Mapping Africa through music


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Williams College Visiting Professor of Music Oyebade Dosunmu said it is frustrating when he hears people refer to Africa as if the continent is one single pan-country. A Nigerian-born ethnomusicologist, Dosunmu came to the United States in 2003 to complete his Master's Degree and Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh.

A scholar, and a musician in his own right, Dosunmu researches both traditional and contemporary music of the various countries and cultures in Africa and the African diaspora.

In "Musics from Africa," the survey course that he is currently teaching at Williams, Dosunmu looks at different musical cultures across the continent. His class is designed to "musically map" the connections between many cultures and the music they perform.

"What I do in the course is sort of deconstruct geographical boundaries as a way of understanding the world," Dosunmu said. "I realize that what is defined as 'Africa' is not bounded by geographical states -- for instance, North African music has so much in common with the Middle East."

Coming to terms with the cultures and rich histories found throughout Africa by way of music is something close to Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko. Mali has found its way in the news over the past few months over the strife surrounding rebel and radical Islamist militant invasions of certain regions of the country.

"I cannot speak well about political problems," Sissoko said in an email translated from the French by his agent, Mel Puljic. "But my music can do something. I can show another part of my country -- I can show the heart and soul of Mali. I can show the richness of our culture. That's what I try do as a musician, and I believe it can help reinforce peace."


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