Heterogeneity in African Music: External Influences and Continued Traditions

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Heterogeneity in African Music: External Influences and Continued Traditions

The music and culture of Africa were once both believed to be homogenous throughout a vast part of the continent. Today, however, it is seen that sub-Saharan Africa contains a rich variety of distinct cultures. Furthermore, almost every culture in Africa is influenced to some extent by neighboring peoples, and in many music cultures, influences from the West, India, Southeast Asia, and the Arab Peninsula can be found. Through analyzing the 7 listening examples found in Jeff Titon’s Worlds of Music, songs from distinct music cultures such as the Ewe, Mande, Dagbamba, Shona, and BaAka cultures can be categorized into at least 1 of 4 categories: traditional music that has no outside influence, neighbor exchange music that is influenced by neighboring African sources, syncretic music that exhibits traits of both African and non-African music, and foreign music that is performed in Africa but comes wholly from outside Africa. Through analyzing the context, purpose, history, and performance of each song, correct classification can be achieved in finding musical influences. Traditional music, that which has no outside influence, is exhibited in the song, “Agbekor”, which represents a singing and drumming war dance inheret to the Ewe people. It features a percussion ensemble and chorus of singers with polyphonic texture and call and response. It is a distinct creation of the Ewe people, and performers who inheret the ability to play this music are said to inheret ancesteral spirits. It was once performed before or after battle, but it is now performed in Ewe drum and dance societies. Another distincty traditional song is “Nag Biegu”, another war song of the seperate Dagbamba people, which was written in the 1800s for their King, Naa Abudu. This song remembers the courage and leadership of this king, and its performers are “lunsi”, representing a hereditary clan of drummers that indicates...
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