AFRICAN MUSIC AND THE RELATED ARTS: INTERDISCIPLINARY EXPLORATIONS

nb: to be expanded and adapted to suit Semester sytsem

COURSE OBJECTIVE

This course will explore the significant interrelationships among the arts of Africa, with special attention to music,
dance, poetry, storytelling, visual and dramatic expressions. The goal is to increase a deeper understanding, and
hence better appreciation of the artistic-aesthetic, communal, ritual, and general functions of the arts in everyday life
without undermining their essential interrelatedness. Additionally, students will be equipped with analytical tools,
ideas, and contextual information drawn from diverse cultural groups, in time and space. Selections will include,
among others, contemporary performance traditions, such as popular secular and religious (i.e., indigenous, Christian,
Islamic, secret societies, etc.), and those employed routinely in rites of passage. Students will gain close familiarity with
specific examples through hands-on, audiovisual and live presentations. The course will also explore in detail traits
unique to each category (or genre) of art (such as music, dance, mask form) in order to raise students’ sensitivity
toward local creative genius, innovative tendencies, and the communal values that frame the arts and the experiences
associated with them. Finally, the course will create a framework that would facilitate the appreciation of the influences
of the African arts on other world cultures.

REQUIREMENTS:
ALL: Students will complete major term projects or research papers, which must be approved by the instructor before
work is begun. With the permission of the instructor and in special cases a student may undertake a research project
practice in nature, such as a performance, making or construction of specific domestic and commercial arts and crafts bu
t which must be supported by basic research documentation to indicate student’s understanding and awareness of the
related literature, processes, uses and functions of the arts involved. Students will be encouraged to visit, observe and
experience some class and public events that relate to the course material.

All research writings must follow, consistently, any one of the standard academic citation formats, such as the latest version
of the Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, APA, etc., including Internet sources. Papers must wordprocessed, using Times
Roman 12 points, with no less that 7 words per line. Undergraduates: A term paper of a minimum of 7 pages, excluding
bibliographies and appendices. (See instructor if working on practical project)
Graduates: Extended research paper of 10 pages, minimum, excluding bibliographies and appendices.
(See instructor if working on practical project)

 

 


TIME TABLE

WEEKLY SCHEDULE*

Week One
1. Overview of syllabus
i. Introduction to African societies and cultures:
ii. The arts in everyday life--1: overview of pre- and postcolonial heritage
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--Selections from Basil Davidson’s 8 videocassette series (1984) Africa; The Story of a Continent
--J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa, chapter 2: Music in Community Life
--Peggy Harper, “Dance in a Changing Society”
“African art in the cycle of life” website summaries: http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/
“Sights and Sounds of Africa” website http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/AfricaFocus/

Week Two
2. The arts in everyday life--1: Unity in Diversity
i. categories, definitions, foundations, uses and functions of the arts; aesthetics, sense of beauty, and “art for life’s sake”
ii. Ancestral traditions and the role of the arts in rites of passage
iii. training and levels of professionalism among artists, performers; artisans and guilds (wood, leather, metal working, etc.),
and performing ensembles

Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“Rethinking Definitions of African Traditional and Popular Arts,” Mary Jo Arnoldi, African Studies Review, Vol. 30, No. 3 (1987), pp. 79-83
--“Indigenous African Theatre,” E. T. Kirby, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 18, No. 4, Indigenous Theatre Issue (Dec., 1974), pp. 22-35
--“A Tsonga Initiation,” Thomas Johnston, African Arts vol. 7, No. 4 (1974), pp. 60-62
--“Performing Groups and their Music,” Chapter 3; J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa
Recruitment and Training of Musicians,” Chapter 4, J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa

Week Three
3. Fundamentals of African music--1
i. limitations of the Western concept of “music” and the African holistic, interarts understanding
ii. The importance of context and function in African music
iii. Varieties of musical instruments and ethnic diversity; influence of language on performance and construction of musical instruments

Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“Musical Traditions of Africa,” Chapter 1, The Music of Africa, J.H. Nketia,”
--“The Conventions of Musical Practice,” Chapter 20, The Music of Africa, J.H. Nketia
--“ Thought Systems Informing the Musical Arts,” Elizabeth Oehrle and Lawrence Emeka
--“ African Aesthetics? An Introduction with Examples from the Music of the Anlo-Ewe,” Daniel Avorgbedor

