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Theory of African Music, Volume I

Taken together, these comprehensive volumes offer an authoritative account of the music of Africa. One of the most prominent experts on the subject, Gerhard Kubik draws on his extensive travels and three decades of study in many parts of the continent to compare and contrast a wealth of musical traditions from a range of cultures.

In the first volume, Kubik describes and examines xylophone playing in southern Uganda and harp music from the Central African Republic; compares multi-part singing from across the continent; and explores movement and sound in eastern Angola. And in the second volume, he turns to the cognitive study of African rhythm, Yoruba chantefables, the musical Kachamba family of Malaŵi, and African conceptions of space and time.

Each volume features an extensive number of photographs and is accompanied by a compact disc of Kubik’s own recordings. Erudite and exhaustive, Theory of African Music will be an invaluable reference for years to come.

464 pages | 64 halftones, 113 musical examples, 9 maps, 32 line drawings, 14 figures, 13 tables | 8 1/4 x 5 5/16 | © 1994, 2010

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Music: Ethnomusicology


“Gerhard Kubik’s scholarship is deep and vast, and this collection of his writing has no parallel. He stands alone among Africanists for many reasons, which are amply demonstrated in these volumes: the length of time in which he has been actively researching and writing about music, the vast geographic breadth of his work within Africa, his experience in both Anglophone and Francophone Africa, and his seamless understanding of and sympathy for both older genres and more recent guitar music.”

Eric Charry, Wesleyan University

Theory of African Music is monumental and falls into the ‘must read’ category for (ethno)musicologists, most particularly Africanists. Beyond the enormous quantity of information, data, and analytical approaches, the overwhelming strength of these volumes is Kubik’s lateral savvy. His breadth of knowledge and depth of understanding is unequalled in African music scholarship. Kubik also leaves a legacy of fascinating yet unexplained ‘musical riddles’ to stimulate our curiosity (Vol. I, 15–19). How is it that the multipart singing of the Baule in The Ivory Coast employs the same tonal system of triads within an equiheptatonic scale as the Ngangela, Chokwe, and Luvale in Angola? How can one explain the almost identical xylophones and performance practices among the Makonde and Makua in northern Mozambique and the Baule and Kru in The Ivory Coast and Liberia? And why do almost all sub-Saharan Africans dance in counterclockwise processions? Kubik may have left these riddles to others, though we look forward to his future publications with anticipation.”


Table of Contents

Volume I
Preface to Volumes I and II
I. Xylophone Playing in Southern uganda

II. Harp Music of the Azande and Related Peoples in the Central African Republic

III. A Structural examination of Multi-Part Singing in East, Central and Southern Africa
Section 1: Homophonic Multi-Part Singing in Bantu Musical Cultures of East and Central Africa
Section 2: Nsenga/Shona Harmonic Patterns and the San Heritage in Southern Africa

IV. Composition Techniques in Kiganda Xylophone Music. With an Introduction into Some Kiganda Musical Concepts
Section 1: The Amadinda
Section 2: The Akadinda
Section 3: Are Amadinda and Akadinda Pieces Structurally Related?

V. Concepts About Movement and Sound in the eastern Angolan Culture Area
Section 1: Musical enculturation
Section 2: Patterns of Body Movement in Mbwela/Nkhangala Boys’ Initiation
Section 3: likembe Tunings and Musical Concepts of an Adolescent Kachokwe: Kufuna Kandonga

Sound examples of CD 1
Contents of Volume II

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