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Gyil Music of the Dagarti People: Learning, Performing, and Representing a Musical Culture

by Campbell, Corinna Siobhan

Abstract (Summary)
The gyil, or xylophone, played by the Dagarti of Northwestern Ghana, Southern Burkina Faso, and Eastern Cote d’Ivoire, has steadily gained popularity in recent years. Although the land inhabited by the Dagarti is far from any major city, musicians have brought the gyil to national and international audiences. Communicating as performers and teachers across cultural divides is often challenging. It raises a host of questions about the nature of the music itself, its context, and what cultural outsiders are able to absorb. This thesis is an exploration into the challenges that gyil players face in negotiating musical and personal identity when teaching and performing outside their musical culture. Specifically, I study these issues as they apply to master musician Bernard Woma. After providing background information on Woma, the gyil, and the Dagarti people, I divide the remaining chapters among performer, teacher and student perspectives on cross-cultural communication. First, I contemplate several different performing scenarios; how they signify a change in presentation and audience expectation. I introduce the idea of gyil performance as concert piece, highlighting many of the adjustments made to fit this aesthetic. Further adaptations must be made in the development of a gyil pedagogy. The role of gyil instructor does not exist as such among the Dagarti, rather musicians learn by and large independently, beginning at infancy. Thus, those who wish to teach the gyil to people outside of Dagarti society are faced with a daunting task: to create their own method of instruction, condensing years of knowledge developed in an environment of musical and cultural immersion, and restructure it into a framework to be digested by those with limited knowledge of its context, and varying degrees of musical skill. Here I examine several teaching methodologies. I likewise explore the meanings four American students have derived from their experiences learning the gyil. My research is based on extensive lessons and interviews with Woma, observation of concerts and workshops, and interviews with several advanced players from the United States.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:dagara dagarti gyil xylophone ghana

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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