“Blackface” and the Minstrel Show


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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American actor John McCullough as Othello, 1878.

American actor John McCullough as Othello, 1878.

In England, theatrical portrayals of black characters by white actors date back to as early as 1604. Since Shakespeare’s days, the character of Othello was traditionally played by a white actor in black makeup.

In the United States, during the 19th century, “Blackface” was a form of theatrical makeup used by performers to represent a black person – a stereotyped caricature of black people – in minstrel shows, and later in vaudeville.

Reproduction of a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster, originally published by the Strobridge Litho Co., shows the transformation from white to "black". (Source: Library of Congress)

Reproduction of a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster, originally published by the Strobridge Litho Co., shows the transformation from white to “black”. (Source: Library of Congress)

However, there is no consensus about the origin of blackface.

The Padlock is a two-act ‘afterpiece‘ opera created by Charles Dibdin. It debuted in 1768 at the Drury Lane Theatre in London, England, and was a success, largely due to Dibdin’s portrayal of Mungo, a blackface caricature of an inebriated black servant from the West Indies. The following year, the company took the production to the United States.

On May 29, 1769, Lewis Hallam, Jr., a white blackface actor of American Company fame, played the role of Mungo, in The Padlock, that premiered in New York City at the John Street Theatre with even greater accolades. In due course, the Mungo character attracted notice, and other performers adopted the style.

From the 1810s, blackface clowns were popular in the United States.

British actor Charles Mathews toured the United States in 1822–23, and as a result added a “black” characterization to his repertoire of British regional types for his next show, A Trip to America, which included Mathews singingPossum up a Gum Tree,” a popular slave freedom song.

Edwin Forrest played a plantation black in 1823, and George Washington Dixon was already building his stage career around blackface in 1828.

The song “Old Zip Coon

The song “Old Zip Coon” or “Zip Coon,” or was written sometime before 1827. At least four versions of the song were published between 1827 and 1834. Several folks have claimed to have written the song, but the true composer will probably never be known. Today, the tune itself is best known as “Turkey In The Straw.” The following video by Tom Roush portrays American life and music in the 19th century.

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The song “Jump Jim Crow

Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice Playing Jim Crow in Blackface, New York City, 1833.

Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice Playing Jim Crow in Blackface, New York City, 1833.

In 1828, Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice, a white New York comedian, performed his song and dance routine called “Jump Jim Crow” in blackface. Rice’s performance was supposedly inspired by the song and dance of a physically disabled black man he had seen in Cincinnati, Ohio, named Jim Cuff or Jim Crow.

The song “Jump Jim Crow” became a huge hit and Thomas Rice performed it across the country. By 1832, he scored stardom as “Daddy Jim Crow,” a caricature of a shabbily dressed Afro-American man.

Jim Crow as entertainment spread rapidly across the United States in the years prior to the Civil War and eventually spread its influence around the world. Because of this influence, in 1841, when John Lloyd Stephens, the United States’ special ambassador to Central America, arrived in Merida on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, a local brass band played “Jump Jim Crow” inadvertently, because they thought it was the national anthem of the United States.

The popularity of Jump Jim Crow and the blackface form of entertainment also prompted many whites to refer to most black males routinely as Jim Crow.

Jim Crow contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation” or the “dandified coon”.

The Minstrel Show

Jump Jim Crow” initiated a new form of popular music and theatrical performances in the United States that focused their attention on the mockery of Afro-Americans. This new genre was called the minstrel show.

The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was a form of American entertainment consisting of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in blackface. By the late 18th century, blackface characters began appearing on the American stage, usually as servants to provide some element of comic relief. The black people were lampooned in the minstrel shows as musically oriented lazy, dim-witted, buffoonish, superstitious, and happy-go-lucky.

In the early 1830s, the blackface acts found a home in the taverns of New York’s less respectable precincts of Lower Broadway, the Bowery, and Chatham Street and in circuses.

