The Importance Of Oral Traditions In African History

1215 words - 5 pages

One of the most crucial aspects of the development of philosophy of African history has been a realization of the importance of the spoken or oral traditions in the framing and interpretation of African history. The oral tradition is a living, and dynamic organism within the African community, and the original element of oral traditional is djembe. The Djembe is a traditional African drum and is the symbolic instrument of the West African community. The Djembe is held on a high pedestal in the social communal aspect of the society’s daily routine, and is seen in many gatherings. The value and importance of the djembe as embodiment of African tradition and its translation in West Africa and the United states via the salve trade demonstrate its role and importance vehicle it plays in the African roots.
The djembe has become one of the most popular African drums. The making of the djembe is very unique. The village djembe player will offer ten kola nuts to the blacksmith for the making of djembe in return. The blacksmith regarded the making of such a drum an honor (Billmeier 2007). The blacksmith would venture into the forest to find the ideal tree to make a djembe. Once he has found the perfect tree, the blacksmith would then ask the spirit that inhabits the tree to accept the tree to be cut while engaging into a ceremonial performance at the base of the tree (Fanta Keita Tauber 2000). After a successful attempt, he then would carve the tree from the center of the wood, and created two holes (to the tope and to the bottom). This would serve as a way for the voice of the tree to be heard through the djembe. The djembe thus achieves an extraordinary sound range, from a high, to a low, resonating sound. The Djembe has carvings on the outside that has a thread like pattern in the inside. The tonal range of the djembe is truly versatile and very much alive; the master drummer chooses to change the melodic rhythm or speech like qualities in regards of the environment it is being played. Furthermore, some will even argue that because the hands (not stick) produced the djembe’s sound, the expressive qualities are thus far more personal and emotional (Wilson 1992). The autobiographer of one of Africa’s famous musicians, Eric Charry underlined that “The combination of bare handed playing technique and a tight drumhead contributes to a mystique that has surrounded the Djembe outside of Africa” (Charry 2000). The Djembe is also a very masculine practice, and is associated with male power, resistance and strength.
Djembe was primarily found in the capital cities of Guinea (Conakry) and Mali (Bamako), however the djembe orchestra has evolved in many parts of the urban and rural centers of the West Africa, especially in Abidjan, Ouagadougou, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso; and Dakar, Senegal (Charry 2000). Each ethnic group that adopted the djembe created subtle changes in its design and gave it its own name. From a traditional African standing, the dances and...

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