A study of the genealogoy of blues music encompassing forty years of fieldwork done in Africa, the U.S., and elsewhere
In 1969 Gerhard Kubik chanced to encounter
a Mozambican labor migrant, a miner in Transvaal, South Africa, tapping
a cipendani, a mouth-resonated musical bow. A comparable instrument
was seen in the hands of a white Appalachian musician who claimed it as
part of his own cultural heritage. Through connections like these Kubik
realized that the link between these two far-flung musicians is African-American
music, the sound that became the blues.
Such discoveries reveal a narrative
of music evolution for Kubik, a cultural anthropologist and ethnomusicologist.
Traveling in Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, and the United States, he spent
forty years in the field gathering the material for Africa and the Blues.
In this book, Kubik relentlessly traces the remote genealogies of African
cultural music through eighteen African nations, especially in the Western
and Central Sudanic Belt.
Included is a comprehensive map of this
cradle of the blues, along with 31 photographs gathered in his fieldwork.
The author also adds clear musical notations and descriptions of both African
and African American traditions and practices and calls into question the
many assumptions about which elements of the blues were "European" in origin
and about which came from Africa. Unique to this book is Kubik's insight
into the ways present-day African musicians have adopted and enlivened
the blues with their own traditions.
With scholarly care but with an ease for
the general reader, Kubik proposes an entirely new theory on blue notes
and their origins. Tracing what musical traits came from Africa and what
mutations and mergers occurred in the Americas, he shows that the African American
tradition we call the blues is truly a musical phenomenon belonging to
the African cultural world.
Gerhard Kubik is a professor in the department of ethnology and African
studies at the University of Mainz, Germany. Since 1983 he has been affiliated
with the Center for Social Research of Malawi, Zomba. He is a permanent member
of the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago and an Honorary Fellow
of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, London.