It also appeared on more respectable stages, most often as brief burlesques and comic an entr’acte in New York theaters. Upper-class houses at first limited the number of such acts they would show, but beginning in 1841, much to the dismay of some patrons, blackface performers frequently took to the stage at even the classy Park Theatre.

In popularity, the blackface “Sambo” character superseded the “tall-tale-telling Yankee” and the “frontiersman” character-types.

White actors such as Charles Mathews, George Washington Dixon, and Edwin Forrest began to build reputations as blackface performers. Author Constance Rourke even claimed that Forrest’s impression was so good he could fool blacks when he mingled with them in the streets.

In the following decade, blackface minstrelsy transformed into a full-fledged distinctly American theatrical form. By 1848, blackface minstrel shows were an American national art form of the time that translated formal art such as the opera into popular terms for a general audience. After the Civil War (fought from 1861 to 1865), black people too got into the act in the minstrel shows.

In the 1830s and 1840s, blackface minstrelsy was at the core of the rise of an American music industry, and for several decades, it served as the spectacles through which white America viewed black America.

While the blackface minstrelsy had its strong racist aspects, it also afforded the white Americans to have a singular and broad awareness of the significant aspects of black-American culture.

The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis in the United States that touched off a major recession that lasted until the mid-1840s. During this period, theater attendance suffered, and concerts were one of the few attractions that could still make money.

In 1843, four blackface performers led by Dan Emmett, calling themselves the Virginia Minstrels, staged a concert at the New York Bowery Amphitheatre. Thus, was born the minstrel show as a complete evening’s entertainment. The original lineup consisted of Emmett, Billy Whitlock, Dick Pelham, and Frank Brower.

The Virginia Minstrels show had little structure. The four sat in a semicircle, played songs, and traded wisecracks. One gave a stump speech in dialect, and they ended with a lively plantation song.

The term “minstrel” had previously been reserved for traveling white singing groups, but Emmett and his group made it synonymous with blackface performance, and by using it, signalled that they were reaching out to a new, middle-class audience.

On February 6, 1843, New York Herald, wrote that the production was “entirely exempt from the vulgarities and other objectionable features, which have hitherto characterized Negro extravaganzas.”

1844 sheet music cover for a collection of songs by the Christy's Minstrels. George Christy appears in the circle at top. (Source: Boston Public Library)

1844 sheet music cover for a collection of songs by the Christy’s Minstrels. George Christy appears in the circle at top. (Source: Boston Public Library)

In 1845, the Ethiopian Serenaders surpassed the Virginia Minstrels in popularity by purging out low humor from their show. Shortly thereafter, Edwin Pearce Christy formed Christy’s Minstrels, combining the refined singing of the Ethiopian Serenaders with the Virginia Minstrels’ bawdy act. Christy’s company established the three-act template into which minstrel shows would fall for the next few decades.

From then on, a typical minstrel performance followed a three-act structure. The troupe first danced onto stage, then exchanged wisecracks and sang songs. The second part featured a variety of entertainment, including the pun-filled stump speech. The final act consisted of a slapstick musical plantation skit or a send-up of a popular play.

The songs and sketches in the typical minstrel show featured several stock characters, most popularly the slave and the dandy. The characters were further divided into sub-archetypes such as the mammy, her counterpart the old darky, the provocative mulatto wench, and the black soldier.

Minstrels claimed that their songs and dances were authentically black, although the extent of the black influence remains debated.

In 1866, Sam Hague, a British blackface minstrel dancer was the first white owner of a minstrel troupe composed of black members called Sam Hague’s Slave Troupe of Georgia Minstrels. The troupe toured England for several years.

Hague’s overseas success lent black minstrelsy a new credence in the United States. However, at least one critic maintained their rise had damaged minstrelsy, and that white blackface minstrels were better at representing black Americans than black Americans were themselves.

