Fiddling in West Africa

Fiddling in West Africa

Touching the Spirit in Fulbe, Hausa, and Dagbamba Cultures
Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/14/2008
ISBN: 978-0-253-00009-5
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Winner, 2009 Alan Merriam Prize (Society for Ethnomusicology)
Winner, Nketia Book Prize, Society for Ethnomusicology
Fiddling has had a lengthy history in Africa which has long been ignored. Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje corrects this oversight with an expansive study on fiddling in the Fulbe, Hausa, and Dagbamba cultures of West Africa. DjeDje not only explains the history of the instrument itself, but also discusses the processes of stylistic transference and adaptation, suggesting how these may have contributed to differing performance practices. Additionally, DjeDje delves into the music, the performance context, the musicians behind the fiddle, the meaning of the instrument, and its use in these three cultures. This detailed work helps the reader understand and appreciate three little-known musical cultures in West Africa and the fiddle's influence upon them.

Author Bio

Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje is Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology and former Director of the Ethnomusicology Archive at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"This broad comparative approach synthesizing several decades of research is groundbreaking in both ethnomusicology and African studies, and the author has the expertise and authority to accomplish such a difficult project." —Eric Charry, Wesleyan University

". . . Fiddling in West Africa is a good resource not only for a Westerner who knows next to nothing about fiddling in some 'obscure' corner of Africa, but also for the African student and scholar trying to understand the musical practices of their folk. This interesting piece is as informative as it educative, and should be at the head of reading-lists for students of ethnomusicology and cultural studies, and on the desk of the avid reader." —Abdulai Salifu, Indiana University,
Journal of Folklore Research , October 15, 2008

"The scope of this fascinating and painstakingly researched study is broad, but it is also meticulously focused, so that, after an introduction to the one-stringed spike bowl lute and a look at how it came to the region, Cogdell Djedje takes on each of the three cultures [Fulbe, Hausa and Dagbamba] in turn." —Catherine Nelson, October 2009

Fiddling in West Africa furnishes substantive and intelligent answers to various questions about the nature and purpose of fiddling in Fulbe, Hausa, and Dagbamba. Djedje makes a significant contribution to ethnomusicology with far-reaching impact across disciplinary boundaries. Fiddling in West Africa is an invaluable resource for students and scholars, as well as the general public." —American Ethnologist , Volume 36, No. 3, August 2009

Fiddling in West Africa . . . is a phenomenal addition to critical literature on African music in particular and ethnomusicology in general.Ths seminal publication represents an excellent consummation of a sustained scholarship on a West African music tradition that spans three decades." —Intl. Journal of African Historical Studies , May 2008

"[T]his is a fascinating book that deserves the attention not only of African-oriented scholars but also of ethnomusicologists in general, and it is recommended to all institutions dealing with African cultures." —
The World of Music , 51(2), 2009

"This impressive book is both ambitious in its scope and meticulously detailed. . . The importance of
Fiddlers in West Africa spans far beyond being a rich source of information about fiddling traditions. . . DjeDje’s book defies these stereotypes by opening the reader to the sheer diversity of musical instruments, approaches, and repertoires in West Africa." —Notes

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Table of Contents


Introduction: A Master Fiddler and a Significant but Little-Known Tradition
1. Fiddling in West Africa: Understanding the Culture Area
2. An Affirmation of Identity: Fulbe Fiddling in Senegambia
3. Calling the Bori Spirits: Hausa Fiddling in Nigeria
4. In Service to the King: Dagbamba Fiddling in Ghana

Appendix: Distribution of the One-Stringed Fiddle
List of References
Discography and Videography