-ou-ou,
Salanga-dou-ou, Salangadou,
Where has my little girl gone.

Audio Recording and Sheet Music –

Published in Creole Songs from New Orleans by Clara Gottschalk Peterson (1902) and American Ballads and Folk Songs by Alan Lomax

“Salangadou” sung by The Branko Krsmanovich Chorusm, arranged by Tom Scott

Quand Mo-té Jeune (When I was Young)

Quand mo-té jeun’
Mo-té jonglé Michieu;
A c’t’heur ma-pé vini vieux
Mo-pé jonglé bon Dieu.

Ma-pé jonglé bon temps passé,
Ma-pé jonglé bon temps passé,
Ma-pé jonglé bon temps passé,
Ma-pé jonglé bon temps qu’est passé.

Le bal fini, bonsoir, Messieurs,
Le bal fini, bonsoir, Mesdam’
M’al-lé parti,
La, la, la, la, la

When I was young
Merry was I, dear Sirs.
And now when I am old
I still will merry be.

I will be gay for pleasure flies.
I will be gay for pleasure flies.
I will be gay for ‘good times’ pass away,
I will be gay for ‘good times’ pass away.

The dance is done, Goodnight Messieurs.
The dance is done, Goodnight Madames.
I go, I go!
La, la, la, la, la,

More Information

Caribbean Folk Music, Vol. 1 (Various Artists) - Includes songs and dance music that represents fifteen English, Spanish, and French-speaking Caribbean countries.

Collection of Recordings -

Creole Songs of Haiti - This recording combines vocal interpretations of Vodou (an Afro-Haitian religion) ceremonial songs and popular secular melodies by legendary Haitian singer, dancer and folklorist Emerante de Pradines and the all-male folklorique chorus Michele Dejan Group. Recorded by Harold Courlander during the 1940s mouvement folklorique—a period revaluing the traditional arts and practices of the Haitian peyizan (peasants), de Pradines maintains a traditional troubadour-like performance of songs while the Michele Dejan Group arranges all traditional tunes into liturgical or full chorale settings.

Music of Haiti: Vol. 1, Folk Music of Haiti (Various Artists) - A collection of songs, ritual drumming and chanting, and Congo, Dahomey and Ibo musical traditions from the pre-slave era in the world (even in comparison to the musical practices of these African regions now).

Music of Haiti: Vol. 3, Songs and Dances of Haiti (Various Artists) - Folklorist, ethnographer and ethnomusicologist Harold Courlander, known for documenting the “vast unwritten literature, dances, music” of the Haitian people, released these field recordings from the rural as well as urban areas of Haiti before nearly any other recordings were available.

Music of New Orleans, Vol. 1: Music of the Streets: Music of Mardi Gras (Various Artists) - Recorded between 1954 and 1958 from the streets of New Orleans and includes vegetable peddlers' street cries, musical saw and brass bands, a shoeshine boy's hambone, and more.

Music of New Orleans, Vol. 3: Music of the Dance Halls (Various Artists) - Features the rich history of dance band music in the Big Easy.<

Negro Folk Music of Africa and America (Various Artists) - Compiled in 1951 and produced by Harold Courlander, this sample of musical styles from Africa, and the African diaspora in South America, the Caribbean, and the Southern United States demonstrates the continuation of African musical traditions into The New World.

Street Cries and Creole Songs of New Orleans by Adelaide Van Wey - On this album, Adelaide van Wey sings Creole songs in the distinctive patois of New Orleans and performs street cries from the eastern United States. Zither accompaniment adds an enigmatic touch to each rhyme.

Sounds of Haiti - Some say that Haiti has been in perpetual revolution for 200 years. If so, then that revolution has a soundtrack: one that began with the rattle of the Taino caciques; that invokes healing and fighting spirits with the drums and chants of rada and petwo in Vodou; and that continues to express the appetite for freedom through the sly double meanings (betiz) in the songs of Carnival and rara, the cathartic dance rhythms of konpa and the compelling global edge of mizik rasin (roots music). The music of Haiti is a synthesis of Taino, African, and European music created out of often violent encounters, but has come to reflect great pride in their independent nation.

Creole slave song “Salangadou,” with an 1827 melodeon (square piano) -

Mattiwilda Dobbs sings two American Creole Songs arranged by Camille Nickerson -
"Lizette, To Quitté la Plaine" (Lizette, My Dearest One)
"Michieu Banjo" (Mr. Banjo)

Folkstreams - Links and suggested readings for Louisiana music, films and filmmakers.,250

Roots Institute - A bibliography of sources related to African Diaspora Music and Expressive Culture (i.e., The African Background of American Culture through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade). Compiled by Michael Stone, Department of Anthropology, Hartwick College. Recommended for studying jazz history.

Cable, George Washington. The Dance in Place Congo & Creole Slave Songs. New Orleans: Synoeceosial Farukvon Turk, 1976. Originally published in 1886, contains Creole slave songs, dance phrases and fragments of descriptions, and iconic illustrations by E.W. Kemble.

Hare, Maude Cuney. Six Creole Folk Songs. New York: Carl Fischer, 1921.

Monroe, Nina. Bayou Ballads, Twelve Folk Songs from Louisiana. New York: G. Schirmer, Inc, 1921.

Nickerson, Camille Lucie. Africo-Creole Music in Louisiana. Thesis. Oberlin Conservatory of Music, 1932.

Peterson, Clara Gottschalk. Creole Songs from New Orleans in the Negro Dialect. New Orleans: L. Grunewald, c.1909. Music scores for twelve Creole slave songs arranged by Clara Gottschalk Peterson.,Clara_Gottschalk) broken link

Offergeld, Robert. The Gottschalk Legend: Grand Fantasy for a Great Many Pianos

Sadler, Cora. Creole Songs. University of Michigan. 1939. Masters Thesis.