Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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isolation in the jungle. The Congo area probably has the most highly developed visual art tradition in Africa.
The uses of music in Africa
In Africa, music has many uses. It performs the function of ac­companying all sorts of activities, but there is also music for enter­tainment. Some of the general characteristics usually given for music in nonliterate societies do not appear strongly in Africa. For example, the idea that participation in music in a primitive society is quite gen­eral and that all persons participate equally cannot be accepted. In contrast to many tribes elsewhere, there are professional musicians who actually make their living from music, or who are regarded as trained specialists. There are so many instruments that it would be ridiculous to think that all members of a tribe could perform on all of them and know all of the tribe's music. But it cannot be denied that Africans, on the whole, do participate in musical life much more —and more actively, singing, playing, composing, dancing—than do members of Western civilization.
Obviously, also, Africans think about music a good deal. For example, some tribes recognize many different types of songs and have elaborate terms for them. Thus, according to Merriam,1 the Bahutu of Ruanda have at least twenty-four different types of social songs, including "those played by professional musicians for enter­tainment, songs for beer drinking, war homage to a chief, hunting, harvesting, and general work; songs sung at the birth of a child or to admonish erring members of the society, to recount a successful elephant hunt, to deride Europeans; songs of death, vulgar songs, and others." These categories are separate from the other large group of ceremonial or religious songs. Some of these types are again sub­divided by the Bahutu, who, for example, distinguish among differ­ent kinds of songs associated with canoes: Different songs are used when paddling against a strong current, when paddling with the current, and so forth.
The Watusi, also of Ruanda, whose lives center about their cat­tle, have many song types involving cattle: "songs in praise of cows,
1 Alan P. Merriam, "African Music" in Continuity and Change in African Cultures, ed. William Bascom and Melville J. Herskovits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), p. 50.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III