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African drum and dance in the academia - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Discuss culture and traditions
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User avatar
By tanamasi

I just found a couple of interesting works that I would like to share with y'all. The first two are found online, the rest you might be able to get them through your (university) library or buy them online. They are not expensive, generally speaking. The degree of relatedness to mande tradition varies among these works for sure. Of course this is not an exhaustive list. For instance, there are works like Vera Flaig's diss. or Rainer Polak's. I am sure they have received attention elsewhere in the forum.

1. Inside a Master Drummer’s Mind: A Quantitative Theory of Structures in African Music. Willie Anku. Transcultural Music Review 2007. Key words: transcription of African music, levels of reality, reality state, ideal state, ethnic perception, cultural perception. It can be found here: http://www.sibetrans.com/trans/trans11/art05.htm.

2. African drumming as a means of enhancing diversity training in the workplace : a case study of a private Durban-based hospital. Govender, Praneschen. University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2009.
Abstract: In recent times, African drumming organisations in South Africa and worldwide have
adopted group drumming as an experiential learning mechanism for facilitating interactive
teambuilding within organisations so as to enhance group dynamics and build team spirit.
Research conducted on drumming circles indicates that group drumming fosters a sense of
community by breaking down barriers between participants and creating a space where
respect and tolerance for others are valued. In light of South Africa‟s recent history of
apartheid, various issues discussed as part of diversity training workshops (e.g. prejudice and
negative stereotyping) remain “emotionally charged” topics which are “handled with care” by
trainers in the corporate training environment. In light of this, the study aims to investigate
the role of African drumming in creating an environment that encourages open and honest
communication around sensitive issues in the context of diversity training. In addition, the
study assesses the impact of group drumming on staff motivation, levels of participation and
building a sense of community amongst participants in the context of diversity training.
Primary research was conducted on a purposely-selected sample group of staff at a private
Durban-based hospital scheduled to attend an innovative diversity training initiative,
comprising of a short group drumming component followed by a conventional diversity
training workshop. Questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, participant observation and
focus group discussion were implemented in compiling a case study of diversity training
workshops conducted at the hospital.
Description: Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.
It can be downloaded here: http://hdl.handle.net/10413/754

3. Building community: African dancing and drumming in the little village of Tallahassee, Florida by Davis-Craig, Andrea-La Toya, Ph.D., THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2009, 195 pages; 3373983
Abstract: A socially created community has emerged in Tallahassee, Florida, with West African dancing and drumming at its core. This phenomenological study is to describe and understand the nature of the African dancing and drumming community in Tallahassee, Florida, and its function within its participants' lives as focused on from a group paradigm using a participant case study design. The basic research question is what are the factors that allow African dancing and drumming to help build "community" as the participants describe community? This research uses social survey document analysis, participant observation, interviews (personal and oral history), and focus group methodology to (1) provide an accurate historical account of the development, major milestones, and contributors to the Tallahassee African dance and drum scene, (2) determine what the participants mean by the term "community" and establish a definition of community based on their meaning utilizing the McMillan and Chavis (1986, 1996) model, and (3) identify what factors led to the creation and sustaining of this sense of community.
Based on my research, I was able to develop a context specific definition for the term community: The Tallahassee African Dance and Drum community consists of multi-generation members, relating and functioning like a family, providing support and energy for one another, while paying homage to the African cultural traditions, developing through an organic evolution and maintaining through a love for the art. Additionally, through this research process I have identified a set of key elements necessary to create and sustain the members' sense of community. These elements are: (a) appreciation of tradition; (b) concept of family; (c) communication; (d) support; (e) energy; (f) love of the arts.
I have found that in the Tallahassee African dance and drum community, dance has extended beyond a classroom experience and has integrated itself into a way of functioning for most participants. The embracing of family along with the cultural and organizational traditions (social organization) that are in place has created a village (in the African sense of the word) in the capital city of Florida.

