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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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The Melodic Imagination

The Melodic Imagination

(p.195) 5 The Melodic Imagination
The African Imagination in Music

Kofi Agawu

Oxford University Press

This chapter disputes the frequently made claim that melody is not one of the core dimensions of African music. It does so by first showing how language serves as a gateway to song. It then assembles a number of melodies to display the workings of the African melodic imagination. Some are brief chants while others are more elaborate melodies. They include an Aka Pygmy melody, a Northern Ewe crying song, an Akpafu lament, and a song by Fela. Attention is also given to instrumental performances on the one-stringed fiddle and on the xylophone. The chapter highlights various pitch and linguistic resources and the role of archetypes in guiding melodic expression.

Keywords:   melody, Aka Pygmy, Northern Ewe, Akpafu, Fela, melodic archetypes

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