Discuss culture and traditions
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By e2c
#26140
TNT - I don't want to get into an argument or adversarial convo with you.

There are *lots* of sources for you (and me) to learn about African cultures, music and instruments. This site is a pretty good place to start.

I would also suggest the Afropop Worldwide site (which also deals with many "roots" genres from all over Africa, in some depth): http://www.afropop.org

More understanding of the music and the people (and cultures) where it's created will make for a far more productive discussion, I think.

cheers,
e.
User avatar
By e2c
#26146
Interestingly (or not!) the writer James Blades (cited earlier by michi) also claims that
The drum messages [from where?] also play their mysterious part, it seems, in the transmission of a visible picture by telepathic means.
His "source" for that is an Englishman who claims to have been initiated into an African secret society and further asserts that he can attend the meetings of this society by telepathy.

See http://books.google.com/books?id=a8V3Z6 ... ng&f=false

Re. Blades' assertions on drums being used over long distances to transmit verbal messages, he presents zero in the way of actual evidence. Even his claim re. "Central Africa" is suspect - where, exactly? And who was doing the drumming, and what kinds of instruments did they play, and what language(s) did they speak?

Blades is telling a ton of b.s. stories with no evidence to back them up - just like the two other books that I mentioned on the previous page.

(I will refrain from stating exactly what i think about this, because it will be too "hot" for a public post! ;))
User avatar
By michi
#26147
e2c wrote:Interestingly (or not!) the writer James Blades (cited earlier by michi) also claims that
The drum messages [from where?] also play their mysterious part, it seems, in the transmission of a visible picture by telepathic means.
His "source" for that is an Englishman who claims to have been initiated into an African secret society and further asserts that he can attend the meetings of this society by telepathy.
Wow. I guess there are all sorts…
Re. Blades' assertions on drums being used over long distances to transmit verbal messages, he presents zero in the way of actual evidence.
Yes, other than quoting Stanley, he presents no further substantiation.
Even his claim re. "Central Africa" is suspect - where, exactly? And who was doing the drumming, and what kinds of instruments did they play, and what language(s) did they speak?
Good questions. I might try and learn a little more about the so-called "Bush telegraph." I think it is at least possible that this might be another one of those narratives that has taken on a life of its own because it makes for such a good story…

There are apparently real uses of drums to speak a language though. I remember reading a passage in Charry (possibly Chernoff?) where he describes a tama lesson with his Ewe teacher. While he and the teacher were drumming, another guy walked past and the teacher played a particular phrase on his tama. A little while later, the guy came back with drinks because that's what the teacher had told him to do.

I can see how the tama could be used to fairly closely mimic human speech, especially for tonal languages where pitch carries meaning. But that is not a bush telegraph. For one, the encoding isn't like morse code but instead mimics human phonemes. Second, the tama would be useless as a bush telegraph because it is a quiet drum that can't carry far.
Blades is telling a ton of b.s. stories with no evidence to back them up - just like the two other books that I mentioned on the previous page.

(I will refrain from stating exactly what i think about this, because it will be too "hot" for a public post! ;))
Well, let me help you out then :) I think it sure looks like unadulterated bullshit.

Michi :)
User avatar
By e2c
#26150
Tama and similar drums (in Nigeria, for one): yes, they can be used that way.

I know that some of the tama players in Senegal do that... see the Village Pulse (record label) website for a terrific disc by a tama group from there:

http://www.villagepulse.com/

http://www.villagepulse.com/keepers.html

*

I skimmed some of that book by James Blades and man! His view of non-Western drummers (and his propensity for including b.s. stories) is just... well.

"Bush telegraph": I suspect that phrase took on a life of its own a long time ago - maybe late 19th-early 20th c.? Would be the height of British colonial power in Africa and South Asia... (I tried to say the same thing in an earlier post, but it was seen as offensive - ?)
User avatar
By Waraba
#26165
michi wrote: There are apparently real uses of drums to speak a language though. I remember reading a passage in Charry (possibly Chernoff?) where he describes a tama lesson with his Ewe teacher. While he and the teacher were drumming, another guy walked past and the teacher played a particular phrase on his tama. A little while later, the guy came back with drinks because that's what the teacher had told him to do.
It's Chernoff. I know because I recognize the anecdote, have read the Chernoff book, but haven't read Charry.
User avatar
By Waraba
#26166
michi wrote:
Well, let me help you out then :) I think it sure looks like unadulterated bullshit.
Hey, that stuff's expensive.
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By michi
#26173
It's Chernoff. I know because I recognize the anecdote, have read the Chernoff book, but haven't read Charry.
Right, thanks for that!