Hague’s lead inspired many other white owners to purchase black companies. By the mid-1870s, white men owned the most successful American black troupes. Ironically, when Sam Hague’s Slave Troupe returned to the United States, Charles Callender purchased the company.

William H. West, known as the “Progressive Minstrel,” emulated Sam Hague and became one of the first white owners of a minstrel troupe composed of black performers in the United States. West often produced and played minstrel shows with George Primrose. They had a hit, and were known as “The Millionaires of Minstrelsy.”

Poster of William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee rough riders.

Poster of William H. West’s Big Minstrel Jubilee rough riders.

In the 1870s, spirituals, also known as jubilees, entered the repertoire marking the first undeniably black music to be used in minstrelsy. William West became the sole producer “William H. West’s Big Minstrel Jubilee,” the supposedly richest and costliest minstrel organization in existence. The Big Minstrel Jubilee, featured some of the leading performers of the day. Their show always ended with the cast, in blackface, singing songs of the period.

The minstrel shows were extremely popular, enjoyed by whole families from all walks of life irrespective of the ethnic group they belonged to.

At the same time, they were also controversial. While the racial integrationists decried them as falsely showing happy slaves while at the same time making fun of them, the segregationists thought such shows were disrespectful of social norms as they portrayed runaway slaves with sympathy, and undermined the institution of the southerners.

The minstrel shows survived as professional entertainment until about 1910 when it lost popularity and was replaced for the most part by vaudeville. Blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right. Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes, and perceptions worldwide. At the same time, they popularized black culture.

Amateurs continued to perform blackface and the minstrel shows in high schools, and local theaters, until the 1960s. These performances too ended in the United States as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s progressed and gained acceptance.

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Let Us Begin This Year with a Bit of Laughter …


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Bud Abbott and Lou Costello

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello

During the 1940s and 1950s the American comedy duo William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello (born Louis Francis Cristillo), appeared in vaudeville and on stage, radio, film and television. This popular comedy team made everyone in the audience split their sides with laughter.

Their patter routine in “Who’s on First?” sets the framework for many of their best-known comedy bits. Many consider it as one of the greatest comedy routines of all time.

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In this following video clip titled “Crazy House” Bud Abbott and Lou Costello perform one of their most famous and widely copied burlesque and vaudeville interruption sketches. Known on the vaudeville circuit as the “Nut House,” this filmed sketch from the first season of their 1952 half-hour television show is probably one of the few surviving performances of this well-worn, and now largely forgotten, burlesque classic.

The sketch starts with Lou suffering from insomnia. Bud decides to check Lou into a “rest home.” More like a mental institution with patients in command, Lou subjected to a series of bizarre intrusions into his hospital room eventually sleeps. We get a chance to experience such classic schtick as spit takes, gun fire, and seltzer bottles.

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Wish you all a world surrounded by laughter and glee!

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Harris Jayaraj for Dummies


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Harris Jayaraj, an Indian film composer from Chennai, Tamil Nadu has written numerous scores and soundtracks for Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films.

His father, S. M. Jayakumar, a noted film guitarist was an assistant to Shyam, the Malayalam music director and later became a film composer.

Harris began his formal training in carnatic music when he was six. As per his father wish he learned classical guitar. At the 4th grade exam conducted by the Trinity
College of Music, London, Harris scored the highest mark in Asia. In 1987, at the tender age of twelve Harris began his music career as a guitarist.

Click on the above image

First night, First dreams, They are coming

Note: The English translation was done by an anonymous person.