4. Modern-day griots: Imagining Africa, choreographing experience, in a West African performance in New York by Mekuria, Wosenyelesh, PhD, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, 2006, 0 pages; 3232034
Abstract: This dissertation examines the production and practice of African dance performances in New York based on the music and dances from West Africa. The performances that I examine are not staged performances, rather they take place in a dance studio setting. New York has been central to the historical development of African dance outside of the continent due to trans-Atlantic ties that were established between Black American artists and political activists in America and West Africa. Since the period of intense interaction in the 1960's, African dance has become commercialized via World Music and is practiced by an eclectic population. Presently the performers who participate in these dance and musical practices include West Africans, a mix of African and Euro-Americans, and several other international groups. African dance performances serve as a mask for individuals to explore marginal forms of experience that do not conform to mainstream values surrounding aesthetics or subjectivity. West Africans take part in performances mainly for professional or economic goals but also to gain new forms of experience by re-thinking Africa in a new social context. While African dance performances have enriched the collective and individual experience of participants, the creative exchanges among them traverse diverse social movements, ideologies and artistic practices and involve a cultural protectionism of both space and experience. African dance has been produced within a dialogue and through a plurality of competing discourses that both fix and destabilize identities based on claims to authenticity. These claims have been inspired by a universal paradigm that associates both the performers and African dance with authentic or rooted cultures. The competing discourses are informed by a Black Diaspora aesthetics, a commodified version of exoticism and a quest for authenticity. Authenticity is an ambiguous term that describes both the source and a quality of personal experience that is derived by taking part in African dance performances. Performance participants describe their experiences as being pleasurable or symbolically meaningful and associate their practice with an authentic West African tradition. By highlighting the power dynamics involved in struggles over defining the aesthetic standards of African dance, the results of this research address the relations between aesthetics, cultural production and personhood in American life.

5. Traditional rhythms and global remixes: Translating form in contemporary Mali dance collectives by Hyacinthe, Genevieve Arrindell, Ph.D., HARVARD UNIVERSITY, 2008, 456 pages; 3334848
Abstract: Nuances of Malian performance, with emphasis on complexities inherent to performers' movements and self-presentation strategies as individuals aware of their roles in a larger dance collective are probed here. I call these performers (the individual and collective) dance ensembles. Ethnographic methodologies synthesized into my approach, are complemented by modes of interrogation, analysis, and theory, from various disciplines including art history, phenomenology, black cultural studies, African ethnomusicology, African studies, folklore, gender studies, and popular culture. Importantly, Malian (particularly the Bamana culture) aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural systems provide a foundational theoretical ground. This research is complemented by my fieldwork in Mali where I studied and documented dance in both urban and village contexts during trips conducted between December 2001 and January, 2007 and my training as a dancer and drummer of djembe and djun-djun drum music both in Mali and with Malian master teachers in the Boston area.
The four key Malian dance collectives presented illustrate the primacy of collective action in Malian performance: Sounou, a dance of Malian womanhood, underscores feminine gender formation through the individual action of dancers and their interactions among themselves, accompanying musicians, and active audience members. Chi Wara, a traditional agricultural masked dance, reflects socio-spiritual relationships between the land and the collective that both farms and dances upon it. The "political dances" performed by the subjects of photographer Malick Sidib?'s teen portraits offer insights into the position of Malian youth during the second phase of the country's independence. The global designs and choreographies of the models fashioned by Malian designer, Xuly B?t, explore the performance of Malian fashioned bodies--styled and choreographed--as contributors to a high-fashion global aesthetic.
These dynamic Malian dance forms evoking music and dance, all have complicated ensemble structures with roots in Mande call and response musical formats. Moreover, each example exists within everyday life, be it a dance performed in a village square celebrating the spirit of a beautiful girl, on a field for better harvests, in a local photographer's studio located in the heart of Bamako, or within the pages of a popular fashion magazine.

By Paul

I will put them in my in my massive things to be read pile.. Ever come across anything on african music as a tool for political change. Writing my thesis on democratisation in guinea and ivory coast.. Don't think I will have time to get into music this time but would be good to know..

User avatar
By tanamasi
Paul wrote: Ever come across anything on african music as a tool for political change. Writing my thesis on democratisation in guinea and ivory coast.. Don't think I will have time to get into music this time but would be good to know..

Hm... not really. Though at the time when the (in)dependence of Guinea was to be decided, Famoudou was approached by both sides. They wanted him to play for them and support them that way. Unfortunately for Famoudou the pro-dependence side payed more. So.... I guess he did not earn a lot. Too bad. :rofl:

Rhythms like 'liberte' where created in this political context, to celebrate their freedom. Of course, as we all know the big ballets were created partly for political reasons, to foster and showcase the national culture, etc., just as it happened in Cuba.

