Essay on Traditional African Music

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Traditional African Music

An attempt to pin down a single meaning for the word 'traditional,' presents a problem in many ways. The implications of the word are many, and are tied to various connotations. Some people, Westerners in particular, may actually shun the 'traditional,' as they feel that it implies a resistance to modernity. This view is incorrect, and there exists an ethnocentric double standard when Westerners consider their tradition versus African tradition. Others focus on 'tradition' as that which has always been done, for whatever reason, and that it must be continued to maintain the community, a universal balance, a relationship with the gods, or some other goal. Africa and its people have experienced many hardships
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and the extent to which tradition is acceptable varies within societies, based particularly on the importance of tradition in music, a societal perception of time, and the junction of maintaining tradition yet still managing to progress.

?Out with the old and in with the new,? and ?new and improved,? are just two phrases that express the Western view of the ancient or already existing as needing improvement or change. Alan Merriam?s description of the Western perception of tradition seems to encapsulate the essence of Western life. Rather than taking time to enjoy the moment and the current situation, or to relish the beauty of the arts, there is always an agenda, a purpose, a final goal. There seems to be no such idea of the present as a time in which to take a break and relax. Instead of ?projecting our future out in front of us as a possible horizon of action, thus throwing a perspective on our past as presently experienced,? Westerners experience the present as that which is already past, and choose to focus on the future.i The future represents a time when everything can be faster, better, stronger, more efficient, more high-tech, in other words, continually moving away from tradition, when it is defined as the old. In a strange way, this goal-oriented way of experiencing life is itself becoming tradition. With industrialization and modernization, the desire for all aspects of life to be superlative

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