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West African Drumming and Dance in North American Universities

An Ethnomusicological Perspective

George Worlasi Kwasi Dor

Publication Year: 2014

More than twenty universities and twenty other colleges in North America (USA and Canada) offer performance courses on West African ethnic dance drumming. Since its inception in 1964 at both UCLA and Columbia, West African drumming and dance has gradually developed into a vibrant campus subculture in North America. The dances most practiced in the American academy come from the ethnic groups Ewe, Akan, Ga, Dagbamba, Mande, and Wolof, thereby privileging dances mostly from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. This strong presence and practice of a world music ensemble in the diaspora has captured and engaged the interest of scholars, musicians, dancers, and audiences.

In the first-ever ethnographic study of West African drumming and dance in North American universities the author documents and acknowledges ethnomusicologists, ensemble directors, students, administrators, and academic institutions for their key roles in the histories of their respective ensembles. Dor collates and shares perspectives including debates on pedagogical approaches that may be instructive as models for both current and future ensemble directors and reveals the multiple impacts that participation in an ensemble or class offers students. He also examines the interplay among historically situated structures and systems, discourse, and practice, and explores the multiple meanings that individuals and various groups of people construct from this campus activity. The study will be of value to students, directors, and scholars as an ethnographic study and as a text for teaching relevant courses in African music, African studies, ethnomusicology/world music, African diaspora studies, and other related disciplines.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-3

Projects such as this book begin with ideas. As such, I thank Adam Gussow, professor of English at the University of Mississippi, a passionate blues musician and a friend, who suggested to me to consider exploring the Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble as a possible theme for my University of...

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pp. 3-13

West African Drumming and Dance in North American Universities: An Ethnomusicological Perspective explores the strong existence of a world music ensemble and genre in the American academy. For, ever since Mantle Hood’s introduction of world music ensembles into the ethnomusicology program at the University of California at Los Angeles in the early 1960s, West African...

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1. Historical Overview of West African Drumming and Dance in North America: From the Period of Slavery (1619–1863) until the Early 1960s

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pp. 14-43

This book explores the strong presence of West African drumming and dance at North American universities, an ongoing process since 1964 that I describe as a resurrection. To offer a better understanding and appreciation of the reasons for calling West African drumming in the American academy

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2. Selected University Ensembles: History, Resources, Repertoire, Teaching, Learning, Performance(s), and Reception

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pp. 44-97

This chapter provides narratives on the West African dance drumming programs at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut), University of California at Berkeley, York University (Toronto), University of Toronto, University of Pittsburgh, Tufts...

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3. Pedagogical Approaches of Dance Drumming Instructors

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pp. 98-130

West African drumming and dance instructors and ensemble directors are an indispensable group of key players in this process and presence of a genre, a group I also call implementers. To facilitate understanding or appreciation of their agency as instructors and performers, I will classify them into groups...

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4. The Impact of West African Drumming and Dance on the Participating Student

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pp. 131-155

Students are the primary target beneficiaries of West African drumming programs. In addition to Mantle Hood’s multi-musicality, other ends that the course or participation in ensemble offers include the acquisition of pre-compositional resources, team skills, new performance skills and perspectives...

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5. Path-finding Agency of Administrators and Ensemble Directors

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pp. 156-187

In the previous chapters I have implicitly shown that the phenomenal changes that characterized the transformation of a genre from a state of neglect to that of serious embrace in the universities cannot be attributed to happenstance or only to broad changes in cultural landscapes and policies of American...

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6. A Transplanted Musical Practice Flourishing in the African Diaspora

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pp. 188-224

In chapter 1 I provided a historical overview of the fate of West African drums and drumming traditions in the African diaspora, tracing the changes that marked its diachronic trajectory, and then contrasting the period of absence to that of presence. Chapter 6 focuses on the presence. It explores what...

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7. World Music and Globalization: West African Drum-Dance Ensembles

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pp. 225-253

Economic and political ideology stubbornly assume center-stage thematic positions in discourse on globalization. Accordingly, it is not surprising when a student who walks into my world music class after leaving a class discussion on the global economy at an International Studies Institute, for...

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pp. 254-266

This book reverberates a body of phenomenological truths about traditional African music, and these include West African dance drumming (1) is one of Africa’s most compelling expressive art forms, (2) is the most researched subject matter (specifically, its rhythmic structure), (3) was a suppressed genre...

Appendix A: Interviews Consultants and Field Sites [University Campuses and Conferences]

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pp. 267-268

Appendix B: A Survey for Student Members of Ensembles

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pp. 269-279


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pp. 280-283


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pp. 284-291


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pp. 292-300


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pp. 301-314

E-ISBN-13: 9781617039140
E-ISBN-10: 1621039951
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621039952

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014