African Tribal Music Essay Research Paper In

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African Tribal Music Essay, Research Paper In our Western culture, we have always been entertained and pleased by the sound of music. Whether listening to the radio or going to a live concert, the music itself is usually considered a form of art or past time for the listener and the performer. While some can connect, relate to, or even “feel” the power of the music, not many westerners can comprehend “living” the music. In African tribal culture, the people have done just that since ancient times. They have spent each day using the music along with their work, daily routines, ceremonies, rituals, and gatherings. To them, the sound that is produced from their instruments and voice is more than a product of creativity of a group of musicians, it is a gift from the Gods

which has high symbolic meaning and serves a purpose. In our modern, hi-tech, wireless society, the significance of music is something we have long forgotten, or may have never understood at all, and is certainly something that is taken for granted. As this essay will show you, the connection with and use of music by the African tribal people, in comparison to its purpose in Western culture, has much more valuable spiritual significance. Let us start with a general overview of the whole original tribal aspect of African music. The word “tribal” “refers to the language spoken, sometimes to political entities, and sometimes to other kinds of groupings of the African people and their boundaries” (Britannica Online). The general idea of a tribe is an attempt to impose

identity from the outside, so in a sense, “tribe” could mean “ethnic identity”. So basically, a tribe can be a small group of people who live and travel together and have certain customs and rituals unlike any other group, a certain language spoken in a specific area of Africa, or even a huge empire comprised of very different kinds of people. Tribal music was found in two general areas of Africa, the Maghrib area, north of the Sahara desert, and the southern sub-Saharan area. The musical influences of the tribes really intertwined because of the constant migration and interactions between the people of the different tribes. Due to the fact that there were so many different tribes in Africa, some that are still unknown till this day, each musical style is almost

impossible to classify. Ethnomusicologists, who research music origins around the world in comparison to their cultures, use four ways of classifying African tribal musical styles. Geography is a variable since there are people in different areas that create different types of music. Technology applies because style in some areas really differs based on the materials of the instruments or ability to make the instruments and create the music. Individuality is important because each musician is different, but it’s hard, even for experts, to be familiar with and make distinctions between all the different pieces that so many musicians of many tribes can create. And last of all is “institution, in that the creation of works of art takes place under the influence of the social and

cultural institutions characteristic of any given location” (Britannica Online). These are very general concepts, but they give an idea of categorizing the music of the tribes. There are many generalizations about the African music-culture that can be made showing the significance of tribal music. Unlike the West, where most music is pretty much considered “art for art’s sake”, the tribal music of the African people serves a social function. “African music often happens in social situations where people’s primary goals are not artistic. Instead, music is for ceremonies (life cycle rituals, festivals), work (subsistence, childcare, domestic chores, wage labor), or play (games, parties, lovemaking). Music-making contributes to an event’s success by focusing attention,