Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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I 24 AFRICAN MUSIC SOUTH OF THE SAHARA
guage, and other activities appears in some of the xylophone music of the Jabo in Liberia. According to Herzog, a form of evening entertainment is the repeated playing of short phrases on large xylophones which consist of big slabs laid across banana tree trunks.4 These phrases are ordinary music to most listeners, but to a few who have inside knowledge they are musical versions of the tone pat­terns of sentences commenting on current events or mocking a mem­ber of the tribe. The person being mocked may not realize it, and the audience may burst into laughter when a piece that makes fun of an oblivious bystander is played. Sometimes this music is performed by two players sitting on opposite sides of the xylophone. They may perform a single melody together, they may play a canon, or they may repeat a tiny contrapuntal piece based on the speech tones of two sentences or phrases.
General characteristics of African forms
The most striking thing about the forms of African music is their dependence on short units, and in many cases on antiphonal or responsorial techniques. Most African compositions do not have units as long as the stanzas of typical European folk songs. They consist of short phrases that are repeated systematically, or alter­nated, or on which are based longer melodies of a "Fortspinnung" type (i.e., no unit is repeated exactly), in which a motif will reappear in different forms. Typical of the brevity of the phrases is Example 7-1, which in actual performance was probably repeated about fif­teen times.
In instrumental music, short forms of this type are also found distributed over a large part of Africa. Example 7-2, recorded in Johannesburg and performed on the musical bow, consists of a sys­tematic repetition of a rhythmic phrase that uses only two funda­mental pitches. The musical bow, presumably the oldest of string instruments, is shaped like a hunting bow and produces only a very soft sound unless a resonator such as a gourd or a box is attached. The resonator may bring out overtones. In many cases, the player uses his mouth as the resonator; then, by changing the shape of his
4 George Herzog, "Canon in West African Xylophone Melodies," Journal of the American Musicological Society II (1949), 196-97,







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