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African Drumming

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The music culture model can be used to view music not as a part of culture, but culture as a part of music, which gives a better understanding to outsiders trying to comprehend another society's music. The first component of the music culture model is ideas about music; this topic is subdivided into music and the belief system, aesthetics of music, context, and history. The second aspect is activities involving music in that culture. The third facet is repertories of music, which includes styles, genres, texts, composition, transmission, and movement. The last part of the music culture model is the material culture of the music, that is, what physical objects are used. By applying the music culture model to the war drumming of the Ewe people of Ghana, a greater appreciation of both the Ewe culture and their music can be attained.

The first aspect of ideas about music is how music relates to the belief system of the people. In the Ewe tradition, music helps people get in touch with their ancestors and feel the power of life. Ancestors are very important to the Ewe because one's ancestors have the power to work both good and evil on a descendant's life; therefore, ancestors must be pleased through music. The power of life is also important to the Ewe because most natural things are seen as holy, and the energy force that runs through nature can be tapped through music.

The second idea about music in the music culture model is aesthetics. In the Ewe culture, powerful music is regarded as "good" music. The force of drumming in a song like "Agbekor," for example, helps remind the people of past war victories and bravery shown on the battlefield, an important concept for the Ewe people.

The next aspect examined by the music culture model is the context of the music. Typical Ewe drumming performances are presented at funerals and festivals, where the aim is to reach the spirits of one's ancestors. Music is a social element for these people, and performances are held for entire villages.

The final idea about music in the music culture model is the history of the music. Drumming is one of the most historically important facets of Ewe culture. In the past, drumming has given the Ewe people freedom by way of intimidating their captors, as well as victories in the battlefield, and the blessings of ancestors. Music is preserved by the musicians, who teach the younger generation through informal instruction. Musicians inherit musical gifts from their ancestors, and music is not an occupation; it is one's destiny.

The second component of the music culture model is activities involving music in the society. Some songs, like "Agbekor," were used as war drumming until the time that intertribal fighting died down. After that, "Agbekor" was used mainly as a funeral song. During the performance of "Agbekor," singers and dancers, as well as onlookers surround a group of drummers.



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