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West Africa: Joining In and Standing Out

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1. Title Title of document West Africa: Joining In and Standing Out - The Making of the Musical World
2. Creator Author's name, affiliation, country Andrew Killick; University of Sheffield; United Kingdom
3. Subject Discipline(s) Music
4. Subject Keyword(s) African music; participation; musical specialists; polyrhythm; talking drum; griot; kora
5. Subject Subject classification world popular music
6. Description Abstract The African root of American popular music is traced back through the history of slavery to the West African cultures from which most slaves in North America came. Guarding against any assumption that West African musical cultures were the same in the days of the slave trade as they are now (which might represent the ethnocentric view that “other cultures don’t have history”), historical evidence is reviewed to establish that the features relevant to the story were already present at that time. One such feature, shared with most African cultures south of the Sahara, is that music-making is oriented toward communal participation (“joining in”) more than presentation by performers to a passive audience. Musical features that promote participation are discussed in the context of drumming ensembles, including the “polyrhythmic” African approach to musical time that fed into the American “backbeat.” At the same time, stereotypes of African music as consisting only of drumming and repetitive patterns are counteracted by focusing on two types of musician who “stand out” from their communities as highly skilled musical specialists: master drummers and the bard-like griots who sing to the accompaniment of the harp-lute kora. The master drummers with their “talking drums” also challenge our initial definition of music by blurring the distinction between musical sound and speech.
7. Publisher Organizing agency, location Equinox Publishing Ltd
8. Contributor Sponsor(s)
9. Date (YYYY-MM-DD) 01-Sep-2024
10. Type Status & genre Peer-reviewed Article
11. Type Type
12. Format File format PDF
13. Identifier Uniform Resource Identifier
14. Identifier Digital Object Identifier 10.1558/equinox.27320
15. Source Journal/conference title; vol., no. (year) Equinox eBooks Publishing; The Making of the Musical World
16. Language English=en en
18. Coverage Geo-spatial location, chronological period, research sample (gender, age, etc.) world,
19. Rights Copyright and permissions Copyright 2014 Equinox Publishing Ltd