Report on the 17th Meeting of the ICTM Study Group on Folk Musical Instruments in Erkner, Germany 2009

Article excerpt

The 17th Meeting of the ICTM study group on folk musical instruments was carried out from 1st-4th April 2009 in the Bildungszentrum of Erkner, a small town located nearby Berlin, Germany. After the long lasting winter, it was just a perfect timing that the warm and sunny weather started exactly when the meeting begun. About 40 scholars from the various parts of the world participated in the meeting. The local organizers were Dr. Gisa Jaehnichen (Kuala Lumpur, Berlin) and Dr. Timkehet Teffera (Berlin, Addis Abeba). The meeting was partially funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [German Research Association] which gave the organizers a good opportunity to provide financial support for a number of participants who would not have been able to attend this meeting.

By taking the following three major topics, namely 1) Percussion; 2) Migration of musical instruments and 3) Current research, into consideration, very interesting and fruitful papers were presented and discussed in 10 sessions each consisting of three interrelated issues. Although the papers primarily focused on percussion instruments such as bells, stones, gongs, clappers, xylophones and drums, there were also presentations dealing with other types of instruments such as zithers, lutes, bagpipes and harmonicas.

Presentations principally discussing organological, technological and socio-cultural issues of percussion instruments in general and drums in particular were presented by Juergen Elsner, Jasmina Talam, Nana Marianne Zeh, Larry Francis Hillarian, Justin Hunter, Timkehet Teffera, Andreas Meyer, Irena Miholic, Rolando Antonio Pérez Fernández, Lujza Tari and Rinko Fujita.

Elsner presented the flat-bottomed kettledrums Tasa and mrfa from Yemen and discussed their organological, technical, functional and musical features. Talam's paper referred to traditional drums that exist in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina that is based so far made ethnomusicological and material researches as well as supplementary information gathered from her fieldwork in this region. Zeh reported on drum orchestras of samba schools in Rio de Janeiro by taking the high tuned master drum called repinique into a closer consideration, due to its striking similarity to European drums in terms of construction and playing technique that strongly reflects to the history of marching bands of European origin. Hillarian introduced the frame-drum kompang, a drum of Arabic origin, today considered as an emblematic drum in the Malay Muslim culture of the Malay Archipelago. In this regard, he clarified the role of the kompang that is played on various social occasions of the Malay community alongside or interchangeably with the two additional Malay frame-drums called hadrah and marwas. Teffera discussed ngoma drums that are widely found in many cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa by giving special focus to ngoma drum ensembles of the Wasamba people of Northeast Tanzania. Besides the organological and musical analysis, the clearly defined gender roles in the ngoma music performances have been examined. Meyer's paper dealt with morphologically related African American percussion instruments created on the Caribbean Islands in times of slavery. These are drums, idiophones and lamellophones that substituted the missing African drums. In the paper an attempt was made to trace back the trans-cultural processes that took place in the past and to describe styles and musical functions of today's Ghanaian ensembles comparing them with common playing methods in America in past and present times. Miholic reported about the hybridization of traditional music in Croatia by taking the West African drum jembe (also jenbe and djembe) as an example and its presence in today's Croatian ethno-music. Among other issues, the use of jembe drums and its role in Croatian bands as a "beat instrument" or as "background sound" has been explored in this paper. Fernández talked about the geographical distribution of the wedge-bracing drums of BaKongo descendants in Cuba by exploring their ethnic and historical aspects as well as their gender roles and socio-cultural functions and meanings. …