Women's Songs from West Africa
Publication Year: 2013
Exploring the origins, organization, subject matter, and performance contexts of singers and singing, Women's Songs from West Africa expands our understanding of the world of women in West Africa and their complex and subtle roles as verbal artists. Covering Côte d'Ivoire, the Gambia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and beyond, the essays attest to the importance of women’s contributions to the most widespread form of verbal art in Africa.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Table of Contents
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Introduction: New Perspectives on Women’s Songs and Singing in West Africa
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The essays in this volume are the result of research presented at a conference titled “Women’s Songs from West Africa” held at Princeton University. For the conference organizers, the event was the climax of a long effort to bring together researchers in a variety of disciplines who had worked for years and in some cases decades on song, ...
1 - Wolof Women Break the Taboo of Sex through Songs
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One of the most important but often neglected subjects in the preparation of children for adulthood is sex education, a topic that seems to preoccupy parents in a variety of cultures around the world. In many African societies, sex education is more a collective activity than an individual parental duty, and the medium is song. ...
2 - Jola Kanyalen Songs from the Casamance, Senegal: From “Tradition” to Globalization
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One of the distinctive features of many Sahelian peoples is the hierarchical nature of their society, a trait that is not gender-specific. But among women, there are particular forms of hierarchy that may result from conditions emerging when a woman reaches adulthood. This is a phenomenon that may occur across the region, ...
3 - Azna Deities in the Songs of Taguimba Bouzou: A Window on the Visible and Invisible
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Songs often provide a key to understanding the daily lives of women, but their world is not limited to the immediate concerns of child raising, meal preparation, and marriage. The system of belief that governs their society is very much a part of their worldview, and it takes shape not simply in the Islamic context, ...
4 - Initiation and Funeral Songs from the Guro of Côte d’Ivoire
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Women’s songs are too often viewed by outsiders simply as a medium for passing the time while the singers are engaged in a variety of household tasks. As a French researcher living in Guro society in Côte d’Ivoire for the first time in 1958, my goal was to learn more about women’s songs performed during other activities ...
5 - Praise Performances by Jalimusolu in the Gambia
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For centuries griots have attracted the attention of scholars. However, their female colleagues, the griottes, have been largely neglected in the social sciences literature. This is true throughout the world of these performers, from Senegal eastward to Niger. The tendency to focus attention on men rather than women is all the more surprising in the Mande world because females are so conspicuous.1 ...
6 - Saharan Music: About a Feminine Modernity
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One of the major issues in gender relations in the Arab world today is the status of women. In Mauritania, a society governed by traditions that go back many centuries, women today are reversing some longstanding ways, especially in the areas of poetry and music. The purpose of this chapter is to document the nature and extent of those changes. ...
7 - Songs by Wolof Women
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One of the assumptions of the wider project to which this paper contributes is that there are common features among women’s songs in the vast Sahel region, in spite of the fact that there remain local differences. But can we apply the same approach to songs produced by people who speak the same language within the same region? ...
8 - A Heroic Performance by Siramori Diabaté in Mali
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Jelikèw (male griots) and jelimusow (female griots, or griottes) have many roles in the West African societies in which they practice their profession. There are some differences in what they do, however. For example, jelimusow do not normally play the same instruments as jelikèw In the Mande world, jelikèw play stringed instruments while jelimusow sing songs ...
9 - Women’s Tattooing Songs from Kajoor, Senegal
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One of the most common vocal genres across the diverse cultures of the Sahel is the tattooing song, sung while a woman undergoes the painful experience of having her face, lips, or gums inscribed in various ways with a thorn or a needle. Wolof woyu njam, or tattooing songs, are meant to accompany the process of tattooing the mouth with bundles of thorns ...
10 - Drummed Poems by Songhay-Zarma Women of Niger
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In the preface to his book L’Essence du verbe (1988), a collection of sayings by Songhay-Zarma women, the late Boubou Hama, one of the most respected and knowledgeable analysts of African traditions in Niger, observed that the knot that always hangs at the end of the ribbon or belt around a woman’s cotton wrapper was both the place of gestation ...
11 - Space, Language, and Identity in the Palm Tree
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One of the common themes of African literature written in European languages is the emphasis on identity in works that appeared both before and during the national era. But too often one gets the impression that concerns about identity were solely the product of the contact between Africa and the West, especially during the last half-century. ...
12 - Bambara Women’s Songs in Southern Mali
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In many cultures, songs are seen primarily as entertainment. The form appears more important than the message. But on closer examination, it is clear that one can learn as much about a people from songs as one can from any other source. But the question is, what kind of information is embedded in such ephemeral verbal forms? ...
13 - Patriarchy in Songs and Poetry by Zarma Women
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Those unfamiliar with women’s songs from the Sahel may be surprised at first by the subversive nature of the lyrics, as evidenced in songs recorded by many other researchers. Zarma society is not an exception to that trend, with women functioning within their own subculture. ...
14 - Muslim Hausa Women’s Songs
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The study of songs by Hausa women in northern Nigeria raises a major question for Western scholars. Since these performers both sing and compose poetry in writing, where is the line between the two genres, vocal and written? For Hausa listeners, there is no line between them as the two forms exist in a porous continuum of performance and communication. ...
15 - Lamentation and Politics in a Sahelian Song
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Researchers in a variety of disciplines who have recorded songs by women from West Africa are now providing evidence for this most widespread but also most ephemeral form of expression by women. The research leads to several questions. Is there any way of documenting the existence and the roles of women singers in the pre-independence era? ...
16 - Transformations in Tuareg Tende Singing: Women’s Voices and Local Feminisms
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Recently, feminist anthropologists have grappled with representing “other modernities” and “other feminisms” (Mohanty 1991; Collins 1993; Brenner 1998; Rofel 1999; Abu-Lughod 2002). One approach has been to analyze the role of affective and expressive culture—for example, women’s songs—in resistance and accommodation to these processes (Abu-Lughod 1986; Trawick 1988). ...
17 - Income Strategies of a Jelimuso in Mali and France
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Remittances are a major source of income in Mali. It is estimated that the yearly amount of money sent by Malian emigrants exceeds 100 million euros, of which at least 50 million euros are sent by Malians who reside in France.1 One indicator of the importance of these France-Mali remittances is the fact that France provides approximately 60 million euros a year in aid to Mali (Gubert 2003). ...
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Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013