Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc

Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby djembefeeling » Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:36 pm

Ahh, I start to love this discussion, it's getting philosophical! This is a good example of how difficult it is to really understand another culture, first because we are so deeply rooted in our own and second because our own culture is already made up of a bunch of different and sometimes conflicting ideas.

I'd like to support Daniel in his insistance on the romantic idea of love as rooted in the western culture only. Why does Africa and the Africans feel so strange to us when we get there for the first time? Take for example the topic of punctuality. When does the bus start to Kouroussa? Soon! That could be in fact tomorrow or maybe next week. We are raised with a clock and the notion of timeliness by the machine due to the industrialisation of our world. A history of approximately 150 years with a deep impact on our culture and mentality. In fact, the whole notion of discipline goes back to the time of state-building and reformation, so that historians speak of these two movements as two sides of one coin that made our modern world. Hundreds of years to gradually build up hour sense for discipline and timeliness, while nothing comparable to this took place in Africa. In a way, we could suffer in our poor drumming from differences in the concept time, because due to the christian understanding of time we see a linear passing, not a circular like the Africans (if I can speak rough for a whole continent, I mean). So we start one line all over again instead of keeping the circle round and round (compare Ruth M. Stone 1985. "In Search of Time in African Music." Music Theory Spectrum 7: 139-48, also interesting on the web: http://www.sibetrans.com/trans/a121/sha ... tor-action).

Or take the concept of truth. I've read this story - but forgot where and by whom - about an argument between two guys in Africa. Both claimed they get money for something from the other, so both started to build up their stories, until the one guy created such an unexpected and yet very good story that the other gave him the money. he knew it was just a story, but that didn't count. What was important was the creativity and the entertaining quality of his story. So if you ask for anything in Africa, one has to be prepared to get creative rather than "true" information. As an historian, you know that it took our culture thousands of years until we valued truth more than creativity and comfort. The history of science in the western world is a history of that quarrel. And especially the science of history in the 19th century did contribute a lot to focus on the truth instead of a good and convincing story as most of the former historians used to tell. Again, deeply rooted in our culture from a gradual infiltration of the ideals of elites.
So, do african masters act irresponsible when they tell a story that is not true in our sense of the word? Probably not, because they might see themselves responsible for our entertainment.

What about love? I think we would have to figure out what we understand by this term. Sure, there must be something like fondness in every culture. Hard to believe that this feeling is totally absent, for we depend so much on our social life. Yet, there are always some counterexamples delivered by some ethnologists of societies that function very different. In our own culture, the notion of love is covered under a deep layer of romantic ideas. before that time, it was just as common to get married as a social arrangement as it is in Africa. Love in marriage wasn't as important as to obey your father and God, perhaps even to love Him. It's not been that long ago, actually. I think a good read on our own conflicting ideas of love is Eva Illouz. Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.

These are rather abstract ideas that I can contribute. I haven't got the experience in African mentalities to decide, I don't even have a clear grip on my own set of ideas that I connect to the word "love". But it seemed obvious to me that the people in Guinea around the tourists in a drum camp had a much more "practical" concept of love than most of us do, I guess.
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby Daniel Preissler » Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:56 pm

Very very nice, Jürgen!

So, do african masters act irresponsible when they tell a story that is not true in our sense of the word? Probably not, because they might see themselves responsible for our entertainment.

so true! we just don't have to mix this up (entertainment and truth*), what many people do.


(*still aware of truth depending on perspectives and experiences, so of the fact that Michi mentioned: there can be different "true" origins or traditions of a thing - still there can be a lot of different pure entertaining stories, too ;-) )
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby djembefeeling » Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:12 pm

This just crossed my mind: when there is perhaps no explicit wooing woman or expression of love, isn't one aspect of almost all dancing also a show off of the healthyness and atractivity or strength of the women (and men)? Or are there specific dances for young, unmarried women where they can show off?
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby e2c » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:23 pm

Daniel and Jürgen - thanks for the reality check! :)

As for concepts of "love" (romantic kind): yes, we do look through our own cultural "lenses" when we talk about this, I think.

While I believe that the feelings that we associate with romantic love are pretty universal, my take is that the expression of those feelings can vary quite a bit, depending on the culture - but still, the emotions are there.

Marriage as part of social structure: please keep in mind that until very recently, most people in the US and UK married strictly within their own social class, and also that women were truly dependent on their husbands for income, etc. Marrying the "right" person (a good provider, or a man with money and status) was very important. (I was born in the mid-1950s and this expectation was still a big part of what people of my generation were brought up to believe.)

