17 Slices
Medium 9780253010179

16 - Transformations in Tuareg Tende Singing: Women's Voices and Local Feminisms

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

WOMEN'S VOICES AND LOCAL FEMINISMS

Susan J. Rasmussen

Recently, feminist anthropologists have grappled with representing “other modernities” and “other feminisms” (Mohanty 1991; Collins 1993; Brenner 1998; Rofel 1999; Abu-Lughod 2002). One approach has been to analyze the role of affective and expressive culture—for example, women's songs—in resistance and accommodation to these processes (Abu-Lughod 1986; Trawick 1988). The present essay contributes to these studies by exploring changing meanings of women's song performance in relation to gendered experience of social upheavals among the semi-nomadic, Muslim, and traditionally stratified Tuareg of Niger and Mali.1 The focus is upon a genre called tende, a body of songs performed by women in a variety of performance contexts, accompanied by a drum called by that name. Most tende performances traditionally occur at weddings, namedays, spirit possession rituals, and festivals. They are also organized, along with men's camel races, to greet important visitors. Sometimes, they are spontaneously performed, organized at the spur of the moment in late afternoon or evening for young people's gatherings featuring dancing and courtship, or in less structured situations, just for fun. Nowadays, some performances take place at political rallies and on national holidays.

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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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7 - Songs by Wolof Women

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Luciana Penna-Diaw

One of the assumptions of the wider project to which this paper contributes is that there are common features among women's songs in the vast Sahel region, in spite of the fact that there remain local differences. But can we apply the same approach to songs produced by people who speak the same language within the same region? Research on songs by Wolof women in the Cayor, Saloum, and Walo regions of Senegal suggests that the same holds true at the local level. There are common features across these three areas, but also traits that distinguish one from the other. The evidence comes from a corpus of 250 songs collected in the three regions between 2000 and 2002.

The significance of women as singers of songs and musicians in this area cannot be underestimated. The musical heritage of the Wolof is almost entirely represented by women. They sing, play instruments, and dance in several circumstances, both ritual and “profane.” Some of these events allow only other women to be present, while others permit the presence of men who may be playing instruments or simply attending as spectators. In general, men play a secondary role in musical activities. They do not normally dance or sing, with the exception of some Muslim ceremonies such as initiation. But before turning to comparative analyses of the songs, it is important to situate the Wolof in the local context in order to understand more clearly the status of women.

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14 - Muslim Hausa Women's Songs

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Beverly B. Mack

The study of songs by Hausa women in northern Nigeria raises a major question for Western scholars. Since these performers both sing and compose poetry in writing, where is the line between the two genres, vocal and written? For Hausa listeners, there is no line between them as the two forms exist in a porous continuum of performance and communication. This study offers perspectives on the wide-ranging platform of Hausa performance communication through analysis of Hausa women's song and poetry,1 both of which are marked by the Islamic influence that is integral to all aspects of Hausa culture.

Part of the problem for the researcher is Hausa terminology for the two genres. Waa (pl. waoi,) is the Hausa term for a broad range of works from poetry to declamation, all of which is normally sung or chanted. The term is not readily translated, but comprises a range of meanings in English from song to written verse. To the Hausa, however, it is all “song.” Thus the plural term waoi is used here to refer collectively to both orally composed and written songs. The songs themselves are as varied in style and theme as the circumstances in which they are performed, and their content is gauged to the situation in which they are delivered. They are sung at naming ceremonies, at wedding celebrations, in praise of important people, as commentary on social behavior, as announcements of changes in social practices, as work songs, and as mnemonic teaching aids. That they occur in such a wide range of social situations is testimony to the genre's pervasive role in Hausa culture. The works analyzed here are popular pieces by contemporary Hausa women who use waoi as entertainment that is alternately didactic, informative, ritual-oriented, paced to domestic tasks, and celebratory.

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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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