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British Forum for Ethnomusicology

Review: [untitled]
Author(s): Marie-Laure Manigand
Reviewed work(s):
Yoruba Drums from Benin, West Africa
Source: British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol. 6 (1997), pp. 215-216
Published by: British Forum for Ethnomusicology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3060846
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British Journal
of Ethnomusicology,
vol. 6
(1997) British Journal
of Ethnomusicology,
vol. 6
(1997)
no
longer played.
I would have liked
large
embaire
xylophone groups
to feature more in
the selection, but
perhaps they
deserve to
get
a
CD all to themselves in the future!
Track 1
opens
with an
engaging song by
the
blind musician Mata
playing endongo
"thumb
piano" (lamellaphone;
N.B. not a
lyre
as in
Buganda) accompanied by
fiddle and flute I
personally
like the
way
the fiddle and flute
entries are
delayed, though
I
suspect
that this is
not
typical
in such
performances.
It does
however
provide
an
opportunity
to hear the
endingidi one-stringed
tube fiddle clearly-the
subtleties of its sound are often lost
among
other instruments.
The ensembles of
Sirage (tracks 5, 13-14)
and Kasaata (tracks 7-10)
are
superb,
and
famous beyond
the borders of
Busoga.
These
tracks are
simply enthralling, showcasing
how
xylophone,
thumb
pianos, flute, panpipes,
fiddle, drums, rattles and
song
are woven
together.
A
pleasing
feature of some of these
recordings
is the
way
in which the
performers
bring
different instruments in turn
slightly
to the
foreground
of the sound
tapestry.
The
fascinating recording
of the Okusamira
ritual (track 11)
is
powerfully propelled by
the
four drums of a drum-chime (also
featured
accompanying
women's
songs
in track
6),
though describing
such rituals as
"religious
theatre" is
perhaps open
to
misinterpretation:
the
strength
of belief in
supernatural
forces is
much
greater
than the term theatre would
suggest.
Track 12 is a bit of a
curiosity,
and seems
by
far the weakest choice on the disc. Cooke was
informed that it is
played
in
kinyole style,
and
his
description
of the
rhythm
of that
style
(3+3+2)
and his
transcription
would be
plausible.
However, that is not what is
actually
played
in this case: the
timing
seems to be
somewhere confusingly
intermediate, between
the isochronous amadinda
style
and the
kinyole
style
as described. When the
parts
are
played
together,
the overall
rhythm
is in sets of six
pulse units, not
eight
as in the
transcription.
It is
unclear whether the
performance
was meant to
be that
way,
or whether the "six
young players"
were
perhaps
not
fully expert
in a
style
that
probably belongs
more to
people
of
neighbour-
ing parts
of
Busoga.
Including analytical recordings
in the final
recordings (12-13) might
be
questioned
for a
CD of this kind.
Personally,
I like the chance to
hear the
separate parts,
to
help
hear how the
whole is
put together.
Track 13 shows how it
can be done well, making pleasant listening,
no
longer played.
I would have liked
large
embaire
xylophone groups
to feature more in
the selection, but
perhaps they
deserve to
get
a
CD all to themselves in the future!
Track 1
opens
with an
engaging song by
the
blind musician Mata
playing endongo
"thumb
piano" (lamellaphone;
N.B. not a
lyre
as in
Buganda) accompanied by
fiddle and flute I
personally
like the
way
the fiddle and flute
entries are
delayed, though
I
suspect
that this is
not
typical
in such
performances.
It does
however
provide
an
opportunity
to hear the
endingidi one-stringed
tube fiddle clearly-the
subtleties of its sound are often lost
among
other instruments.
The ensembles of
Sirage (tracks 5, 13-14)
and Kasaata (tracks 7-10)
are
superb,
and
famous beyond
the borders of
Busoga.
These
tracks are
simply enthralling, showcasing
how
xylophone,
thumb
pianos, flute, panpipes,
fiddle, drums, rattles and
song
are woven
together.
A
pleasing
feature of some of these
recordings
is the
way
in which the
performers
bring
different instruments in turn
slightly
to the
foreground
of the sound
tapestry.
The
fascinating recording
of the Okusamira
ritual (track 11)
is
powerfully propelled by
the
four drums of a drum-chime (also
featured
accompanying
women's
songs
in track
6),
though describing
such rituals as
"religious
theatre" is
perhaps open
to
misinterpretation:
the
strength
of belief in
supernatural
forces is
much
greater
than the term theatre would
suggest.
