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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed


    Small Voices Doomed: A KeynoteAuthor(s): Gerhard KubikSource: Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 40 (2008), pp. 1-7Published by: International Council for Traditional MusicStable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2013 16:25

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    by Gerhard Kubik

    "Small Voices Doomed" is the symbolic title f my presentation. I could have said"Soft Voices Doomed" to express the fact that we are living in an era inwhichloud nd persistent oices tend oprevail. echnologies or he mplification nd

    multiplication of messages were, of course, developed by "soft voices," i.e., by afew ndividuals ith xtraordinarycientific alents.ut their nventions avebeenhijacked by others who neither match up to the talents of the former, nor would

    they share their profits with them. The pertinent question therefore is how to dealwith the nsuing ollution.

    So far, there is one place known to me, where something has been done recentlyto diminish at least the impact of visually encoded pollution, if not auditory pollution. It is the mega city of Sao Paulo, with 11million inhabitants, South America'slargest and most prosperous metropolis. A new "Clean City" law approved by the

    City Council last September prohibits all kinds of outdoor advertising, includingbillboards, eon igns, ndelectronic anels.

    When we were playing with our jazz band there at the Third International

    Encounter f the Brasilian Association of Ethnomusicology III EncontroInternacional aAssocia9aoBrasileira de Etnomusicologia), 1-24 November2006, the billboards were still in the streets, except for some green enclaves such asa tiny park near our hotel where we would relax. But the new law has taken effect,starting 1 January 2007, and I hear from colleagues that it is being implemented,and Sao Paulo has become more tolerable (Rohter 2006).

    Excessive amplification of visual and aural messages can become self-propelling, thereby erasing all other messages. In 1977, the musician-composer Donald

    Kachamba and I,while on tour in the Congo, met a young Luba-speaking guitaristinKinshasa, Kalabo Mupanwa was his name, who had developed a very personal

    guitar tyle, ifferent rom he ontemporaneous opular, lectrically mplifiedguitar music by groups such as Rochereau Tabu Ley or Franco's 0. K. Jazz. Theyoung man told us that his music had no chance on the record market which wascontrolled and monopolized by a small group of entrepreneurs. "The market doesnot honour dissident behaviour," he said tome.

    Even one of the greatest historical guitar music composers in the Congo, the lateMwenda Jean Bosco, when invited by festival organizers toKinshasa in the 1970s,found himself competing with junior groups struggling to cover up their lack ofinstrumental skills with excessive amplification. He told me inVienna in 1982that Franco had personally ordered the technicians to switch off the microphonesshortly before he was supposed to play. Obviously, Franco was feeling threatened.

    When Bosco appeared with his acoustic guitar for solo performance, simply nothingwas heard of his music through the loudspeakers by some ten thousand peoplein the stadium. Very soon some youngsters became angry, not even realizing who

    Yearbookfor Traditional Music 40 (2008)

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    thisman was, and they demanded that the incompetent, mute performer should beremoved from the stage.

    We can tentatively divide the planet's musical universe today into two categories: commercially promoted music and music not disseminated by the massmedia. Of course, these are the extreme points on a scale that is, in fact, graded,and the commercial value of a performance or a piece of music is also unstable; itcan change by the second, just like the value of some shares on the stock exchange.In 1994 Charlie Parker's estate including the saxophone he had played in a 1953concert with Dizzy Gillespie was sold at Christie's inLondon for some 150,000 USdollars (Zwerin 1994). I cannot predict for how much itwould sell today.

    Earlier, by the mid-twentieth century, musicologists were still dividing the musi

    cal universe into artmusic and folkmusic. "Folk" was later replaced by the lexicalitem "traditional." Jazz and blues were somehow on the fringes. The idea was thatfolk or traditional music was essentially a community product, orally transmitted,

    while artmusic was the (written) work of (great) composers.I did not partake of those beliefs when I started research. Nor did I believe that

    music in some cultures should be studied exclusively as a community product, letalone as an ethno-specific expression. I didn't even believe that society was capable of teaching us anything. I rejected the idea that creative individuals representeda society, or a culture or a nation.

    Society was for me just an abstraction. Itwasn't an agent capable of action,capable of triggering reactions. Individuals were the agents who would then teach

    me, answer many of my questions, and even anticipate other questions that werenot yet on my lips.

