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Research in African Literatures 30.4 (1999) 230-231

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African Music: A Pan-African Annotated Bibliography, by Carol Lems-Dworkin. London: Hans Zell, 1991. xvii, 382 pp. ISBN 090540914 hardcover.

Three important reference works on African music have appeared between 1988 and 1992: Ronnie Graham's The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music (New York: Da Capo; an update was issued in 1992 as The World of African Music); John Gray's African Music: A Bibliographic Guide to the Traditional, Popular, Art, and Liturgical Musics of Sub-Saharan Africa (New York: Greenwood, 1991), and Carol Lems-Dworkin's African Music: A Pan-African Annotated Bibliography, which is the subject of this review. This growing body of reference tools on African music not only underscores the increasing interest in the subject of African music, but it also encapsulates the breadth and depth of scholarhip on African music.

African Music: A Pan-African Annotated Bibliography is organized alphabetically by author, instead of by subject, in order to foster unity and ease of use. The book covers the period since 1960, with a large segment devoted to theses and dissertations. Journal articles are minimally represented and the author provides a justification: "The relatively small number of journal articles included in this book is not meant to minimize their extreme importance, but simply to emphasize other categories of works on African music that have often been neglected" (xii). The author's attempt to list periodical names that begin with "Journal" in the alphabetical scheme results in some duplicaton of authors (e.g., Kabore, Orger. "Chants d'enfants . . ." under item 788, Journal des africanistes, is reproduced under item 802, "K," pp. 158, 161, respectively). The length of the annotations and depth of information involved varies and sometimes only plain citations are provided (e.g., items 796, 804, 1212). There is, however, a large number of concise but highly informative annotations, especially in cases where the author has been able to personally examine the publication under consideration. Sometimes the annotations take on a more casual or conversational tone, for example: "Rouget said in 1971 that though [sic] were no longer any reigning kings in Dahomey, royal courts still existed . . ." (p. 274, item 1385). The attempt to cover relevant chapters from collective volumes is a plus to this annotated bibliography.

The successful compilation and annotation of a bibliographic database depends partly on not only the quantity and quality of library or archival holdings, but also on accessibility. The quality and scope of this bibliography can thus be attributed in part to the Africana collection and database at Northwestern University, Evanston, where the author undertook much of [End Page 230] her research work. The sporadic nature of the publishing industry in Africa does not encourage the creation of a reliable bibliographic database of the literature coming out of Africa, and this situation is clearly shown on Lems-Dworkin's work, especially in the area of theses and dissertations. (How many African universities participate in the University Microfilms project?)

Is this work truly "pan-African"? The author's delimitations set forth in the introduction partly answer this question, and it is impossible to be comprehensively pan-African in this one-volume work. In addition, the interrelationship among music, dance, theater, language, and religion in Africa complicates the task of distinguishing among these genres; it also extends the boundary of what is to be covered. The cross-references are very helpful, and readers will appreciate the typography, which augments the overall utility of the bibliography. This is a very timely and an essential publication, cutting across several disciplines, especially when used in conjunction with supplementary reference tools.


—Daniel Avorgbedor

Daniel Avorgbedor is a professor in the Department of African-American and African Studies and the Department of Music at The Ohio State University



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