Rhythmic and Melodic Variations in Traditional African Music and Dance: Mongo’s Bobongo Culture

Abstract : Music is a vital expression in African people’s lives, often characterising their specific cultural background. Many rituals and dances are performed according to the rhythms and melodies of traditional music. In the North of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of Bantu peoples called Mongo, whose culture offers a rich artistic diversity, live in an area surrounded by the immense Congo River and protected by the dense equatorial forest. Amongst this ethnic group, the Ekonda people practise a traditional rite named Bobongo. This ritual ceremony is particularly remarkable as it combines sang with dance in the forest of a spectacular show which is authentic to their culture. Dancers and singers are specially trained to perform this rite, and chants and dances are accompanied by a series of acrobatics carried out with discipline and control. The result of this mixture of artistic expression through sounds, words, rhythms, melodies and bodily gestures, cannot leave one indifferent, for it is highly emotional. Being refined and sophisticated it sings of life and praises the deeds of heroes, calls to mind images of the forest and nature, and, through the narrative of fables and stories, reflects the desire of the human mind to pursue its quest to contemplate abstract notions. Ifs style incites introspection. Coupling chants with dances, it preaches a model of equilibrium. Singing, accompanied by percussion instruments, zithers, cries or hand clapping, is apparently developed in total freedom. Appearing simple at first the performance becomes increasingly complex and words, music and dance fuse together: The authors examine the ritual musical and choreographic parameters of Bobongo according to an organisational model deriving from its performance and culture. This article attempts to define the fundamental characteristics—the articulation of structures and systems—of African music and dance through reference to Mongo’s Bobongo culture. It deals with the form and context of the artistic realization of these characteristics and looks at the factors that contribute to their intermingling.
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Apollinaire Anakesa Kululuka, Marc Jeannin. Rhythmic and Melodic Variations in Traditional African Music and Dance: Mongo’s Bobongo Culture. The World of Music, pp. 73-88, 2008. ⟨hal-01968131⟩

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