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A Wild, Weird, Pathetic Wail

Their singing is like “a sound, good kick, something which can be felt and not described”. That’s what The Times of India suggested 121 years ago after hearing the predecessors of this group of Fisk Jubilee Singers perform in Bombay on January 8, 1890. The newspaper was even more delighted with the group’s second concert two days later, heaping special praise on the ensemble’s rendition of Steal Away Jesus. “It is wild wail, pathetic and weird, sung by perfect part singers and it electrified all who heard it,” said the Times. “Some could not sustain the sudden thrill and left the room. On the conclusion of the melody, there was dead silence for some moments, and then there was such applause as has seldom greeted a public performer in this city.”

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