Chapter 10—The River and the Path: Conversation and
Collective Expression in West African Musics
Broughton, Simon, Mark Ellingham, and Jon Lusk (eds.). 2006. The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa & the Middle East. 3rd ed. Rough Guides.
This is a good resource for information on popular music traditions. Articles provide historical information, cultural contexts for performance, descriptions of selected musical genres, and biographical sketches of selected African (including North African/Middle Eastern) musical artists.
Roote, Deane L. et al. (eds.). 2009-. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. Available: http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/(by subscription).
Part of the Oxford Music Online gateway, this online resource includes the full text of the 2d edition of the multi-volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, with ongoing updates. Articles on music by country or region, musical genres, musical instruments, and well-known performers offer valuable information for fact-checking as well as in-depth research.
Stone, Ruth (ed.). 1999. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 1: Africa. Routledge.
Comprehensive and authoritative general reference work on African musics, with articles by leading scholars. Includes a compact disk of illustrative musical examples. Also recommended, the Garland Handbook of African Music, a compilation of articles from this volume, also edited by Stone.
Agawu, Kofi. 2003. Representing African Music. Routledge.
In this work, Agawu, a distinguished musicologist originally from Ghana, challenges many conventional notions and assumptions—scholarly and otherwise—about “African music” (the very existence of which he disputes), including Western conceptions of rhythm in the musics of Africa.
Avorgbedor, Daniel. 2004. The Interrelatedness of Music, Religion, and Ritual in African Performance Practice. Edwin Mellen Press.
An important work by Avorgbedor, an ethnomusicologist who was born and raised in Ghana and now teaches in the United States.
Barz, Gregory F. 2004. Music in East Africa: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. Global Music Series. Oxford University Press.
This introduction to musical performance in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania focuses on music in the lives of individuals and communities and on concepts of performance. It includes coverage of dance and theater traditions as well as musical traditions.
Barz, Gregory. 2005. Singing for Life: HIV/AIDS and Music in Uganda. Routledge.
An impressive and often moving account of the role of music (and ethnomusicology) in a nation’s struggle against the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Berliner, Paul. 1993 (original edition published 1978). The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe. University of Chicago Press Edition.
Classic study of the Shona mbira dzavadzimu of Zimbabwe and its musicultural world. Companion CD is available separately from Nonesuch (Explorer Series 79704-2).
Charry, Eric. 2000. Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The most comprehensive study of Mande music available. Interesting to read and a treasure trove of information and insights. Companion CD available from the publisher. Another important scholar who has published extensively on Mande music (including the kora) is Roderic Knight, whose works are also recommended.
Chernoff, John Miller. 1979. African Rhythm and African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms. University of Chicago Press.
This is in actuality a study of specific West African musics rather than of “African music” more broadly. Scholarly and personal perspectives of the author are combined in a compelling manner. Since the time of its publication, this book has had a great impact in the fields of ethnomusicology and cultural anthropology and beyond.
Erlmann, Veit. Nightsong: Performance, Power, and Practice in South Africa. 1996. University of Chicago Press.
A multidimensional social history of South African isicathamiya music, with extensive discussion of the internationally renowned isicathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and an introduction by that group’s director, Joseph Shabalala.
Eyre, Banning. 2000. In Griot Time: An American Guitarist in Mali. Temple University Press.
Personal in style and centered on evocative portraits of the musical lives of individual musicians, this book paints a vivid picture of Malian musical culture.
Friedson, Steven. 1996. Dancing Prophets: Musical Experience in Tumbuka Healing. University of Chicago Press.
Rich ethnomusicological study of music and dance in healing rituals of the Tumbuka people of Malawi.
Friedson, Steven M. 2009. Remains of Ritual: Northern Gods in a Southern Land. University of Chicago Press.
A recent study of ritual and musical experience among the Ewe people who live on the southern coast of Ghana.
Kisliuk, Michelle. 1998. Seize the Dance! BaAka Musical Life and the Ethnography of Performance. Oxford University Press.
Takes the reader inside the culture of the BaAka “Pygmy” peoples of central Africa through the lens of the author’s personal experiences in music, dance, and cultural advocacy. Includes two compact disks of illustrative examples.
Locke, David. 1998. Drum Gahu: An Introduction to African Rhythm. White Cliffs Media.
An analytical and systematic teaching manual focusing on Gahu, a type of traditional dance and music of Ewe-speaking peoples in Ghana that features drumming-based ensemble music. Includes an illustrative compact disk of illustrative musical examples and exercises and notations that enable the reader to learn to play the music.
Metting, Fred. 2001. The Unbroken Circle: Tradition and Innovation in the Music of Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. Lanham, Maryland and London: Scarecrow Press.
An interesting study of two important American musicians (both guitarists) who have done much to shape the current state of “world music” on a global scale.
Monson, Ingrid (ed). 2000. The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective. Garland.
This collection of essays by leading scholars covers a variety of topics, from jazz to Malian music, within the transcultural framework of the African Diaspora.
Muller, Carol. 2008. Focus: Music of South Africa. 2nd ed. Focus on World Music Series. Routledge.
Accessible introductory text on the musics of South Africa, with significant attention to Paul Simon’s historic Graceland album and other landmarks in the popularization and internationalization of South African musical traditions. Includes a compact disk of illustrative musical examples.
Nketia, J.H. Kwabena. 1974. The Music of Africa. Norton.
A classic introduction to African music, written by a highly distinguished ethnomusicologist who was born and raised in Ghana.
Stone, Ruth M. 2005. Music in West Africa: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. Global Music Series. Oxford University Press.
This introductory text on West African music addresses musical characteristics, key stylistic elements, and the importance of music and dance in everyday social and political life. Particular focus is on performance in Liberia among the Kpelle people.