SHS Web Conf.
Volume 102, 2021The 3rd ETLTC International Conference on Information and Communications Technology (ETLTC2021)
|Number of page(s)||28|
|Published online||03 May 2021|
West African Polyrhythm: culture, theory, and representation
Department of Music, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this paper I explicate polyrhythm in the context of traditional West African music, framing it within a more general theory of polyrhythm and polymeter, then compare three approaches for the visual representation of both. In contrast to their analytical separation in Western theory and practice, traditional West African music features integral connections among all the expressive arts (music, poetry, dance, and drama), and the unity of rhythm and melody (what Nzewi calls “melo-rhythm”). Focusing on the Ewe people of south-eastern Ghana, I introduce the multi-art performance type called Agbekor, highlighting its poly-melo-rhythms, and representing them in three notational systems: the well-known but culturally biased Western notation; a more neutral tabular notation, widely used in ethnomusicology but more limited in its representation of structure; and a context-free recursive grammar of my own devising, which concisely summarizes structure, at the possible cost of readability. Examples are presented, and the strengths and drawbacks of each system are assessed. While undoubtedly useful, visual representations cannot replace audio-visual recordings, much less the experience of participation in a live performance.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2021
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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