So... there are expressions of intense romantic love and yearning in English-language popular songs, in Indian ghazals, in many Arabic and Persian and Turkish songs. And then there is the reality. Songs and literature and movies (Nerd, I hear you! ;)) can be vehicles for expressing emotions - and wishful thinking - that cannot (or at least, might not) have any way of becoming "real" in day to day life.

I cannot make any comments on romantic love and its expressions in W.A., but I have always been skeptical of the characterization of certain rhythms/dances as "dance(s) of seduction" or whatever. It sounds fishy to me. My guess is that that's partly because the word choice (translated from French to English) loses something along the way, or that the culture being discussed is not one that some teachers know well, or both, or... (I really am skeptical about the presentation of meaning and ideas re. rhythms and dances that are not from a given teachers' home base, so to speak, but that's another topic entirely!)

A lot of us only know rhythms and dances like Yankadi and Makru from sources outside the culture in which they originated. Unless and until we get info. from inside that culture, I think I'll remain a skeptic, to some degree, at least.

To give an example of "outside" from a US perspective: I could tell you folks some things about zydeco music from Louisiana, or Tex-Mex music, or any number of other styles of regional music, but here's the thing - I'm not from southern Louisiana, or southern Texas (or anywhere along the Mexican border), so even though I might well give you accurate information, by default, what I know is both superficial and incomplete. (I don't play these styles of music - and don't know Spanish or Cajun/Creole French dialects - so I am really an outsider.)

I hope that helps illustrate the point I'm trying to make, which is not to put down anyone, but to try and put some of the things we think we know into context.
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby bkidd » Tue Dec 20, 2011 7:09 pm

Hi Jurgen and Daniel,

Let me just start by saying that I know very little about West African culture outside of drumming (and even not that much within drumming). Given that, I am interested in learning about all aspects of the culture and so far my approach has been to (1) read as much as I can stand from historians and ethnomusicologists, (2) talk with West Africans that I've gotten to know better, or (3) discuss the ideas with fellow enthusiasts (such as people on this board). With all of these source of information, I typically apply a filtering like what Michi outlined, where I try to fit them into the framework that I have going and see what fits versus what doesn't. In the cases for things that don't fit, some of them are nonsense, whereas others are new and interesting gems that require expanding the framework. Is the West African concept of love one of those gems? Maybe. It probably requires a little more prodding though.

While you two have providing some compelling examples and arguments for cultural differences, I'm not yet convinced that romantic love is solely a Western concept. Clearly love is a multifaceted word that has taken on many forms of expression through philosophy, art, literature, music, poetry, etc. Even science has gotten into the act of trying to understand the biological basis for the various forms of love that are described or talked about. I guess where I'm a little stuck is that while Europe "may" have elevated the notion of romantic love with the notion of pursuing one's passion for another person. I'm suspicious of the claim that this is a Western concept. Maybe Europe provided a framework for how we think about romantic love today, but this doesn't mean people from other cultures didn't have these feelings or notions. There are plenty of experiences that are difficult to describe with words, which is exactly why so many alternative forms of expression exist (art, music, acting/gestures, action, etc.).

Language clearly influences how humans experience the world. Maybe the word love is missing from the Malinke lexicon, which would be an interesting in itself. Based on Malinke-English dictionary that I have, the following words involve love. What's not clear from this dictionary is how old the words are or when they came into the lexicon. Also, it's possible that some of the meanings have been updated with colonialism, or even lost in translation.

baata musoo - most beloved wife (favorite wife)
bono (v.) - to lose something precious; to be wasted; to have lost a loved one in death
diiyaa niyo - beloved one
jarabi (v.) - to be love sick; deeply in love; crops growing strong; to be drawn toward, drawn back to
jaraboo (-i) - intense love, deep humility, love sickness; strong crops
kafu - to add; to raise the amount; to make love;
kanu (v.) - to like (as a close friend); to love; to court
kanuntee - beloved; dear friend; loved one
kanunteyaa - genuine affection, love
sii (v.) - to spend the night; euph. for making love
siiñaa (v.) - to make love (unmarried)
xamariŋo - young man; male age group from teens to around 40; boyfriend; lover
xataŋ (v.) - to be deeply in love; stick to one another closely

Thanks for the interesting discussion topics.
Best,
-Brian
Last edited by bkidd on Tue Dec 20, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby bkidd » Tue Dec 20, 2011 7:21 pm

e3c wrote:
As for concepts of "love" (romantic kind): yes, we do look through our own cultural "lenses" when we talk about this, I think.