Lyrics

Mudhal iravu, mudhal kanavu, varugiradhu
(First night, first dreams, coming)

Muzhu nilavu, oru milagu, erigiradhu
(full moon, one black pepper, burning)

Pagal nilavu, digil kanavu, varugiradhu
(day moon, nightmare, coming)

Vazhi sevuru, mazhai kuluru, adikiradhu
(a wall on the way, cold rain, beating)

Chorus

Thirakkaadha vaanam ondru, pirikkaamal paathen indru
(non opening sky, without opening, I saw today)

Thiriyaadha paalai kondu wowuwowuyeah
(non spoiled milk, wowuwowuyeah)

Sirikkaadha pennai kandu, markkaadha nenjam ondru
(seeing non smiling girl, one non-forgetting heart)

Arikkaadha mudhugai kandu, wowuwowuyeah
(seeing non-scratchy back, wowuwowuyeah)

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The Carousel on the National Mall, Washington, DC.


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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On March 31, 2012 my wife and I visited the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Click here on this link to see a fantastic –> photo of the National Mall and The Capitol in Washington, DC.

Near the Smithsonian Castle, on Jefferson Drive, on the National Mall, is an authentic carousel with brilliantly painted hand-carved animals.

This old carousel called “The Smithsonian Carousel” is not big, but is a big draw on the Mall for kids – young and old. Even if you are not so young like me, it is still fun to just see a bit of old-world fun and the old horses .

The Smithsonian carousel was built in the 1940s by the Allan Herschell Co., but its history is far richer than the families who frequent it might suspect.

Before the carousel arrived on the Mall in 1981, it was a popular attraction at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Woodlawn, Maryland, one of the region’s most booming parks. Gwynn Oak, as many amusement parks were at that point of time, was for whites-only.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the famous speech “I Have a Dream” on August 28, 1963.  According to Amy Nathan, author of “Round and Round Together, “Gwynn Oak Amusement Park dropped segregation on the very same day as the March on Washington, and on that day, Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to go on a ride there.”

For more history about the carousel read this article –> The Carousel on the Mall: Spinning civil rights history.

LOCATION:
Carousel on the National Mall
900 Jefferson Drive, SW
Washington, D.C. 20024

METRO:
Smithsonian Metro Station (Blue, Orange)
L’enfant Plaza Metro Station (Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow)
Archives Metro Station (Green, Yellow)

HOURS:
March 1 to Eve of Labor Day: Daily 10 am to 5:30 pm
Labor Day to February 28: Daily 11 am to 5 pm
Closed on December 25.

ADMISSION: $3.50

A friend said that he took his kid to the mall In November last year and the price for the ride was $2.50 and he hitched a free ride with his toddler. So, it was free then for the paremt or guardian if the children were under 42″ high or needed supervision.

As of April 30, 2011 the ridce costs $3.50. And if your child is under 42″, and even if you aren’t going to ride a horse, you have to pay for an extra ticket to supervise them.

Six Word Saturday – April 21, 2012


Here’s my entry for Six Word Saturday:

Find A Need and Fill It

Click on the badge above for more details on this challenge.
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“Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?” – Political Parodies


Anirudh Ravichander and actor Dhanush – creators of the original “Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?”

The song “Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?” was featured in the Tamil film titled “3″ (Tamil: “moonu“), that was released on March 30, 2012. Young music director Anirudh Ravichander composed the music in just 10 minutes and young actor Dhanush who sang this song wrote the lyrics, in about 20 minutes by fiddling and twiddling with Tanglish words.

This  song with Tanglish lyrics became an internet phenomenon. Within a week after the official release of the video, it had more than 3.5 million views on YouTube, and more than 1 million shares on Facebook. Up to November 30, 2011 it had more than 10.5 million views on YouTube. By the end of 2011, the number of YouTube views crossed 30 million.

The song with unique yet nonsensical lyrics and captivating music has spawned hundreds of imitations and political parodies in India.

Here is the original video uploaded by sonymusicindiaSME on November 16, 2011 – an exclusive video shot during the recording of the song with the music composer Anirudh Ravichander, actors Dhanush, Shruti Hassan, director of the movie Aishwarya and sound engineer Sivakumar.

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Here, I have embedded two videos that impressed me. They are humorous political parodies of current political situation in India.

