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APPLICATIONS OF THE KODALY PHILOSOPHY TO AFRICAN MUSIC by Annetta Miller Given to the International Kodaly Symposium Athens, Greece

August 1989 It is a kind of imperialism for me as a United States citizen to speak about African music at this International Kodaly Symposium. My claim to Africa is that I was born there and have spent 36 years of my life there. Thus I have gained a profound love and respect for the people of that continent and for the music and dance which are a functional part of it. Lest I be misunderstood in my paper, let me add that I am a child of two worlds; in love with Africa and its throbbing rhythmic vitality; in love with Europe and its classical system of music. I would like to share with you some of the uncertainties inherent in a consideration of music education appropriate to Kenya. But before I do that, I think it is important to understand some aspects about Africa its geography, its people, its history, and its music in a brief overview. One cannot begin to understand the music or the associated problems unless one understands the cultural background of the continent. Africa is a vast continent encompassing many cultures. There are broad distinctions to be drawn between the Islamic cultures of Africa on the one hand, and the non-Islamic, traditionbased cultures of Africa, variously influenced by Christianity, on the other. As a generalization, the divide between these two major cultural categories is provided by the Sahara though one must hasten to add that there are in fact many exceptions to this generalization. The Africa I discuss is sub-Sahara Africa, the East Africa especially Kenya which I know. This paper is informed by an awareness that the larger part of Kenyas population is rural. To assume that the music of Africa is the same the continent over is a misleading assumption. The mere size of the continent already provides some indication of enormous variety. Africa is the worlds largest continent. Its area of over 18 million square kilometers is more than three times that of the United States, including Alaska. Or, one could superimpose the whole of China, the United States, Europe, India, Argentina and New Zealand onto Africa. It is a continent of about 600 million people, more than 50 politically independent countries, thousands

of ethnic groups and more than 800 languages. Of the 800 languages, only approximately 45 are written languages. Each language expresses a different culture, a different experience of life, a different musical expression. Yet amidst all the diversity of cultures, music and dance lie at the heart of this great continent. Europe helped to discover Africa through colonial rule. It was Europe which in the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 divided the continent amongst European powers. The French claimed the Ivory Coast, the Portuguese Mozambique, the Italians Somaliland, the British Kenya, etc. The related state boundaries in no sense reflect the reality of the ethnic delineations. Civil strife and social fragmentation is Africas lot; war in the Sudan, in Mozambique, in Angola and in Somalia. Colonialism brought with it Greenwich Meantime to keep proper time. It brought European clothing unsuited to the tropical climate. it brought the Roman alphabet unsuited for the many tonal languages. It brought Christianity the God of the individual as opposed to the God of community. And it brought musical notation too structured to allow for the complexities of African music. Thus Africa is in a state of confusion on issues of time, of dress, of language, of religion, and of music. Inevitable conflict arises as the cultures intersect and interact. 1 The racism accompanying colonialism has left its scars on the African soul. These scars are deep, too deep for words. Was the holocaust of the slave trade which claimed the lives of millions of Africans with some estimates as high as 40 million and the subsequent colonialism the only way for Africa to enter the 20th century? Even after more than two decades of political independence, Africa is still in a decolonizing mode, righting the wrongs of the colonial experience. Unfortunately violence has characterized that process. Franz Fanon in his classic treatise, The Wretched of the Earth, says that violence is a means of purification.2 It has been a dynamic characterizing much of post-colonial Africa. It is in this continuing process of decolonization that Africa is reawakening to its own music. A comparison between the music brought to Africa by the colonial governments and the music already extant in Africa provides an entry point toward understanding the continents music. Understanding the differences not only opens the way to a deeper appreciation of the people who created and use that music but also brings perspective to the western musical world. Such comparisons provide opportunity to examine the merits or the dysfunction of Kodaly methodologies applied in Africa.

