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The African Imagination in Music$
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Kofi Agawu

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190263201

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190263201.001.0001

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Language and/in Music

Language and/in Music

(p.113) 3 Language and/in Music
The African Imagination in Music

Kofi Agawu

Oxford University Press

Language and music are said to be uncommonly close in Africa. This chapter explores the dimensions of that closeness by delving into the nature of tone languages and the constraints they impose on melodic structure and on the modes of drumming (signal mode, speech mode, dance mode). The method by which talking drums transmit messages is explained. The chapter also examines the dynamics of word-music interaction in song. The extensive use of ideophones (“picture words”) in spoken African languages is discussed. The chapter finally posits a linguistic residue that constrains various kinds of African performance. A detailed commentary on a hiplife song is included.

Keywords:   tone languages, melody, ideophones, modes of drumming, signal mode, speech mode, dance mode, talking drum, song

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