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Free «African Music» Essay Sample

What are the possible explanations for why Miriam Makeba "sometimes eliminated the jazz swing she had given [her songs] back in South Africa" (225)?

Ansell says that Miriam Makeba was an astute professional who needed to find an audience niche. Another reason was that there was an Amerocentrism in the mainstream U.S jazz market that was reluctant to accept or engage with the jazz traditions of other countries. It was noted that African jazz players like Miriam Makeba eliminated jazz swing because she encountered folk identity while trying to break into the scene. Ansell continues to say that the scene of jazz music was so big that any new musical flavor received scant attention (225).

Another reason why Miriam Makeba eliminated the jazz swing she had given her song back in South Africa was because the albums mixed originals and jazz standards including the South African standard ‘Ntyilo Ntyilo’ with covers of contemporary pop and sometimes with spoken introductions informing audiences about some facets in South Africa. Ansell says that they were politically aware that American jazz players listening to African music and becoming involved in solidarity struggles a situation which could be practically applicable to Miriam Makeba’s songs and therefore she eliminated jazz swing in her songs back in South Africa (225).



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Describe two or three very concrete ways in which the ideas and/or practices of Arabic music theory have changed in the past century.

Jankowsky says that microrhythmic measurements were made using sonograms that were generated by pro 5.2 software. This implies that the use of software’s greatly influenced Arabic Music in Africa because of the practicalities and ethics from Western music notation (212). Jankowsky further says that the logic underlying the system of Western notation namely the assumption that rhythmically regular music could be fitted into a framework of regular underlying pulses was fundamental to the changes in Arabic music theory.

The second theory is on the basis of metrical ambiguity which in Arabic music is a representative of musico-cultural alterity in the context of Africa where it can be found that in a diversity of musical practices such as the Berber and urban Arab daqqa. Jankowsky says that although the changes are common feature over the past centuries it is rare to encounter normative changes in the relative spacing between Arabic music articulations (213).

What are some of the reasons that some Muslims consider music to be haram?

Gazzah says that Muslims consider music as an emotion that is identification with another fantasy world (164). This to Muslims implies that if that world is bad then that is not good for them hence some of them say that music is haram. In Muslim, the objection to music here focuses on the danger of losing control over someone’s feelings, emotions, behavior of changing their mood by means of music (Gazzah 164). According to Gazzah losing control over an individual’s emotions and bodily movements and changing his or her mood is a situation that should only be caused by Allah and not music. At the same time when this is brought about by music they refer to it as haram.

Muslim’s consider music haram because it can lead to moving on the rhythm and that can lead to dancing of women, dancing women, and men (Gazzah 164). He also says that Muslims say that music can lead to sensual and sexual feelings, women dancing in front of men. It is also forbidden because it brings shame to their faith and keeps someone from doing serious things one can do for his or her religion. Campo on the other hand says that some Muslims regard listening to music and dancing as forbidden activities including basically all entertainment ranging from cinema and music as haram (291). Studies also show that the compatibility of music and Islam are rooted in religious imagery and socio-cultural norms on what is acceptable in Muslim.

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Define takht and firqa and explain the differences between them.

Takht according to Zuhur is a word that indicates both an instrumental ensemble and the platform upon which the musicians performed (142). Zuhur further says that this means that singers were accompanied by takht as an ensemble that featured instruments of complementary timbres: the ud a pear shaped, round bellied, plucked lute; the qanun, a trapezoidal zither and the kamanja. In most cases takht rhythmic role of the riqq was often played for both practical and aesthetic reasons by the darbakka which is an hourglass shaped ceramic one headed drum (Zuhur 142).

Firqa is a music ensemble in Arabic music which is an ensemble consisting of ten or more performers which developed out of the smaller takht ensemble and became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Davis on the other hand says that firqa performed at weddings and other communal celebrations but they dissociated themselves from the youth ensemble and festival (76). The major difference between takht and firqa was that takht was a small ensemble interms of the performers while firqa was a big ensemble consisting of upto ten performers. Firqa was large orchestral band made up of traditional Arabic instruments from the Middle East while takht was a form of instrumental group that originated in Arabic music traditions

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Describe the historical genesis and formal characteristics of the genre 'ughniya'.

Ughniya was developed during the interwar period. ughniya was a popular song in the 70s, which included singers such as Umm Kulthum, Abd al-Wahhab, and Abdul Halim Hafiz. Göçek says that ughniya differed structurally from previous genres (247). The singers used a mixture of modernist and traditionalist imagery (Göçek 247). He further says that the formal characteristics of this type of music were mapped onto a given singer or song’s popularity in simple quantitative terms. This type of genre placed a lot of emphasizes on innovativeness and there was no consensus on the compatibility of harmony with Arabic music.

Describe the stylistic influences in Swahili taarab. What do these influences tell us about Swahili culture and Swahili identity?

Probst and Spittler says that the Swahili taraab had a great deal of influences because of its deliberate reshuffling of generic boundaries and the creation of new inter-textual relationships (265). This type of music produced a number of possible linkages by alluding to a range of different forms and options that were created by them before launching a departure towards some as yet uncharted territory. Probst and Spittler also indicated that the popularity of taraab and its contemporary derivatives under the new laissez faire regime and the current libertarian media policy envisaged the popularity of taraab (226).

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The taraab’s style of lyrical development and orchestral style are described as the real taraab. According to Dawe after the 1964 revolution, they left taraab subdued because there were tales of censorship, requirement for political lyrics hence the critique of taraab as a supposedly bourgeois entertainment not in line with socialist development (172). Dawe established that “this style of music asserted itself as the most popular with the audience and by becoming the islands quais national sound” (172).

In many East Africa communities taraab was embedded in a cultural praxis that spans larger fields of cultural interaction in time and space (Probst and Spittler 269). This enabled the communities to receive value systems hence ushering the degrading influence of the global media. On the Swahili identity taraab caused an interpretation of African poetic and performing arts informed by the hegemonial nature of post-colonial reasoning about Swahili culture by professional’s social scientists, local politicians, local intellectuals and other self appointed guardians of so called traditional values of the Swahili identity.

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What, according to Schyuler, are some of "the complexities of local knowledge that international consumers [of Jajouka] are not yet prepared to hear"?

Schyuler says that Jajouka seems to have been lost in the mists of hype from the press, the musician’s friends, and the musicians themselves (158). He further indicated that it represented a tiny local style that came to the international market place burdened with more bullshit than any music can bear (Schyuler 158). The musicians of Jajouka were known to use magic as one of their promotional strategy a local knowledge that international consumers were not prepared to hear.

Other complexities were based on the musicians family name in which the musicians descent from an ancient lineage reaching back to the Persian mystic. Also the villagers tell a variety of different stories about their origins (Schyuler 158). The local knowledge that the saints power of healing was claimed by the musicians who said that they were conduits for the saint’s power which they conveyed through the touch of their hands and instruments (Schyuler 158).

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Schyuler further says that another complexity of the local knowledge of Jajouka was the characters involved in the music that included an old man, a local manifestation of the Moroccan she devil (159). The last local knowledge complexity was that this type of music was based on the male principle and ambiguous sexuality and therefore Western accounts of Jajouka have folded back on themselves, reentering the mythology of the village itself.


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