The African Imagination in Music. By Kofi Agawu

Author: Roeder, John

Article: Music Theory Spectrum 40, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 154–159.


Abstract: The author aims not only to scrutinize the continent’s rich musical practices, but also to confound entrenched prejudices and to promote a deeper appreciation of its musicians’ creativity and expression. While he takes measure of African imagination partly in its “astonishing diversity”(3)—a quality that could be attributed to any collection drawn from a wide enough geographical area—he also provides ample evidence for the characteristics cited above: coherence, rationality, principle, abstraction, and distinctive routines. Accordingly, he allies himself with scholars who sense a “connectedness” at a “background level” evident when we “listen beyond surfaces to the shared structures that prop up those surfaces”(3). All these features “set African music apart from other world music”(307), a claim that he intends as “an expression of desire, an article of faith, and a mark of pride”(18) that will inspire African scholars and …