Discover the importance of Music and Dance in African Culture
Dance is an integral part of the African culture. Dancers use symbolic gestures, masks, costumes, body painting and props to communicate.
Dance, music, and story-telling are among the ancient art forms that have flourished for many centuries in Africa. Music and dance are
terms that we will use to denote musical practices of African people. Music and dance inhibit the everyday life activities of African people. Music and dance culture in South Africa is very important aspect of its society. Music and dance are played during marriage, birth, hunting and even political activities. They are the form of communication and play a functional role in the African society. Music is often believed to ward off evil spirits and to pay respects to good spirits, the dead and ancestors.
Dance is an integral part of the African culture. Dancers use symbolic gestures, masks, costumes, body painting and props to communicate. The dance movements can be simple or complex with intricate actions including fast rotation, ripples of the body and contraction and release. Dance is used to express emotion, whether joyful or sorrowful and it is not limited to just the dancers. Many times, spectators will be encouraged to join in.
The African masks that are used in dances have religious, ceremonial and functional origins. Certain artists will undergo a ceremonial purification process, and offer prayers to ancestors before even beginning to carve the mask.
The African mask is believed to represent a spirit and it is also believed that the spirit possesses the dancer as they wear the mask. The chosen dancer goes into a trance-like state in order to receive guidance and wisdom from the ancestors. The dancer will utter and moan the messages received and a wise man, who accompanies the dancer, will translate the message.
The Importance of Drums in African Tradition
African drums hold a special place in the history of Africa. In Western Culture the idea of drumming is nearly always associated with entertainment or just to add to the musical quality of a song. In Africa, drums hold a deeper symbolic and historical meaning. The beat of African drum is considered to be the “heartbeat of the community” and its rhythm holds the dancers together.
Drums are almost always an accompaniment for any manner of ceremony – births, deaths, marriages – together with a ritual dance. The venomous sound of many drums pounding together is also a necessary installment to stir up emotions in a battle or war to inspire excitement and passion.
The Djembe drum is possibly the most influential and basic of all the African drums, originally. It dates back to 500 A.D. The Djembe was originally created as a sacred drum to be used in healing ceremonies, rites of passage, ancestral worship, warrior rituals, as well as social dances. The drum rhythm of the djembe is performed in the evening for most celebrations, especially during full moon, spring, summer and winter harvesting time, weddings, baptisms, honoring of mothers, immediately after Ramadaan (the month of fast for all Muslims) or countless other celebrations.
In much of Africa, certain drums symbolize and protect royalty and are often housed in sacred dwellings. In fact you could say the drum was actually the first form of telephone…
Tribes, with use of the drum would communicate with other tribes often miles away. Drums were often used to signal meetings, dangers, etc….
The talking drums of Africa imitate the pitch patterns of language and transmit messages over many miles.
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