If I find sth related to that topic, I'll let you know.
By Paul
Thanks, was thinking a bit more contemporary, oumou sangare, tikken jah..... For two countries that went in such different paths at independence Guinea and IC are in a very similar predicament now.. Came across some guys in Burkina trying to resurrect Sankara's the 'revolution cultural popular' basically through music festivals, its an interesting project and happens in january.

Would be interested in anything on the subject though.

User avatar
By tanamasi
it's been some time since the original post was published, so I thought I would update this. Some of this work has already been referenced somewhere else in the forum, but I think it's good to have it all in one place :)

Joe Luther Williams Jr. 2006.TRANSMITTING THE MANDE BALAFON: PERFORMING AFRICA AT HOME AND ABROAD. Phd University of Maryland, College Park
This dissertation examines the role of balafon performances in the transmission of Mande traditional knowledge about music and culture and how this process affects the formation of identity. My study focuses specifically on the Susu and Malinké peoples of Guinea, two ethnic subgroups of the Mande of West Africa. The Mande balafon is a heptatonic traditional xylophone. Its origins are traceable to the Sosso Bala, an instrument believed to date back to the founding of the thirteenth-century Mande Empire of Mali. The Sosso Bala is still preserved in Guinea as a national treasure and symbol of the unity of the Mande peoples. Mande balafons are played by members of the jeli caste of hereditary musicians and oral historians, who have traditionally passed down knowledge of musical and cultural heritage among the Mande.
Today, balafon performance is an important aspect of identity formation among the Mande, both in Africa and in the diaspora. Drawing upon African philosophy and performance studies, I examine how Mande jeli performance serves as a context for the creation of a contemporary African identity that balances the twin obligations of preservation of cultural heritage and maintenance of individual subjectivity. I also address issues of interconnectedness in African artistic performance and how they are reflected in the rhythmic structure of Mande music. Transcriptions of selected pieces from the jeli repertoire contribute to my analysis of how key elements of Mande society are revealed through their music.
Fieldwork I conducted in Guinea informs my research into the historical origins of the Mande balafon and the shift in emphasis on development of the instrument from the rural Mande heartland to Guinea’s urban capital, Conakry. My field work in the United States focuses on the work of my teacher Abou Sylla and his preservation and dissemination of Mande musical culture through inherently African, interactive teaching methods. I also examine how Abou, by taking his students with him to Guinea, facilitates a cultural tourism experience that serves as a context for the transmission of identity from himself to his students, reinforcing a type of community he is building through his workshops.
http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/ ... d-3360.pdf

B. MICHAEL WILLIAMS. Mamady Keita’s “Mendiani”
http://www.bmichaelwilliams.com/writing ... ndiani.pdf

http://www.bmichaelwilliams.com/writing ... taKuku.pdf

Mullins, Leslie Marie, "Experience West African Drumming: A Study of West African Dance-Drumming and women Drummers" (2003). African Diaspora ISPs. Paper 67. (Independent Study Project)
Drums have been a vital part of African traditions and celebrations for thousands of
years. They play an immense role in Africa’s rich oral history. Through the drum, the joys
sorrows and every day passages of an entire people are documented, celebrated and mourned.
The Djembe is a Guinean drum that is played throughout Africa. The Djembe along with
other instruments are used to play Drum-dance songs during festivals and seasonal
celebrations. Unfortunately, women are seldom included in these events. As a woman of
African descent, I chose to learn how to play the Djembe and researched its history and
women’s involvement in drumming.
http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/afric ... ora_isp/67

