It’s the first thing you did in this world. After your tiny body covered in goo, slithered into the hands of a complete stranger, you hollered & screamed. And rightly so: you just had the most claustrophobic and messy experience of your life and there’s a bunch of strangers fondling you. ‘Who the hell are these people? And why am I naked?’. It felt good to vent your shock and let’s face it, your annoyance by screaming your newly unfolded lungs out.
And it kept being a very liberating way to let out frustration & anger. But somewhere along the way you learned that it actually isn’t very polite to yell when you feel you’re entitled to more pudding. Or a Troll doll.
Hollering is in our blood
Screaming was replaced by a more effective way of letting your mum know that the chances of you eating that slimy green pile on your plate, were slim: speech. And it did feel like an improvement.
But having acquired speech, doesn’t take away the fact that we sometimes just feel like having a good roar. Repressed anger, swallowed emotions, your favourite brand of peanut butter being sold out, can all lead to an internal volcano; sizzling and fuming inside. No swearing or cursing, just a primitive howl from time to time to cool off that volcano.
Hollering is in our blood; we did it to prepare for battle, wearing our shiny helmets with the pointy horn-bits, clenching our freshly sharpened axes. The horn would blow and we would chaaaaaaaaarge: letting out a thunderous battle cry. African tribes use vocalisation when hunting to identify each other’s location, women scream during childbirth to relieve stress and bodybuilders grunt and shout to gain power when lifting weights.
The voice is a powerful instrument and yet we feel quite inhibited to use it for something else than talking. But a healthy screaming session can definitely decrease tension. In some American universities the ‘primal scream’ is a long-standing tradition: the night before exams students gather outside and scream their socks off for one minute.
But most of us don’t have screaming buddies to do some good old fashioned hollering with. So what are the options if you don’t want to risk being picked up by the people in blue uniforms? Or worse, the people in white uniforms.
Socially accepted howl opportunities:
- Go to any sports match (I’d recommend soccer for the ultimate roaring experience)
- Go to a concert (not an unplugged one)
- Visit an amusement park and go on the roller-coaster ride. Although I think most men feel it’s unmanly to scream on a roller-coaster ride. (except my dad on ‘The Speed of Sound’ in Six Flags) (sorry dad)
- Or watch a scary film. Though I discovered that unfortunately it’s considered uncool to actually scream during a scary film. I found this out watching ‘the Grudge’ in the cinema: A) I was the only person who actually screamed out loud. B) My friends walked about 5 meters behind me when we left. (I’m looking at you Joyce ;-)
Prison chain gangs
But if you still feel a little shy about pushing your vocal cords to the limit there’s always that other way of expressing yourself vocally. Yes I’m talking about singing. Singing was much more common in the ol’ days than it is now. Slaves used field hollers to express their sorrows, there were work songs to fight off boredom, numerous sea shanties, and of course the songs of prison chain gangs (just watch ‘O Brother where art thou’).
Now the only singing most people do is in the shower. True, our working environment now doesn’t exactly encourage joined singing. It would be rather distracting to try writing countless emails while singing “No more, my Lawd” (although I’m sure some people feel that way)
I love singing, but I have to admit I don’t do it often with other people around. I was tricked into Karaoke once: ‘Give me all your lovin’ by ZZ top (yes I picked it myself), but felt very, very ill at ease. Especially during the guitar solo that seemed to last for well, ever. (It’s an 80’s song. They were big into everlasting guitar solos, together with leotards for men)
But I really enjoy putting on songs and hollering along in the privacy of my home.
Luckily, you don’t need good taste in music to reap the benefits of singing. It relieves tension and releases endorphines, making you feel happy and relaxed at the same time, despite your choice of music. So Celine Dion is allowed.
There’s actually a way to combine the two. Do you know that charming sound of bands like Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse? It’s called scream singing or grunting. Although I think they sound uncannily like Cookie monster.
If you want to learn how to grunt and scream like those happy chappies without tearing your larynx, you can try this course (turn down the volume before clicking). They promise ‘Gritallica’ grit, smokey/breathy grit and nasal grit. Now doesn’t that sound inviting?
Let me know your favourite Holler-along-songs.
Scream, roar, holler, howl, sing your heart out and feel better!
Some of my favourite Holler-along-songs: You can call me Al – Paul Simon • Addicted to love – Robert Palmer (I always picture hot men synchronically dancing behind me. Without the make-up) • Bohemian like you – Dandy Warhols • I’m a believer – The Monkees • I just wanna make love to you – Etta James
** EDIT (a late addition): How could I forget my ultimate holler-along-song: Put you in your place – The Sunshine Underground