Academic journal article African Studies Review

Music and Culture of West Africa: The Straus Expedition (CD-ROM)

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Music and Culture of West Africa: The Straus Expedition (CD-ROM)

Article excerpt

THE SOUNDS OF WEST AFRICA Gloria J. Gibson and Daniel B. Reed, with the Teaching and Learning Technologies Laboratory, Indiana University. Music and Culture of West Africa: The Straus Expedition (CD-ROM). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. 2 CDs. Quick Time and Acrobat Reader installation programs for Macintosh and Windows. Booklet (8 pp.). $39.95.

Music and Culture of West Africa: The Straus Expedition epitomizes archivists' commitment to making their holdings more accessible to the larger academic community. Thousands of patrons throughout the world can now benefit from data that would otherwise have been available only in the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University. However, the dreams of Gloria J. Gibson and Daniel B. Reed would not have come to fruition without the collaboration they enjoyed from the staff of the Teaching and Learning Technologies Laboratory at Indiana University. One need simply run their CD-ROM set in order to appreciate the contributions of the "instructional consultants, courseware developers, and specialists in digital technologies" (8).

This two-piece CD-ROM is based on the Straus Expedition, Laura Boulton's 1934 recording trip to colonial West Africa (one of forty made during her lifetime). It documents the music and culture of some twenty-one ethnic groups, as well as providing information on the aims and objectives of the expedition, its funding, field equipment, route, field experiences, and its relevance to the field of ethnomusicology. There is also biographical material on Boulton herself, including information about her acquaintances among contemporary composers (Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky), ethnographers (Bronislaw Malinowsky), and ethnomusicologists (George Herzog and Willard Rhodes). The multimedia CD-ROM comprises sound recordings, photographs, film footage of Boulton's 1934 recordings, and clippings from Daniel Reed's contemporary video recordings from cultures that Boulton documented six decades earlier. Amazingly user-friendly, it has well-organized tables of contents through which materials can easily be accessed. Further, the accompanying booklet provides (1) a synoptic description of the subject matter, (2) media content on each CD and instructions for both Macintosh and Windows, and (3) clear directions on accessing data (audio, written, and visual images).

The West African ethnic groups represented on the CD include the Bambara, Maninka, and Tuareg of Mali; the Dogon of Mali and Burkina Faso; Serer, Wolof, and Peul of Senegal; Edo of Nigeria; and Wakpe of Cameroon. There are also references to the Soce of Senegal, JoIa of Gambia, Songhay and Moors of Mali, and the Kru of Liberia. Information on each major ethnic group contains descriptions of habitat (location and ecology), history (precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial), population, political systems, livelihood (agriculture, trade, and craft), religions and world views (traditional, Islam, and Christianity), integrated performing and visual arts, contexts for music-making, musicians and their roles, major musical instruments (classification, construction, playing technique, cultural symbolism, distribution, evidence of appropriation and domestication), characteristic musical structures, performance practice, and interaction between music and other domains of sociocultural life.

Some of the specific topics are covered more completely and clearly in some of the individual entries on towns rather than on ethnic groups. Accordingly, one may want to select "Timbuktu" and "Bamako" for an understanding of Islam in West Africa, or "Benin" and "Buea" to access more detailed information on colonization and the legacy of Christian missionary activities in the subregion. Indeed, parts of the sections on "Bamako" and "Benin" are also, in my view, the best for illustrating the levels of continuity and change in West African musical practices. In a contemporary urban setting like Bamako, interactions between different ethnic groups and the appropriation and domestication of music from non-African cultures is a predictable trend. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.