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Monday, 24 July 2017
 

Musical Drama in the Sudanic Belt with Special emphasis on Sudan and Ethiopia

(Graham Abdelgadir) - The African continent, which is more than three times the size of the United States can be subdivided into two large geographical areas, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa (South of the Sahara Desert).
The Intention of this paper focuses on the music and musical drama of Sub-Saharan Africa especially the Sudanic belt which is environmentally and culturally diverse. “There are several ethnic groups with different religions, social customs, and ways of life, they speak over 700 different languages. In this belt tribal art is a universe to itself and that paradox is the central fact about African popular drama such an art is of the people, by the people and for the people. It expresses values, religion, and philosophy which the artist shares not with his patron but with the whole community. Their comprehension and his composition are intuitive to an extent rarely known in Europe for several centuries past.

Music and Society

In Africa it is the unity of art and belief which makes understanding and acceptance. Music (2)”lt is used to entertain, to accompany dances, to mark such events as birth, puberty, marriage and death; Healers use specific songs d dances to treat the ill. There are working songs to accompany There are also songs praising leaders, criticizing auth ‘ty, and recounting history.
In Africa the abstract ward Music, as it is understood I the west, is not used by most African peoples however, there are wards for song-dance and poetry.
African music and dance is associated with communication between the participants and both are basic to many ceremonies, rituals and celebrations. While moving, a dancer often sings or plays rattles or other idiophones that are held or tied to the body.
Music in Africa is also intimately linked with language. Most languages are tone languages in relative pitch ~t which it is spoken. The same word can have more different meanings depending on its communication. Drummers, trumpeters and other musicians convey messages and tell stories by imitating the rhythms and pitch fluctuations of words. Talking drums capable of two or more different pitches are often used to send musical messages. A musician can even describe an event with the aid of a talking drum. Music making in Africa is a social activity in which almost every one participates”, as a result music is usually performed out doors in streets, court yards, or village squares which act as popular theatres.

The role of African drums
Drums are extremely important in African culture. They are essential to many religious and political ceremonies and are used for dancing and regulating the process of work. Talking drams are employed to send messages over long distances. Drums are often considered sacred or magical and are some times housed in special shrines and given food and offered sacrifices”. Drums are regarded as individual, and they frequently symbolize power and royalty. Some African Chiefs are accompanied by official drummers when they move fro place to place. In East Africa, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, ensembles, of up to fifteen drums are played by four to six performers who use to perform melodic music similar to that of xylophone ensembles.
African drummers are among the most sophisticated in the world as they produce not only complicated rhythms but a wide range of tone colours and pitches as well. Within an ensemble, drummers have specific roles, it is usually the chief who has the freedom to improvise as much as he wishes. Rhythms and percussive sounds are highly emphasized in African music. This emphasis reflects the close link between music and drama and dance in African culture. The rhythm organization of music tends to be complex. Every instrument goes its own rhythmic way, producing accents that appear to be out of phase with those of the other parts. Dancers may choose any of several rhythmic pattern played may choose any of several rhythmic pattern played with a bell, another may dance to the rattle, while yet another follows the drum.
On the other hand, in vocal music some Africans perform polyphonic music in which the different melodic lines are quite independent with a soloist touching the highest notes of the scale.

To sum up and based on the above mentioned could be precise as follows:
1. Dramatization of ceremonies and festivals
2. Interpretation of music through participants.
3. Polyrhythm.
4. Percussive sounds.
5. Wide variety of instrumental ensembles
6. Vocal m usic is often performed by a soloist and a responding chorus or two groups responding each other.

Musical drama Sudan/Ethiopia
Sudan and Ethiopia are considered as long rooted civilization seats in Africa, and meeting points for cultural influences internally and externally. The Nubian civilization of Sudan was mid-~ay of cultural and civilization waves from North and east (Egypt - Arab Peninsula). Again there was continuous internal tribal immigrations within Sudan. Ethiopia a multi-tribal country including the Cushte Beja and the south Arabia Semitic, the Negro amotis” was affected by different external influences among which was the influences of the Sudanese Negroid people (Nilo-Saharan speakers) known as Berta, Gomoz-Konama, Koman, Shillasha .... They moved to Ethiopia around 3000 M. B. C. and settled South West of Ethiopia. The other wave was the Nilotic influence who came to Ethiopia in the first M. B. C. and settled in Gambella. This group includes Nuer - Anyuak and Majengjf.
The reciprocal cultural relations between Sudan and Ethiopia had played a crucial role in cultural manifestations. In this respect three types (forms) of musical drama far from the European Opera concept could be stated as examples.

Drum - Nagarit - Hihas - “Nugara”
The name Ngarit is derived from the Amharic word “Nagara” which means he speaks. The body of the instrument is made of wood, silver or gold, the kin is some sort of animal hide usually of ox. The instrument is entirely a ceremonial and distinctive emblem of authority. During the era of the Ethiopian Empire, the Emperor’s Nagarits would be made of gold, senior officials would have silver ones, the wooden ones would be for lesser but still important Government officials.
Every proclamation, public order is preceded by one or more Nagarit beats, for royal proclamations which are read out side the palace gates” The Nagarit is beaten forty times. The rank of an official can be recognized by the form of the Nagarit, but above all by the number of drummers who precede him. When the Emperor comes to the arm, he is preceded by 88 Nagarit carried by 44 mules, while a Ras who has the highest rank in the Empire after the sovereign has 44 Nagarits as the sign of his authority, the Dajazmatch who comes after the Ras has 22, or number of Nagarits equal to the number of districts he governs.
The Nagarit and Malakat a wooden trumpet are honourable instruments, when they are played a dramatic scene is created. The Emperor approaching his army will be the pillar for whom the whole congregations are shouting:
Nogoso Nagast
Nogoso Nagast  of king”
In Sudan the word Nihas - Nogara denote to some extend the same meaning of the Ethiopian Nagarit. Basically Nihas is an improvised musical expression of man’s individuality that is why it should not be judged in comparison with straight music. The language and interpretation of Nihas is different. Nihas does not possess the structural qualities of straight music, it has some thing of its own to offer. Nihas is a collaboration of ideas with emotion, pre-composition with improvisation, discipline with spontaneity. Paradoxically the greatest strength of Nihas-Nogara, is its creativity, the improvisation content, any number of performances of say (Beethoven’s Fifth symphony” will sound essentially the same because the notes will be the same. In Nihas the melody itself is constantly changing because each performer is showing his own skills. Therefore each performance offers up at least new variations on the given melody, but one can make no preconceived quality judgments about the content, every performance is a new adventure, a raid on the in articulate and must e approached as a new field of man’s creativity. The basic rhythm of Nihas is like a pillar around which the soloist can dance and make talking sounds, the participants built up their interpretations by movements and imitations. As an example, in September 1898 the “Arda” of the Mahdist which was a pre war presentation Karari Battle, of 2 September. 1898 was a figurative musical drama in Omdurman. The Khalifa of the Mahadi on his White horse penetrating the crowds of Omdurman’s citizens towards his army at Arda square. The army divided into several groups with their colourful flags and uniforms. The Umbaya, a war Trumpet was sharply sounding among the Mahdist Nihas and the modern wind wood instruments.
The fighters stepping in groups showing their fighters stepping to fight.
The congregations of the army participate in the performance with their fighting weapons, and a skilled war dancer may develop, continuation of call and response break in to actions and presentations, a drama of no author.