Christopher Small suggests that the two basic characteristics of western music referring now to the classical period of only 300 years duration are the perfect cadence and the concert hall.3 These two characteristics have been imposed onto Africa. The perfect cadence refers to the linear conduct of musical material in its tension and resolution created by chords and the characteristic closure of section. Westerners, children of industrial regime, are inclined to organize music into a succession of development, climax, and conclusion. The concert hall, as the second characteristic, is an enclosure where performers on stage entertain a totally silent, ono-participating audience. Manners and dress are prescribed. These values of the perfect cadence and the culture of the concert hall stem from a time in which a leisure class developed; a class declaring its superior tastes.4 In this fashion classical music developed in Europe, in India and in China, to cite the obvious examples. It is this classical music which has been widely regarded as the greatest achievement in sound created by the human community. A strong sense of superiority provided Europe with the confidence to culturally colonize the world and impose its values onto its far-flung empires. Yet a closer look at the sophistication of Indian folk music and the rhythmic complexities of African music makes it clear that western classical music is not a comprehensive musical statement. Africa, due to its social development, due to the continuous oppression of colonialism, and due to its continuing economic difficulties, has never had opportunity to settle into a classical system of music in our western sense. It could do little more than just survive with music playing a sustaining role in that survival. Thus African music has always been for everybody. Music is such an integral part of traditional societies that many languages have no distinct word for it. Music is simply part of the functional human environment. In opposition to the concert hall of western music, African music is seen as action in which all participate, so much so that without participation music has little or no meaning. Small refers to music as a verb and not a noun, as the art of musicking.5 In Africa music is definitely a verb and not a noun. Music fills a central social function in African life with the larger community providing the context. Nketia in his book, The Music of Africa, writes of the strength of social cohesion in such communities, bound by a network of social relations. Social and religious ceremonies, festivals and rites are eagerly appropriated by the community as occasions for collective celebration.6 Without music these events would be rendered lifeless. John Miller Chernoff in African Rhythm

and African Sensibility, refers to music as the realization of community.7 Music for the African is a part of life as religion is a definition of life. Europeans easily segment life into the religious, the economic, the political and the aesthetic. Such segmentation is perceived in Africa as a denial of life. Strangely, death is seen as a continuation of life. In An Introduction to African Religion, John Mbiti claims that a human being can become fully human only in society.8 He goes on to say that the core of this society is the family which includes those not yet born and those who have recently died. Death provides the entry point to the wider community. Music is a bridge between the living community and the ancestors, who, despite their distance from the living, provide a reference point for the maintenance of societys moral fabric. For the westerner, accustomed to the idea of art music, it is difficult to understand how music acts as such an integral part of life or how music functions as the social glue to community survival. It is equally difficult for an African to experience enrichment and sustenance in western music. To an African a western classical composition is dead. An African would rather play with someone than for someone. The product is less important than the occasion for which it is played. Hence the discussion of a melody would focus on the contribution it makes to the community rather than on the melody itself. Music does not have an independent life of its own. Each performance of African music carries with it an element of original creation and is more open-ended than is western music. The duration of a given piece may vary considerably from one performance to the next. Past and future dissolve into the now - extending the most perfunctory ritual into an all night celebration. As might be expected, the cyclical nature of music in Africa is but a reflection of life itself. Activities are carried out for their inherent value or satisfaction and less as a progression toward desired goals. The moment is savored for its own sake. Time moves in cyclical fashion. It is not reckoned as distance. Time is organized primarily in terms of the past and the present. The future is of little significance. African music with its cyclical nature, its lack of the perfect cadence, and its lack of harmonic tensions, and its absence of climax is to be enjoyed moment by moment. The cyclical nature, characteristic of notation-independent cultures, plus the fundamental rhythmic structure of African music sounds strange to the linear western ear. The complexities of poly-rhythms and cross-rhythms can hardly be overstated. Rhythm rather than melody is the focus of African music. An African musician is judged outstanding because of the command of

rhythmic patterns. A.M. Jones in Studies in African Music says, Rhythm is to the African what harmony is to the European, and it is in the complex interweaving of contrasting rhythmic patterns that he finds his greatest aesthetic satisfaction. In African music there is practically always a clash of rhythms.9 The most common cross-rhythms are the three-against-two. Some ethnic groups claim that the triple rhythm is male while the duple or quadruple is seen as female.10 Therefore these rhythms must unite. Rose Brandel in The Music of Central Africa suggests that people of the Renaissance period were used to the triple against duple rhythm 11 as shown in the following Dufay example:12 This example illustrates a simple level of cross-rhythms. In Africa the variety of cross rhythms is practically infinite. The complexities of these musical rhythms defy western notation and those who have tackled the problem have done so from the foundation of western musical training. The introduction of western notation to Africas notation-independent culture - with its genius of precise memorization has effected important changes. Notation tends to standardize music. Without notation music is more accessible to the senses. Each composition becomes a living thing. Notating a piece defeats the probability of responding to the progress of the occasion which in Africa is more important than the music. Small claims that African musicking helps to keep in motion the living process of musicking, unlike the ritual stagnation which is all too perceptible in the notation-dependent classical tradition today, but also the musicians non-dependence on notation permits a much more open situation in terms of both musical techniques (rhythm) and of potential for continuing development and for the assimilation of multiple influences. Literacy is a good servant but a bad master. 13 Western musical notation bequeathed by European culture is in Africa and is there to stay in the same way that Greenwich Meantime is there to stay. Perhaps notation should be used wherever possible, albeit, apologetically, as an approximation, fully aware that it compromises certain musical wealth. In the absence of a more adequate alternative, adaptations of western notation have performed important functions. Even though notation has already been introduced to Africa, one must examine the results of this imposition in a society which assumes that music making is for all. It puts at risk the