Video #1

Why this Kolaveri Di (Malayalam Political Version) – Why this Kodiyeri Di

This song ‘Why This Kodiyeri Kodiyeri Di.’ is a political version sung in Malayalam created by a team called Nadakame Ulakam.

Video #2

The lyrics for this political parody was written by uploader TheHariharaniyer on Dec 14, 2011 and has  458,307 YouTube views to date.

This imitation of “Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?”  features Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance and President, Indian National Congress.

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Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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If you have not listened to the Tamil song “வொய் திஸ் கொலவெறி டி” (Transliteration: “Why This Kolaveri Di”) meaning “Why this murderous rage, lass?” then you must be an extra-terrestrial.

Anirudh Ravichander

This song was featured in the Tamil film titled “3″, that was released on March 30, 2012. Music director Anirudh Ravichander composed the music in just 10 minutes and young actor Dhanush who sang this song wrote the lyrics, in about 20 minutes by fiddling and twiddling with Tanglish words.

The musical instruments used in this song are western saxophone, acoustic guitar, electronic keyboards, synthesizers, indigenous south Indian instruments such as nadaswaram, urumee, thavil, and north Indian shehnai. The singing is in the style of Tamil folk songs.

The song was officially released on 16 November 2011. It became viral instantly on social networking sites. The song was well received not only by Tamils but also by others who do not know Tamil. Why? Because of the catchy tune and lyrics containing Tanglish words.

The song “Kolaveri Di” became an internet phenomenon. Within a week after the official release of the video, it received more than 3.5 million views on YouTube, and more than 1 million shares on Facebook. Up to 30 November 2011 it had more than 10.5 million views on YouTube. By the end of 2011, the number of YouTube views crossed 30 million.

The song’s universal theme of failure in love combined with unique yet nonsensical lyrics and captivating music has spawned hundreds of imitations and political parodies.

Many lines in this song, sung by the hero in an inebriated state after having been ditched by the heroine, are just utter nonsense..

Lyrics:

yo boys i am singing song
soup song
flop song
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
rhythm correct
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
maintain this
why this kolaveri..di
distance la moon-u moon-u
moon-u color-u white-u
white background night-u nigth-u
night-u color-u black-u
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
white skin-u girl-u girl-u
girl-u heart-u black-u
eyes-u eyes-u meet-u meet-u
my future dark
http://www.laughingbug.com
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
maama notes eduthuko
apdiye kaila sax eduthuko
pa pa paan pa pa paan pa pa paa pa pa paan
sariya vaasi
super maama ready
ready 1 2 3 4
whaa wat a change over maama
ok maama now tune change-u
kaila glass
only english..
hand la glass
glass la scotch
eyes-u full-aa tear-u
empty life-u
girl-u come-u
life reverse gear-u
lovvu lovvu
oh my lovvu
you showed me bouv-u
cow-u cow-u holi cow-u
i want u hear now-u
god i m dying now-u
she is happy how-u

this song for soup boys-u
we dont have choice-u
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di
why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di

Below I have embedded two videos that impressed me.

Video #1

This video uploaded by sonymusicindiaSME on Nov 16, 2011 is an exclusive video shot during the recording of the song with the music composer Anirudh Ravichander, actors Dhanush, Shruti Hassan, director of the movie Aishwarya and sound engineer Sivakumar.

Video #2

This is the official video of the super hit song ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’ from the movie “3″ featuring Dhanush. This was also uploaded by sonymusicindiaSME on Apr 10, 2012.

A Boost Anthem for Sachin by ‘Kolaveri’ Dhanush


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Boost is India’s leading malt-based health food drink having a chocolate flavour. Sachin Tendulkar became the brand ambassador for Boost with his debut in 1989 at the age of seventeen.

Anirudh Ravichander and Dhanush

The 28-year-old actor Dhanush and music director Anirudh Ravichander riding high on the success of their Tanglish song “Why this kolaveri di?” was approached by Boost to create an anthem to pay tribute to Sachin’s 23 years of stamina.