Track 12 is a bit of a
curiosity,
and seems
by
far the weakest choice on the disc. Cooke was
informed that it is
played
in
kinyole style,
and
his
description
of the
rhythm
of that
style
(3+3+2)
and his
transcription
would be
plausible.
However, that is not what is
actually
played
in this case: the
timing
seems to be
somewhere confusingly
intermediate, between
the isochronous amadinda
style
and the
kinyole
style
as described. When the
parts
are
played
together,
the overall
rhythm
is in sets of six
pulse units, not
eight
as in the
transcription.
It is
unclear whether the
performance
was meant to
be that
way,
or whether the "six
young players"
were
perhaps
not
fully expert
in a
style
that
probably belongs
more to
people
of
neighbour-
ing parts
of
Busoga.
Including analytical recordings
in the final
recordings (12-13) might
be
questioned
for a
CD of this kind.
Personally,
I like the chance to
hear the
separate parts,
to
help
hear how the
whole is
put together.
Track 13 shows how it
can be done well, making pleasant listening,
without
unduly disturbing
the
continuity
of the
whole, and
serving
as a
very informative
accompaniment
to the
transcription provided.
Finally,
in an innovative measure to hold
down costs, full romanisation and
English
translation of the
lyrics
can be had on a PC or
Macintosh disk from AIMP, Musee d'Ethno-
graphie,
65-67 Blvd
Carl-Vogt
CP191, CH
1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland.
Peter Cooke has done us a
great
service
by
following
sounds to their authentic source,
bringing
back some
jewels
of
Ugandan
music. I
strongly
recommend this admirable collection.
Busoga
is a
region
where
people buy
and listen
to traditional music; let us
hope
that this
recording
will be available there too.
JAMES MICKLEM
h.micklem@ed.ac.uk
without
unduly disturbing
the
continuity
of the
whole, and
serving
as a
very informative
accompaniment
to the
transcription provided.
Finally,
in an innovative measure to hold
down costs, full romanisation and
English
translation of the
lyrics
can be had on a PC or
Macintosh disk from AIMP, Musee d'Ethno-
graphie,
65-67 Blvd
Carl-Vogt
CP191, CH
1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland.
Peter Cooke has done us a
great
service
by
following
sounds to their authentic source,
bringing
back some
jewels
of
Ugandan
music. I
strongly
recommend this admirable collection.
Busoga
is a
region
where
people buy
and listen
to traditional music; let us
hope
that this
recording
will be available there too.
JAMES MICKLEM
h.micklem@ed.ac.uk
Yoruba drums
from Benin,
West
Africa. CD,
Smithsonian/Folkways
CD SF 40440; 1996.
Booklet
(32p.) by
Marcos Branda Lacerda.
This CD is the result of a collaboration between
the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington
and
the International Insitute for Traditional Music
in Berlin (with
some
editing input
from the
International Council for Traditional Music),
and the
eighth publication
in their series "The
world's musical traditions". It is also
amongst
the last
publication projects
of the IITM before
it ceased to exist in 1996 due to an unfortunate
withdrawal of
funding
which has seen this
productive
and influential institution, over three
decades old and with even more ancient roots,
disappear
almost
overnight,
to the
general
dis-
belief of the
ethnomusicology community.
The music
presented
here was recorded in
1987
by
Marcos Branda Lacerda in the course
of his field research in Yoruba
religious
drumming
in Benin. The
recordings
were made
in the towns of Ketou, Sakete, Pobe and
Adjarra
to the south and southeast of the
country.
In his
introductory notes, Branda Lacerda stresses
how little work has been done to this
day
on the
study
of Yoruba cult music from this West
African country
in
comparison
with the
relatively
well-researched Yoruba music of its
Nigerian neighbour,
this
despite
the fact that
Benin has been an
important
centre of Yoruba
culture and the
birthplace
of a number of cults
practiced beyond
the African continent in Latin
America and the Caribbean. The
scarcity
of
published recordings
from Benin in
general,
let
Yoruba drums
from Benin,
West
Africa. CD,
Smithsonian/Folkways
CD SF 40440; 1996.
Booklet
(32p.) by
Marcos Branda Lacerda.