Week Four
4. Fundamentals of African music: 2 Interrelationships
i. Basic principles and foundations for the integrating the arts
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“Interrelations of Music and Dance,” Chapter 18, The Music of Africa, J.H. Nketia
--“Thought Systems Informing the Musical Arts,” Elizabeth Oehrle and Lawrence Emeka
--“Is Dance Music? Resemblances and Relationships," Judith L. Hanna, World of Music 24(1):57-71
--“The Dynamics of Music and Dance Integrations in Traditional Societies,” Patience Kwakwa
--“Collaborations between Musicians and Dancers,” pp. 228-230, The Music of Africa, J.H. Nketia

Week Five
5. Interrelationships, contd
i. Music in relation to Language/Speech, Poetry, themes and function of Song
ii. Music and Dramatic Expression
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“Speech and Melody,” Chapter 16, J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa
--“The Role of Song Texts,” Chapter 17, J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa
--“ The Dance Drama,’ Chapter 19, J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa
Week Six
6. Interrelationships: music and visual arts, 1: Masked Dance
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“ The Dance Drama,’ Chapter 19, J.H. Nketia, The Music of Africa
--“Dance in the Vai Sande Society,” Lester P. Monts, African Arts, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Aug., 1984), pp. 53-95
--“Meaning and Cultural Context of Masks and Masked Dancing in Central Africa,” Gerhard Kubik
--“Isinyago and Midimu: Masked Dancers of Tanzania and Mozambique,” J. A. R. Wembah-Rashid, African Arts,
Vol. 4, No. 2 (Winter, 1971), pp. 38-44

Week Seven
7. Music in popular theatre
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“Plays, Possession, and Rock-and-Roll: Political Theatre in Africa,” I. Peter Ukpokodu , The Drama Review: TDR (1988-),
Vol. 36, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 28-53
--“Dance in a Changing Society,” Peggy Harper
--“Ideology and Tradition in South African Black Popular Theater,” David B. Coplan, The Journal of American Folklore,
Vol. 99, No. 392 (Apr. - Jun., 1986), pp. 151-176
--“National Erotica: The Politics of "Traditional" Dance in Tanzania,” Laura Edmondson, The Drama Review: TDR (1988-),
Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 153-170

Week Eight
8. Music in storytelling and comic theatre
Readings and Audiovisuals:
-- “Body and Image in Oral Narrative Performance,” Harold Scheub, New Literary History, Vol. 8, No. 3, Oral Cultures and
Oral Performances (Spring, 1977), pp. 345-367
--“The Power of Words in African Verbal Arts,” Philip M. Peek, Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 94, No. 371 (Jan. - Mar., 1981), pp. 19-43
-- “Comic Opera in Ghana Author(s): E. J. Collins Source: African Arts, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jan., 1976), pp. 50-57
--“Reading Blackface in West Africa: Wonders Taken for Signs,” Catherine M. Cole, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 183-215

Week Nine
9. Interrelationship of the arts in popular Christianity and in national cultural, musical and drama troupes
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“National Development and the Performing Arts of Africa,” J.H. Nketia
--“Ghanaian Christianity and Popular Entertainment: Full Circle,” John Collins, History in Africa, Vol. 31 (2004), pp. 407-423
--“Ideology and Tradition in South African Black Popular Theater,” David B. Coplan, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 99, No. 392
(Apr. - Jun., 1986), pp. 151-176
--“Popular Arts in Africa,” Karin Barber, African Studies Review, Vol.30, No. 3(1987), pp.1-78

Week Ten
10. Theoretical Conclusions
Readings and Audiovisuals:
--“The State of Research on Performance in Africa,” Margaret Thompson Drewal, African Studies Review, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 1-64
--“Thought Systems Informing the Musical Arts,” Elizabeth Oehrle and Lawrence Emeka
--“ Text and Performance in Africa,” Karin Barber, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,
Vol. 66, No. 3 (2003), pp. 324-333
--“Musical Understanding: The Ethnoaesthetics of Migrant Workers' Poetic Song in Lesotho,” David B. Coplan, Ethnomusicology,
Vol. 32, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 337-368

 


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