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Chapter 3: African Music. Population over 800 million (2000 estimate) Extremely diversified languages & cultures Continuously changing for thousands of years. Cultural Groups. Many ethnic groups, languages and style areas throughout continent

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Chapter 3: African Music

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Cultural Groups

  • Many ethnic groups, languages and style areas throughout continent

  • Ideally the songs, language, oral literature, instrumental music, theater arts and dance should all be explored together.

  • Sharing occurs between groups with cultural similarities (language, region, etc.)

  • Outside influence started long ago, mostly in Northern and Eastern Africa

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Early Instruments

  • Early history: the musical bow

  • Also plucked lutes; harps.

  • Rock engraving of an eight-string harp found 18th century bce (south of the Sahara). Many types of African harps, but no harps south of equator.

  • 8th to 14th centuries, bells and gongs found. Written accounts in 1586, gourd-resonated xylophones

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Cultural Elements

  • Music and dance are inseparable

  • Ancestor reverence (worship?); specialists recounting stories of powerful families and important rulers.

  • The social roles of the so-called talking drums of West and Central Africa (the pitch can be changed by pushing on or squeezing drum)

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Dance/Music Usage

  • Dances often serve ritual purposes, marking stages of life involving music (initiation rites, weddings, funerals, ancestral ceremonies, etc.) or trance states

  • Often, dances are social with only veiled ritual purpose, if any.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Dances Typically in Groups and in Circles or Lines

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Musical Traditions

  • Generally learned through oral tradition to students deemed worthy of training by virtue of ancestry.

  • In socially stratified societies, musical professionalism by jalolu (Griot) or by specialized court musicians.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Musical Characteristics Found in Much African Music

  • Repetition

  • Pentatonics

  • Non-Western sense of pitch

  • Choral singing

  • Solo singing

  • Call-and-response

  • Polyrhythm

  • Syncopation

  • Buzzing, rattling sound

  • Songs integrated into storytelling

  • Accompanied by body movement such as hand-clapping, dance and work.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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African Rhythm Characteristics

  • Always at least two rhythms going on

  • 3:2 relationship is central

  • Cross-rhythms: conflicting rhythmic patterns & accents (Clave for example)

  • Integrally tied to dance, and so in some variety of duple or triple time (4/4 or 12/8)

  • “Rhythm is to the African as Harmony is to the European”

Chernoff, John Miller, African Rhythm and African

Sensibility, University of Chicago Press,

Chicago, 1979.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Two African Polyrhythms

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Musical Instruments

  • Idiophones: clap-sticks, bells, rattles, struck/shaken gourds, stamping tubes, xylophones, mbiras (thumb pianos).

  • Membranophone: drums of all sorts.

  • Chordophones: musical bow, lute, lyre, harp, and zither.

  • Aerophones: flute, whistle, oboe, and trumpet.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Ghana

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Ghana: Geography and Economy

  • Near equator, coastline, in rain forest, heavily wooded hills, many rivers.

  • “Ashanti” area; cocoa, minerals, timber. North: low bush, savannah; 64-102 degrees

  • Agriculture, fishing, forestry. Major cash crop is cocoa, also crops are rice, coffee, cassava, peanuts, and corn. Export cocoa, gold, timber, and various minerals.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Agbekor: Music and Dance of the Ewe People (I:15-16)

  • Originally performed for war (control)

  • Linked to legend of monkey dance; a monkey beating stick inspired the dance

  • Agbekor signifies enjoying life, and sacred oath to ancestors to fight bravely; “clear life”

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Learning and Performing Agbekor

  • Requires special training due to complexity

  • Rarely performed in villages now, but often performed in societies (mutual aid organizations, school and civic youth groups, theatrical performing companies)

  • The writer visited Anya Agbekor Society of Accra, dedicated to remembering old family members.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Agbekor: basic drumming patterns

The first pattern is played by the double bell:

It is ubiquitous to nearly all of Africa.

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Agbekor: drumming patterns (cont.)

The next pattern to feel is the rattle & handclap pattern.

What division of the meter are we stressing?

Is it what you thought we would be playing?

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Agbekorfullbackgroundpattern

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Mande People of Mali

Lambango (CD 1:17) Mariatu Kuyateh, Kekuta Suso (kora), and Seni Jobateh

Griots (Jalolu) = professional musicians who transmit oral history (of Mande people) through song.

Kora = indigenous African “spiked-bridge” harp

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Kora

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Dagbamba of Ghana

  • Lunsi = hereditary clan of drummers; serve as verbal artist, counselor, cultural expert, etc.

  • Gung-gong & lunga drums (specific names for double-headed drums)

  • “Nag Biegu” (CD 1:18)

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Shona of Zimbabwe

  • Mbira = “thumb piano”

  • Often placed inside a gourd resonator (deze)

  • Typically includes buzzing effect created by bottle caps or snail shells

  • “Nhemamusasa” (CD I:19)

  • “Nyarai” (CD I:20) Is there an Mbira influence here?

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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BaAka People of central Africa (Congo Basin)

  • “Forest People,” “pygmies,” a unique culture

  • “Makala” a Mabo (net hunting) song (CD 1:21)

  • Improvised, open-ended polyphonic vocal musical style with all people participating. How does this express the culture?

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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Djembe

  • The Djembe is the drum of the Mandinka people (Guinea), and its origins dates back to the great Mali Empire of the 12th century.

  • VERY popular drum world-wide

Introduction to World Music, Missouri State University


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