Michi.
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
#26174
I don't know anything about the so called 'bush telegraph' but I do know that drums are used as a sort of communication. We all know there are certain rhythms for particular purposes. For example, Madan is a wedding song. My teacher has told me that back before cell phones, if you heard Madan being played, you knew there was a wedding going on and you would go. So, it DID function as something of a communication device. Anyone within earshot of the djembes were invited to the party.

As to djembes having their own language... I know there are certain phrases that are used as insults, for example. Drummers raz one another by playing them. I can never remember what they are, though.... which might be a good thing, LOL.

To TNT- This is a fine kettle of fish, LOL. And exactly the kind of stuff we like to talk about on the forum. So don't feel bad for opening this can of worms. It is just interesting to see how much mythology winds up being spoken of as fact.

I think that it is particularly common for folks to impose their own interpretations on other cultures. I have done it myself when travelling. Once, when I was in Nha Trang, Vietnam, I saw a big truck drive by with a bunch of folks wearing white robes and throwing paper with writing on it out the back. I immediately assumed that it was some sort of communist propaganda campaign. It seemed so odd. Later I found out it was a funeral. Totally different. After a few experiences like this, I am getting better at asking and not assuming.
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By michi
#26177
rachelnguyen wrote:I don't know anything about the so called 'bush telegraph' but I do know that drums are used as a sort of communication. We all know there are certain rhythms for particular purposes. For example, Madan is a wedding song. My teacher has told me that back before cell phones, if you heard Madan being played, you knew there was a wedding going on and you would go.
Yes, I agree, that's a form of communication, albeit a very simple one, and not like spoken language. The information content of the signal is too low to convey information of the complexity (or anywhere near it) that can be conveyed by speaking.
As to djembes having their own language... I know there are certain phrases that are used as insults, for example. Drummers raz one another by playing them. I can never remember what they are, though.... which might be a good thing, LOL.
I've come across that too, as well as "calling" another drummer by playing a certain phrase. However, that's not a language (in the sense of a spoken language or even morse code) because the signal is highly context-dependent. In effect, the drummer being called knows that a session is scheduled round about now anyway, he's been called with that signal before, he knows that he is late, and he probably expects to hear it :) (I've witnessed this several times in the past, specifically when Bangourake was calling Sibo at the start of a session…)
I think that it is particularly common for folks to impose their own interpretations on other cultures.
Yes. Perception bias, and preconceived notions can seriously get in the way. Your propaganda example is an excellent one!

At any rate, talk of the djembe being used a communication device along the lines of a telephone is nonsense. There is no such thing in Malinke tradition for as least as far back as we have records. It also seems unlikely that any such thing existed prior to colonialisation. That's based on the assumption that, once people have a means of instant and remote communication, it is so useful they are highly unlikely to stop using it. (Speculation on my part, yes, I know…)

Cheers,

Michi.
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By Waraba
#26181
In Mali I learned to say "I circumcise you" and "I circumcise you again" (bee-joo-fra, bee-joo-fra-joo-fra!; that is, tone-bass-flamslap, tone-bass-flamslap-bass-flamslap).

In American jazz we have a melodic phrase that means, "Your mammy don't wear no drawers!" that may be used to welcome a colleague into the room.

Wondering if James can contribute to this discussion, perhaps we can start an Insulting-djembe-language thread?
Last edited by Waraba on Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Dugafola
#26184
michi wrote:
As to djembes having their own language... I know there are certain phrases that are used as insults, for example. Drummers raz one another by playing them. I can never remember what they are, though.... which might be a good thing, LOL.
I've come across that too, as well as "calling" another drummer by playing a certain phrase. However, that's not a language (in the sense of a spoken language or even morse code) because the signal is highly context-dependent. In effect, the drummer being called knows that a session is scheduled round about now anyway, he's been called with that signal before, he knows that he is late, and he probably expects to hear it :) (I've witnessed this several times in the past, specifically when Bangourake was calling Sibo at the start of a session…)
i've learned many complete phrases on jembe that come from a malinke phrase.

i have the malinke written down, but for example:
fatoumata, don't drop the dishes
koumba, young girl, come
come eat big rice

everyone does the name calling, but i've only seen a handful of jembefola really 'speak' on the drum.
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By Michel
#26185
In Casamance they had like a huge krin, they called 'tam-tam telephonique'. Its sound was incredible, and in the old days, but still sometimes with traditional occasions, used for communication between islands. But it was not a drum like a jembe.
User avatar
By michi
#26187
Hi Michel, thanks for that!

Do you have any more info I could follow up on? I really would like to learn more about drums being used for communication (djembe or otherwise).

Where did you come across this info?

Cheers,

Michi.
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By Dugafola
#26195
Michel wrote:In Casamance they had like a huge krin, they called 'tam-tam telephonique'. Its sound was incredible, and in the old days, but still sometimes with traditional occasions, used for communication between islands. But it was not a drum like a jembe.
speaking of telephones...dibo camara teaches a jembe rhythm called telephone.