Pre-colonial musical history in West Africa

Ever since Melville Herskovits’ Myth of the Negro Past gave the lie to the proposition that Africa has no history, researchers have sought the course of change in African societies. Kwabena Nketia is Africa’s premier musicologist. He gave me a copy of his History and the Organization of Music in West Africa when I took his class in 1963 at UCLA. At the end, he makes some remarks I’d like to place in my blog.
“As we have seen, the musical results of contacts in the pre-colonial period differed in their stylistic characteristics. In some cases – such as the case of the Ga and the Ewe of the hinterland, it led to the smoothing out of the edges of tribal specialization, to the widening of the Akan musical area characterized by its emphasis on the heptatonic, and singing inn parallel thirds, the use of heavy drum ensembles, and language as the basis of complex musical rhythms. The widening of this area was the outcome of territorial expansion, backed by efficient militarism and diplomacy. Music was an important ingredient in the territorial organization. Wars were not fought without music – without the drums which kept up morals and gave directions, and the songs which stirred up the various companies into which men were permanently organized or the divisions to which towns and villages were apportioned.”

In come ways, this parallels similar developments in language diffusion

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