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Music In Africa

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Music and dance are so related closely in African thinking that it is difficult for them to separate song from movement or speech from playing the drum. In this case, the arts are a part of everyday normal life. Life cycle events including, but not limited to, birth, puberty and death are celebrated with a musical performance.

Because music is so integral to society, everyone is expected to be able to sing and dance at a certain level of proficiency. Beyond that, certain people are selected for special musical training. These exceptional performers tend to reply on the help of spirits for guidance, which demand high performance from the individual.

Musical instruments in West Africa are not just objects; they are semi-human as they take on human characteristics. These instruments, usually played by master musicians, can have personal names, be kept in special houses and may be "fed" sacrificial food.

The Kpelle people have two different categories of instruments: fee (blown) or yale (struck). Other cultures emphasize gender attributes of instruments for classification, or with social designations such as chief, father, mother or child.

Because music is an integral part of life, it is found everywhere, even the market. In an example from the book, a trip to the market brought everything from cigarette sellers to quasi-performances from someone practicing the Woi epic. Passer-bys would stop by to watch and participate as supporting actors or musicians. (CD track 2: Kalu Lee, Lee)

Being constantly on the move, Woi, the superhuman specialist and the first Kpelle person, once met an anthill who was blocking the way of his house. In this tale, Woi got the help of an anteater and mole who dug a tunnel under the hill so that the house could pass.

In the chorus of Woi, there are two different singing parts: both singing the same thing, but one repeated after the first and at a different interval. This use of faceting and interlocking and alternating parts, is greatly admired in the West African culture and is the highest form of performance.

Another example is from a horn ensemble (CD track 3: Tranverse Horn Ensemble). In this case, the players were playing a very short motif that was interlocked with that of the other musicians, turning into a larger pattern, or hocket.

While hard at work bush clearing, music could still be heard. Men who were not cutting were playing short patterns of several notes that interlocked with the other instrument's



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