Rosner, Elizabeth. "It's the Real Thing": The Marketing of an African Identity in a West African Dance Class. Master of Music (MM), Bowling Green State University,Music Ethnomusicology, 2012.
In this paper I will analyze the construction of a homogeneous African identity in the context of a West African dance class in Toledo, Ohio. The dance classes are taught by members of the ALMA Dance Experience, a folkloric ensemble that promotes itself as the only professional West African dance troupe in northwest Ohio. Through ethnographic research, I investigate how the instructors of the dance classes represent African culture. Drawing upon postcolonial theory, I focus on the ways in which the instructors imagine, maintain, commodify, and market essentialized perceptions of African identity. As a Seneglese musician, one of the instructors is seen by the students as a culture bearer. Perceptions of “authentic” Africa thus become mapped on him. It is crucial to understand how ideas of Africa as an exotic “other” persists in representations by privileged parties, and also how these perceptions are negotiated by participants. I argue that the creation and performance of an authentic African identity serves to reinforce notions of difference and otherness. I examine this through an analysis of how authenticity is constructed through folkloric repertoire, liveness, the physicality of dance, and an African instructor. Issues surrounding race and racial ownership over African music and dance are a necessary part of the discourse surrounding African authenticity. The questions of African authenticity and representational politics are relevant within community dance classes, university African ensembles in the United States, study abroad programs to Africa, and other forms of African musical representation and dissemination; my work therefore has implications beyond this immediate case study and serves as a broader commentary on the performance and representation of African music.
http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Rosner ... 1336761459

Nicole M. Monteiro, Diana J. Wall, Psy.D. African Dance as Healing Modality Throughout
the Diaspora: The Use of Ritual and Movement to Work Through Trauma The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.4, no.6, September 2011

Abstract: In the African worldview, dance is a conduit of individual and community healing.
African conceptualizations of illness and health integrate social, spiritual, physical and mental
realms, all of which are impacted by trauma. This paper will explore different forms of dance
and ritual throughout the African Diaspora as they relate to the process of healing trauma. It will
provide examples of African dance healing practices – from the Ndeup ritual in Senegal and Zar
tradition in North Africa to the highly stylized dance techniques of Guinea and urban dance in
the U.S. Psychological perspectives are incorporated to provide an additional framework for
understanding healing dance rituals. Keywords: Dance, Ritual, Trauma, Psychology.
http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol4no6 ... nDance.pdf

Concerns regarding at-risk students led to research focusing on the potential benefits of West African drumming as a teaching tool for increasing general knowledge, sense of community, and engagement in learning. The purpose of the study was to assess specifically whether history, geography, and multi-cultural awareness could be introduced to the music classroom and engage at-risk students in learning. A three-week workshop at an elementary school was taught to test these concepts. Student knowledge of geography, history, and music of West Africa was measured utilizing a survey, while performance assessment measured how much enjoyment, engagement, and skill at drumming was exhibited by students. Students exhibited increased knowledge of geography, history, and multicultural awareness. Performance evaluation suggests that students had fun, felt engaged, and increased ability to play traditional West African percussion. The study presents an education module for duplicating and enhancing this research.
http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/bit ... DATA_1.pdf

Pascal Gaudette. Jembe Hero: West African Drummers, Global Mobility and Cosmopolitanism as Status
In Guinea, West Africa, the status attributed to the musicians who play the wooden, goat-skinned jembe drum has historically been very low. But, over the last 60 years, the jembe has progressively ‘gone global’, and today some master drummers earn a living by teaching jembe workshops to amateur aficionados everywhere. In Asia one week, Europe the next and North America the following, these masters build global social networks, opening and plying the trade routes for the commodification of their roots. In this paper, I describe how the modern fetish for African drumming has created an alternative economy of status for jembe musicians. I examine how, against significantly increasing barriers, young musicians in Guinea are leveraging this economy to follow their elders into global mobility, attempting to achieve a cosmopolitanism through which they, too, can inscribe themselves into West African imaginaries of heroism. And I show how their life paths in turn can allow us to reconsider the notion of cosmopolitan citizenship, in a very unequal world.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10. ... 013.723259
User avatar
By tanamasi
Hi Paul,
yes, I have been fairly busy. Did you finish your thesis? I never came across anything on your topic + music, though when I was down there, this was very popular (and political): elie kamano - koudeye- It's on youtube.

Michi, glad you like it :)
By Paul
Hi Tanamasi, yes I finished my thesis but it was on the effects of differing processes of post conflict reconstruction in the parrots beak border area between Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. I have just started on the music and politics project now, I am organising political and developmental debates in conjunction with African concerts. The first one will be for a concert by the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars.

Thanks for the links, nice tunes, need to brush up on my French :D

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