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4 - Initiation and Funeral Songs from the Guro of Côte d'Ivoire

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Ariane Deluz

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 because I believed that this form of verbal art is one of the keys to understanding a society. As a female I was especially welcomed by Guro women, who have their own women's secret society distinct from that of the men. The women's society includes ceremonies centered on masks, or women who appear in a form of dress that conveys an image of the spirit world. The women gave me access to the songs they sang as part of their society's rituals and in a variety of other contexts. But as I discovered one evening, there were limits to how far I could go down the path of learning the most intimate of these songs.

An excision ceremony, part of the larger set of initiation rites for girls that are marked by a variety of songs, was scheduled to be performed one evening. Although the leader of the women's society was housing me in a sacred hut and providing me to some extent with a privileged perspective on Guro culture, it was not clear whether I should attend the ceremony later that evening. Rather than simply tell me that I could not observe this intimate and highly important event in the lives of the initiates, my host slipped a drug into my evening meal. I dozed off early and slept unusually well that night. In retrospect, and for many reasons, I am happy that she employed this subtle method to keep me from attending the ceremony.

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13 - Patriarchy in Songs and Poetry by Zarma Women

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Aissata Niandou

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. In their songs, as well as in other forms, they raise their voices against what they see as the unfair constraints of patriarchy that dominate Zarma society. But their songs raise a basic question: can they, in their verbal art, divest themselves of the patriarchal values that permeate not only their society, but also their own language and the deeper values that it conveys?

In this study, I will examine examples from a corpus of twenty-five poem-songs sung by Zarma women that are, on the surface, quite subversive of patriarchal values. But a close study of the poem-songs will offer evidence for a more nuanced view of the subversion conveyed by these poem-songs, and may suggest the need for new analyses of women's songs from other peoples in the Sahel.

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8 - A Heroic Performance by Siramori Diabaté in Mali

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Brahima Camara and Jan Jansen

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 and strike the karignan (or nege [Bambara] or neoo [Mandinka], which means “iron”), a notched narrow metal tube held in one hand while the other rhythmically scrapes it with a thin metal rod (see Charry 2000, 87). But one of the most widely studied functions of these performers is the narration of epics.

In the 1990s, Hale (1994) and Sidikou (2001) raised the question as to whether women are totally excluded from narrating epics. We feel that any answer to this important issue1 will be framed by four analytical dimensions:

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6 - Saharan Music: About a Feminine Modernity

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

ABOUT A FEMININE MODERNITY

Aline Tauzin

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. Before turning to the specifics of these changes, it is essential to provide some background on a society that is not well known outside of Africa.

Mauritania is composed of two different populations: the light-skinned Moors and the dark-skinned Africans, whose roots are largely sub-Saharan. The Moors are the dominant population in Mauritania and can be defined very briefly as a nomadic group, at least until recently, living in the western part of the Sahara. They speak an Arabic dialect called Hassâniyya. They are Muslims and played an important role in the Islamization of West Africa.

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3 - Azna Deities in the Songs of Taguimba Bouzou: A Window on the Visible and Invisible

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

A WINDOW ON THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE

Boubé Namaïwa

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, but also, at the same time, in complex networks of gods and goddesses who predate the arrival of Islam. If the contours of Islam in West Africa are familiar to scholars in African studies, the invisible world of a parallel system of belief often remains a mystery. But if, as Jewsiewicki (1987) argues, belief is social fact, the question, then, is what is the shape of that world and how does it influence daily life? The example of songs by a well-known woman from one Hausa-speaking people, the Azna of Niger, offers insights into the visible and the invisible in that world.

I propose to take up the challenge of understanding that metaphysical world by reversing the order of things, by drawing on the invisible to explain the visible. Followers of classical methods might argue that my approach is insane. They would claim that one can only explain the invisible by starting with the visible, a Cartesian approach that is no longer valid. I propose to carry out my analysis by drawing on evidence from songs sung by one of the most famous singers in Niger, Taguimba Bouzou. But before explaining just who this extraordinary woman is, it is important to frame the issue raised above in a larger context.

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