This CD is the result of a collaboration between
the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington
and
the International Insitute for Traditional Music
in Berlin (with
some
editing input
from the
International Council for Traditional Music),
and the
eighth publication
in their series "The
world's musical traditions". It is also
amongst
the last
publication projects
of the IITM before
it ceased to exist in 1996 due to an unfortunate
withdrawal of
funding
which has seen this
productive
and influential institution, over three
decades old and with even more ancient roots,
disappear
almost
overnight,
to the
general
dis-
belief of the
ethnomusicology community.
The music
presented
here was recorded in
1987
by
Marcos Branda Lacerda in the course
of his field research in Yoruba
religious
drumming
in Benin. The
recordings
were made
in the towns of Ketou, Sakete, Pobe and
Adjarra
to the south and southeast of the
country.
In his
introductory notes, Branda Lacerda stresses
how little work has been done to this
day
on the
study
of Yoruba cult music from this West
African country
in
comparison
with the
relatively
well-researched Yoruba music of its
Nigerian neighbour,
this
despite
the fact that
Benin has been an
important
centre of Yoruba
culture and the
birthplace
of a number of cults
practiced beyond
the African continent in Latin
America and the Caribbean. The
scarcity
of
published recordings
from Benin in
general,
let
215 215
216 British Journal of Ethnomusicology,
vol 6 (1997)
alone from its Yoruba territory, certainly
adds
weight to his claim.
Aside from
attempting
to
rectify
this
research imbalance, which in
my
view can be
explained historically,
another one of Branda
Lacerda's stated aims is to
go deeper
into the
roots of West African drumming,
which has had
a considerable international
impact
in recent
decades
through
the rise of African
popular
music
yet
has simultaneously largely
lost its
link with traditional values and contexts-even
at home. According
to the recordist,
the distinct
advantage
of researching
this drumming
tradition in Benin is that some of the drums
found there can be seen as ancient in
origin
and
are still
played
for
strictly
ritualistic
purposes.
The
types
of
rhythms
featured in the record-
ings
are
played by
bata and dundun drum
ensembles, and
mostly
devoted to the
worship
of the Yoruban deity Shango
and of the
Egun-
gun
(spirits
of the dead). Shango,
the
deity
of
thunder, is described as a
prominent
"orisha" in
both traditional and
contemporary
Yoruba
culture. Seven
pieces played
on the CD
by
three
different ensembles
belong
to the
repertoire
for
Shango.
The music of the cult for the
Egungun,
the
spirits
of the deceased ancestors of a
family
or community,
is
performed publicly
at mas-
querades;
it is
exemplified
here in another
eight
pieces
also
played by
different bata or dundun
ensembles. Completing
these
recordings
are two
tracks of Gelede
masquerade
music
performed
by
the
Nago people,
a Yoruba
subgroup, during
which a re-enactment of female and male
powers
is
played out, and a final track
featuring
Ifa divination music.
The bata drums (double-headed
conical
drums),
with which both
Shango
and
Egungun
cults are
closely associated,
are
part
of an
ensemble exclusively composed
of membrano-
phones,
with a
support
section of three drums
(omele ako, omele abo and eki),
a mother drum
(iya ilu) which interacts with the
support drums,
and an
interconnecting
drum
(eki) which
interacts with the mother drum. The
pieces
performed
are in
binary
or
ternary rhythms.
The
written notes
accompanying
the
recordings
present
a detailed analysis
of the drums and
their drumming patterns, giving
for each
instrument its measurements, pitch and trans-
cribed
examples
of its
rhythmic part
in the
ensemble. They
also describe the drums'
relationship
to the dances that
accompany
the
pieces
and
generally provide
the listener with a
full
picture
of the various elements involved in
the music.
The dundun drums (double-headed hourglass
drums)
receive less attention here and do not
receive the
rigorous analysis provided
for the
bata, but an
interesting
connection is made
between the solo bass drum
(iya ilu) of the
dundun ensemble and the Yoruba
language.
Like all other
recordings published
in the
same series, this
publication
is of
high quality,
with extensive documentation, including
biblio-
graphical references, provided
in the 32-
page
booklet. It is a
precise
and
thorough
examina-
tion of some of the
drumming styles
found in
Yoruba territory
in Benin
today.
For these
reasons, I
imagine
that it would rate
high
with
students and researchers investigating
the
drumming
traditions of West Africa or their
New World descendants. The scientific focus
and
presentation
of this
publication,
however,
make it inaccessible to the casual listener, as
one can
only
make sense of the
drumming
pieces
in relation to the
accompanying
commentary.
MARIE-LAURE MANIGAND
International Music Collection
British Library
National Sound Archive
marie-laure.manigand@bl.uk