“It’s a great honour to sing for a legend like Sachin Tendulkar. I am happy that I have been chosen to do this. He is the pride of our nation. When I was offered to do the song I didn’t think twice and just knew that I had to do it. I have really worked hard on the song and I hope people enjoy it,” Dhanush said.

When asked whether he had met Sachin, the actor said, “No I haven’t met Sachin … I don’t think he knows me or that I am singing a song for him but I hope he likes the song.”

Here is the video uploaded by BoostEnergyIndia on Feb 7, 2012.

And here is the lyrics of the song in Tanglish.

you can’t be me without my secret (what secret..)
hey lets sing a song of sachin
(boost is the secret of my energy)

haa na na na…
sachin was a secret of
my energy..
please stop what are doing now
let go desi.. yeah.. come on

yo boys
i am sing song (yes)
cricket song (oho..)
sachin song

sachin.. sachin..
sachin.. sachin..
sachin.. sachin..
sachin…

jhump chukun chukun jhik
jhump chukun chukun jhik
jhump chukun chukun jhik
jhumpi chaka.. hahahaa…

super maama ready
1..2..3..4

one plus one two-u two-u
if not sachin who-u? who-u?
28 states glue-u glue-u
nothing else to prove-u prove-u

hey you are our pride-u ..
hey roller coaster ride-u ..
every player guide-u
we are your side-u

we unite in your name SACHIN

hey come-u maama
hey hit-u maama..
hey six-u maama
hey super maama..

hey come-u maama..sachin
hey hit-u maama..sachin
hey six-u maama..sachin
hey super maama..sachin

one day..test.. T20
entertainment guarantee
89 your entry
bringing honor to our country

hey every bowler-u fear-u fear-u
criket balls-u tear-u tear-u
bharath rathna near-u near-u
come on india cheer-u cheer-u

darling of the mass-u
demi god face-u
oh little master
master blaster
you are our boost-u

hey come-u maama
hey hit-u maama..
hey six-u maama
hey super maama..

hey come-u maama..sachin
hey hit-u maama..sachin
hey six-u maama..sachin
hey super maama..sachin

one plus one two-u two-u
if not sachin who-u? who-u?
28 states glue-u glue-u
nothing else to prove-u prove-u

hey you are our pride-u ..
hey roller coaster ride-u ..
every player guide-u
we are your side-u

SACHIN..SACHIN
SACHIN..SACHIN

hey come-u maama
hey hit-u maama..
hey six-u maama
hey super maama..

hey come-u maama..sachin
hey hit-u maama..sachin
hey six-u maama..sachin
hey super maama..sachin

SACHIN..SACHIN

If dogs can, why can’t I …


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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We, as Christians, pray to God as Jesus taught us: Give us today our daily bread (Mathew 6:11), but once the food is on our table do we thank Him by saying grace before our meal? Most of us, well to be frank, including me, don’t.

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My nephew Raphael Leo directed me to this video Uploaded by stevenkhai09 on Nov 23, 2011, wherein dogs say grace before their meal. I was very much impressed.  I hope you will like this video.

Well, if dogs say grace, why shouldn’t I?

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Women in Western Art – A Video by Philip Scott Johnson


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Philip Scott Johnson used Abrosoft Fantamorph to create this enthralling video.  He uploaded the video on to YouTube on April 22, 2007 under the pseudonym . It was nominated  for 2007 YouTube Awards in the “Creative” category.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN08 - Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist...

The background music being played is “Bach’s Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007″ performed by the French Americancellist, virtuoso, and orchestral composer Yo-Yo Ma.

I hope you like this video as much as I do.

If you are a curious cat like me, then visit Ms. Boni’s site to find the complete list of artists and paintings used in this video by  Philip Scott Johnson.

Women In Art from Philip Scott Johnson on Vimeo