Our own cultural lens is impossible to escape, we can maybe hope to recognize it and understand that multiple lenses exist. What I like about this forum is that people routinely point this out about my own biases.

While I believe that the feelings that we associate with romantic love are pretty universal, my take is that the expression of those feelings can vary quite a bit, depending on the culture - but still, the emotions are there.


Agreed.

I hope that helps illustrate the point I'm trying to make, which is not to put down anyone, but to try and put some of the things we think we know into context.


Agreed, and I hope nobody felt like I was trying to put them down. I try to acknowledge my biases and am open to learning. Understanding one's own culture is hard enough. Understanding another culture is a complicated puzzle.

Best,
-Brian
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby e2c » Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:26 pm

Brian - no worries! As you've said, this is a complex topic.

And thanks so much for posting those dictionary entries; I'm intrigued by the way that some terms for crops are also used about lovers.
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby djembefeeling » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:11 pm

Just read this summary of a german book by a guy named Christoph Egen, who wote a book on the romatic idea of love. He claims that this idea is not universal, but very western. It developed in two steps, first as a form of love for the gentry in the middle ages, secondly in the bourgeoisie of the 19th century, from where it seeped into the lower classes. He cites Norbert Ellias' grandpa as an example for the late development of the idea of romantic love into all segments of the population: "Im my time, marriage was like a low fire in the hearth slowly getting warmer, today it is like a blaze that is slowly cooling off." According to him, romantic love could only become a model for the whole population because of individualisation, according to Eva Illouz it also needs a developed capitalist society.

I cannot tell anything about the Indian, Arabic, nor the Turkish literature, but my guess from the tales of 1001 nights is that those stories involve the upper classes, not the usual folks, don't they e2c? Anyway, the question is whether or not feelings of passionate love in a romantic way are universal and thus also well known in West Africa, isn't it? I am doubtful, because in a way feelings are also learned or shaped within a culture. Of course, there must be a fundamental feeling that Novalis and the like could draw on, but it was at least developed and framed in a certain way. It is so common for us to think about love in their terms, we cannot think of it as a cultural aspect. In fact, it's in the concept of romantic love that it should be both individual (what about individuality in Africa? is it such an important concept there as it is here?) and universal, something deeply natural, so to point at the sociocultural and historical genesis of it is to put the whole concept of romantic love in question.

However, this is an accademic (though very interesting) discussion with very speculative and abstract arguments. Even when the feelings of passionate (rather than romantic) love are universal, they do not necessarily have to be as important to the people in W.A. as they are for us. And as Daniel pointed out, when something like it happens there, it is kept secret. Last but not least, we sort of abducted this thread: does anyone know about rhythms expressing love in W.A.? Those examples would settle our questions, too...
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby michi » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:56 pm

I don't know about love in Malinke culture, romantic or otherwise. But it strikes me as a little academic. I have no doubt that a Malinke husband loves his wife, and a Malinke wife loves her husband just as much as people do in the west. In other words, some people will be madly in love all their lives, some will be moderately in love, and some will lose the love and get divorced or end up with a dysfunctional marriage.

Also, I think it doesn't make sense to talk about love among the Malinke in general, just as it doesn't make sense to talk about "love among the Australians" or any other culture. There is too much individual variation, I would think.

BTW, the Malinke used to have a caste system and would traditionally marry only within their own caste. That seems to suggest that at least some marriages might have been arranged ones?

Cheers,

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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby djembefeeling » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:08 am

michi wrote:I have no doubt that a Malinke husband loves his wife

which one? the first, second, or third? very romantic, indeed...

michi wrote:Also, I think it doesn't make sense to talk about love among the Malinke in general, just as it doesn't make sense to talk about "love among the Australians" or any other culture. There is too much individual variation, I would think.

This is already in the frame of romantic thinking. You put individuality and nature against society and culture. Of course, there are individual differences in every society, but why does it make sense to speak of mentalities and cultural differences in every detail of our life, while it's supposed to be nonsense when it comes to love?

*BTW, when you want to get a visa for Guinea the next time, you can send your post to me. Its easy to get everything from the embassy in Berlin when you are in Germany. They are nice people, there. When you are around, it's very easy. They just do it like all the bureaucrats strictly according to the standard procedure. I hope the postman will have some good news for you this morning...
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby michi » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:46 am

djembefeeling wrote:
michi wrote:I have no doubt that a Malinke husband loves his wife

which one? the first, second, or third? very romantic, indeed...

