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The Hallelujah Singers

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The Hallelujah Singers
A Local Legacy

How much do you know about the Gullah language and culture?

The Gullah language is a blend of West African and European dialects. It is a language spoken by the descendants of slaves on the barrier islands of South Carolina and Georgia. Most of the Gullah vocabulary is of English origin, but grammar and pronunciation come from a number of West African languages, such as Ewe, Mandinka, Igbo, Twi and Yoruba. Some of the African words in Gullah have become English words, such as cooter ("tortoise"), goober ("peanut"), gumbo ("okra"), and juke (as in "jukebox").

The slaves grew rice on the islands. The plantations were overseen by a foreman and rarely visited by people from the mainland. Because these plantations were isolated, they were much less influenced by Euro-American culture, and they retained much of their African culture.

A great way to learn about the Gullah culture is to listen to the Hallelujah Singers, a vocal group from Beaufort, South Carolina, that seeks to preserve the Gullah language and heritage through music. The singers perform traditional plantation songs dating back to the 1600s. Their style combines singing and storytelling to tell the unique history of the Gullah culture and the influence it has on today's culture.

Founded in 1990, the Hallelujah Singers have performed in concerts worldwide and on TV. If you saw the movie "Forrest Gump," then you saw and heard the Hallelujah Singers.

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