participatory mode of music making so essential to survival in Africa and tends to superimpose linear western acoustical-harmonic patterns onto a cyclical musical cosmos. Is music literacy an unquestioned asset or is it best seen as complement to the creative use of oral tradition? Music of the notation-independent tradition in Africa which has been at the root of all the most potent developments in western music making. In fact, the contribution of African music to world culture is far greater than the mere fact that African music takes place in relationship with fellow human beings whereas classical western music with its competitiveness, its loneliness, and its denial of the body, emphasizes individualism. Is an emphasis on musical literacy appropriate to Africa at this time when Africa is not unified in the effort toward rendering its vast folk traditions into literate forms? In these times of change and adjustment, there has been far more emphasis on bringing western culture to Africa than there has been the expressed intent to build onto Africas cultural and spiritual strengths. The Development Decades of the 1960s and 70s emphasized literacy, including musical literacy. But it was a top-down philosophy, building not onto Africas strengths but building onto the infrastructures transferred from the west. The transfer model has fallen on hard times. Economically (the arena in which this model has been most rigorously tested), Africa is on the decline, perhaps more than any other large geographic portion of the world. Maybe a more fruitful way of looking at music in Africa is to shift to grassroot levels and discern from there which shape the bottom-up dynamic might take. Of course, I am referring here to orality. Would it be possible to base music education on orality rather than on literacy? What would be the shape of such of methodology? For much of Africa, at this point, literacy is still an expensive way to go. There are few music texts or music books available and those which are available are often too expensive to buy. This raises the question as to whether Africa might exercise the option of foregoing the literacy stage altogether and instead make creative use of other technological possibilities such as recorders, cassettes and particularly, video, which in its reproduction capability has the merit of demonstrating the link between body movement and musical sound. But then, given current economic constraints, these sophisticated technological options are not viable ones. I personally have found the Kodaly philosophy and methodology useful in Kenya as a bridge between African and western music geared for those interested in learning western musical notation. Kodalys emphasis on folk music as foundational to music literacy mitigates,

potentially, the cultural dominance of the west. It is a softer, more supportive option although it seems that any kind of musical education (Kodaly or otherwise) simply provides an entree into the world of western music. In its present form, it cannot and does not facilitate entree into the African musical cosmos. So what is the challenge for Kodalys philosophy in Kenya, in East Africa? The challenge, as I see it, is to engage the genius of one of the worlds great musical traditions in ways which prove mutually beneficial both to the west and to Africa. It is a special challenge given Africas diversity and size; given its evident ability for sustaining the folk tradition in its own functional way and nurturing all the while a primary source of inspiration for much of the music which is now recognized as a common heritage to humankind. One can only speculate what would happen to African music if that music became exclusively a literate system. It is quite possible that if African music were to succumb entirely to western, written form, its essential character would change fundamentally, for African music, by definition, thrives and lives on spontaniety and creative expression. Reduce that genius to literate form and you greatly alter or even destroy a major human achievement. You destroy the process of music making which is of more importance than the finished product. You destroy the possibility of responding to the occasion which is more important than the music. It is as one African has said, You white people are always trying to keep a tight grip on life by locking it up in books. You even write books on how to love. You lock up your music in books. You study it. You analyze it. Can the heart of a person that creative, spontaneous spirit be locked up in a book? Let us accept Africa as Africa with its unique musical gifts of spontaneity and joy, with its musical gifts of survival and, if necessary, adjust western musical systems in exchange for the privilege of learning from Africa how to celebrate life. Notes 1. Mazrui, Ali: The Africans: A Triple Heritage, London, BBC Publications, 1986. p.2. 2. Fanon, Franz: The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington, New York, Grove. 1986. p. 73. 3. Small, Christopher: Music, Society, Education, London, John Calder, 1980. Chapter 1.

4. Small, Christopher: Music of the Common Tongue, London, John Calder, 1987. p. 9. 5. Ibid., p. 50. 6. Nketia, J. H. Kwabena: The Music of Africa, London, Gollancz, 1974, p. 21. 7. Chernoff, John Miller: African Rhythm and African Sensibility, Chicago, University of Chicago, 1979, p. 39. 8. Mbiti, John: An Introduction to African Religion, London, Heinemann, 1975. Chapter 7. 9. Jones, A. M.: Studies in African Music, London, Oxford University Press, 1959. pp. 2627. 10. Warren, Fred with Lee Warren: The Music of Africa: An Introduction, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1970. p. 36. 11. Brandel, Rose: The Music of Central Africa, The Hague, 1961. p. 49. 12. Dufay, Guillaume. (1400-1474) Qui condolens. 13. Small, Music of the Common Tongue, p. 134.