Well, I've heard people from polygamous cultures tell me that it is entirely possible to love more than one person. Not terribly romantic though, in the classical sense of the word, I agree :)

michi wrote:Also, I think it doesn't make sense to talk about love among the Malinke in general, just as it doesn't make sense to talk about "love among the Australians" or any other culture. There is too much individual variation, I would think.

This is already in the frame of romantic thinking. You put individuality and nature against society and culture. Of course, there are individual differences in every society, but why does it make sense to speak of mentalities and cultural differences in every detail of our life, while it's supposed to be nonsense when it comes to love?[/quote]
Hmmm… Interesting point.

The angle I was coming from was more that, talking about the emotions of an ethnic group as a whole strikes me as wrong, in the sense that I don't think it makes much sense to talk about people as a large group on just about any topic. Yes, there will be statistical trends that hold true for an entire population. But then we are painting with a very broad brush. Malinke people are individuals, and I would think that there attitudes and emotions of individuals vary around a normal distribution just like for everyone else.

*BTW, when you want to get a visa for Guinea the next time, you can send your post to me. Its easy to get everything from the embassy in Berlin when you are in Germany. They are nice people, there. When you are around, it's very easy. They just do it like all the bureaucrats strictly according to the standard procedure. I hope the postman will have some good news for you this morning...

Thanks Jürgen, I appreciate the offer!

Passport did not arrive, so I won't be leaving tomorrow. Will rebook my flight to depart on the 29th instead, in the hope that the passport will show up before then. If it doesn't, it's over, and I'll have to cancel, at a cost in the vicinity of $1200 by now :(

Here is hoping…

Cheers,

Michi.
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby djembefeeling » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:21 am

michi wrote:besides, as I am not sure about love in Maninka societies and individuals, the original topic is about expressing that love in rhythms (and songs), a ritualized way and thus accepted and confirmed by the group/ society. there is still little response to the original question...

True. This thread is wandering all over the place :)

Here is a down-to-earth informed guess: people fall in love at social occasions. Often, these are parties, celebrations, and what not, where they are relaxed and open to social contact, more so than when they have their heads buried doing chores.

I imagine that this is no different in most cultures. So, I think it's entirely conceivable that young people cast an eye on each other during Yankadi or Djaa, even if the stories that are being told about "rhythm of seduction" are a little embroidered.

As to whether there are love songs in Malinke, I have no idea. Anyone know?

...sorry for your troubles. that really sucks. hope santa claus will be in time with your visa when the postman is lame duck...

Yeah, it sucks indeed :(

I feel like hopping in the car and driving there…

Michi.
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby michi » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:13 am

Oh shit, my apologies.

I accidentally edited Jürgen's post instead of replying. (As a moderator, I can do that.)

Jürgen, I'm sorry, this was entirely unintentional.

James, would it be possible to insert a warning? Something like "Are you sure you want to edit the post of another user?" It's just too damn easy to hit the "Edit" button instead of the "Quote" button, especially since they are so close to each other :(

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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby Djembe-nerd » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:55 am

Just remember that we all are the people passing on and creating informations about djembé music and it's culture (so we have our role, we're not just describing roles).



You are right, even though I take it as a passioate serious hobby, I have a role too.
If you want to see me kick some butt, just tell me about all the things you think I won't be able to do
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Re: Rhythm for wooing woman or expression of love

Postby e2c » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:09 am

Have you folks seen the Taiwanese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?

One of the main plotlines is about a couple in their 30s who are deeply in love - and free to get married - who do not do so out of devotion to duty.

Yes, it's a fantasy, set before the fall of the last emperor of China, but... I would like to submit this as one example of the way values and culture might shape how people express emotions, and how they choose to act on them (or not).

The thing is... this kind of story (whether in a novel or on film) is supposed to have a tragic ending. So of course, the lovers never will end up together, even though a real-life couple might work out a way to get married, have a family, etc.

The traditional stories I have heard re. romantic love that come from East Asian cultures are all sad, but they are about farmers, cowherds, weavers and the like - not just royalty or the wealthy.

So... even though "courtly love" (the Western medieval deal that was the beginning of what we think of as "romantic love" in the West) was reserved for knights and nobility, other cultures don't necessarily view it in the same way.

If anyone wants to do a bit more checking, here are two good places to start:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_Lovers (from China)

http://www.latrobe.edu.au/childlit/StWe ... tories.htm - although the version I know is about a herdsman and a commoner.
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