Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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songs to indicate the importance of having cows, songs for taking cattle home in the evening ... for drawing water for the cattle,"2 and the like. There are special children's cattle songs, songs to praise the royal cattle, and songs that recount historical events in which cattle have played a part. There are two points to be remembered here: This classification of songs is one developed by the Africans themselves; and the music is a part of those activities which are most fundamental in the culture. In this sense, perhaps, music in African life can be said to have a greater or more important role than it does in Western civilization.
It would be useless to attempt to catalogue all the uses of music in African Negro music. In many ways they parallel those of Euro­pean folk music: Religious and ceremonial music is an ever-present category whose importance evidently increases as we move from complex to simpler cultures. The large amount of music for enter­tainment, such as the playing of xylophones at markets, is remarka­ble. Social songs, such as those mentioned above, are a larger category here than in most folk and nonliterate societies. The use of music for political purposes of various sorts should be noted. Evidently in some of the African tribes it is easier to indicate discontent with em­ployers or with the government if the discontent is sung than if it is spoken. We therefore find many songs expressing criticism of au­thority, but also songs composed especially to praise chiefs and wealthy men. Songs are used also to spread current events of inter­est and gossip, and to perpetuate knowledge of these events, much in the way that broadside ballads functioned as newspapers in eight­eenth-century England and America. Work songs—songs not only dealing with labor but also accompanying rhythmic work by groups and making it easier—are prominent in Africa. In the Western Congo, song-like passages appear in the litigations of clans and individuals who may argue about ownership of territory, wives, or honorific titles.
Music and tone languages
In addition to music in the proper sense of the word, the use of musical sounds for signaling purposes is common in Africa. The
2 Merriam, "African Music," p. 53.

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