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Music In Africa

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Autor:  anton  17 September 2010
Tags:  Africa
Words: 678   |   Pages: 3
Views: 419

Music and dance are so related closely in African thinking that it is difficult for them to separate song from movement or speech from playing the drum. In this case, the arts are a part of everyday normal life. Life cycle events including, but not limited to, birth, puberty and death are celebrated with a musical performance.

Because music is so integral to society, everyone is expected to be able to sing and dance at a certain level of proficiency. Beyond that, certain people are selected for special musical training. These exceptional performers tend to reply on the help of spirits for guidance, which demand high performance from the individual.

Musical instruments in West Africa are not just objects; they are semi-human as they take on human characteristics. These instruments, usually played by master musicians, can have personal names, be kept in special houses and may be “fed” sacrificial food.

The Kpelle people have two different categories of instruments: fee (blown) or yale (struck). Other cultures emphasize gender attributes of instruments for classification, or with social designations such as chief, father, mother or child.

Because music is an integral part of life, it is found everywhere, even the market. In an example from the book, a trip to the market brought everything from cigarette sellers to quasi-performances from someone practicing the Woi epic. Passer-bys would stop by to watch and participate as supporting actors or musicians. (CD track 2: Kalu Lee, Lee)

Being constantly on the move, Woi, the superhuman specialist and the first Kpelle person, once met an anthill who was blocking the way of his house. In this tale, Woi got the help of an anteater and mole who dug a tunnel under the hill so that the house could pass.

In the chorus of Woi, there are two different singing parts: both singing the same thing, but one repeated after the first and at a different interval. This use of faceting and interlocking and alternating parts, is greatly admired in the West African culture and is the highest form of performance.

Another example is from a horn ensemble (CD track 3: Tranverse Horn Ensemble). In this case, the players were playing a very short motif that was interlocked with that of the other musicians, turning into a larger pattern, or hocket.

While hard at work bush clearing, music could still be heard. Men who were not cutting were playing short patterns of several notes that interlocked with the other instrument’s pattern while the working me worked to the rhythm of this slit-log ensemble. Also, there was a singing call-and-response pattern between the musicians and the clearers.

Faceting and cutting-the-edge is a dance that symbolizes the end of an event, with a bow and a hand gesture. With this, it shows that they highly prize faceting.

Cutting-the-edge is a critical issue in music. When the performers employed it, entertainment music was dominant. Likewise, when the performers didn’t employ it, ritual was involved and continuity was an important emphasis in the expression.

Another type of musical expression is non-overlapping call and response. This can be defined where the soloist sings a line of the song, followed by the chorus singing an ostinato after the soloists line. Though the soloist’s line may change slightly through improvisation, the chorus’ line stays the same. It is called “non-overlapping” because the chorus and soloist don’t sing at the same time.

Call and response songs are an important part of West African music. In it, performers take turns with being the soloist. The first singer is known as opachua or the soloist, and as wakulela or the responder. Most of the time the responder is performed by a chorus of singers, but may also be another single performer.

An example of non-overlapping call and response is shown by the example “Children’s Counting Song”. In this, the solo child sang a phrase, followed by continual clapping and a response by the rest of the children. The phrases from the soloist and from the choir were balanced in length through out the piece.

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