    Such observations are probably anathema to political scientists and sociologistswho think they have privileged access to the understanding of society, like parapsychologists believing in a special ability for extra-sensory perception. Imyself lackany such abilities. I interact and exchange information with physical entities suchas persons, dogs, colleagues, even the little mosquito sitting on my arm while I'mplaying Thelonius Monk's "52nd Street Theme" on the clarinet. What to do about

    themosquito? If I chase it away, I'll miss the-bridge, if I leave it unharmed, it willspoilMonk's main theme.

    So that is a real dilemma! And a good reason forme now to communicate withyou through images, giving the left hemisphere of our brains a little rest.

    DVD example: Dena Pikenien, c. 35 playing the pluriarc. Video-recorded atStrydom farm, near Gobabis, Namibia, 25 November 1991 (figures 1-2). 1

    This was Dena Pikenien with her pluriarc or bow-lute, a Ko-speaking woman inher thirties, who was working as a housekeeper on a farm northeast of GobabisinNamibia in 1991, on the edge of the Kalahari semi-desert. In her free time sheused to sit under a tree in the compound playing her instrument in solitude, with

    1. CopiesoftheDVD examples shown duringthe ecturehavebeen epositedatthe nstituteof Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology at theUniversity ofMusic and PerformingArts in Vienna.

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    Figures 1-2. Denia Pikenien playing the pluriarc photo from ideo recording, 991)

    no audience. We found her by mere chance. The evening before we had recordedvarious group performances, then, late in the morning, inour quarters on that farm,we suddenly heard strange sounds from a distance. So the three of us fieldworkers,Moya A. Malamusi (1994), his five-year-old son, and I rushed there and asked

    whether she would allow us to videotape her performance. She agreed, but insistedupon retuning her instrument irst.

    You may have detected by ear the kind of tonal system that is behind her singing and the tuning process. It iswhat the so-called Bushmen discovered thousandsof years ago, before European polyphony was developed: the sound relationshipsbased on the use of the natural harmonic series. Percival R. Kirby (1961) and mygood friend David Rycroft (1981-82) could have told you much more about that,if they were still alive. The discovery was made on hunting bows converted to

    musical bows. Dena uses a range of tones, produced alternately with head andchest voice over a single fundamental up to the tenth artial. Most prominent inhervoice line is the disjunct interval resulting from melodic movement between notes

    representing the seventh and fifth artial (at 969 and 386 cents, respectively), in

    downward direction.Tonal systems are interalized by the learer, and yet her individual style was

    quite unique and developed under difficult circumstances. The generation beforehad been able to carve a resonator from suitable wood, usually African teak

    (Pnrocarpus angolensis). Dena could not do that, because the trees were gone. Soshe took an old oil can to function as a resonator. Ipredict that her children will notneed any resonators at all, because theywill be online and use the iPod or a similardevice to satisfy their needs.

    DeVD example: A walk to Times Square, Manhattan, New York with Ken Moore

    of theMetropolitan Museum of Art and Moya A. MalamusL Sunday, 7March1993. Discovery of the itinerant guitarist Sammy Coleridge (figure 3).

    i am now taking you to a different part of theworld. On 7March 1993,Moya A.Malamusi-seen in these pictures with Ken Moore of theMetropolitan Museum

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    Figure 3. Itinerant uitarist ammy Coleridge (photo from ideo recording, 993)

    of Art, New York-and I (hidden behind the camera) were on a research fellow

    ship at theMET. In contrast to the standard academic procedure, inwhich one firstformulates a problem, then works out a strategy for its solution, the three of us onthat Sunday evening had no problems. So we decided to do fieldwork at randomround Times Square inManhattan, with temperatures still close to freezing point.

    We were strolling from place to place to seewhat would happen. I call this method"floating" (Kubik 2007). It's like flying a plane by autopilot; you relax, you may goout for a spacewalk, ifyou care, but you don't focus on anything specific. Then, allof a sudden, something happens ...

    The lonely man with a guitar, his face masked, was singing and playing in frontof a construction site. Though he did have a can to collect money from passers-by,itwasn't really his concer. He was playing more or less for himself alone, changing places. Passers-by would sometimes drop a coin, sometimes mock his songs,as heard in the video extract.

    When Ken Moore asked for.his name, he said that hewas "Sammy Coleridge"

    probably a reincarnation.Years later we were trying ard to find him again. In vain! There was now a huge

    building at that site, not far from Carnegie Hall. The place had become hostile toitinerant musicians. We have never met Sammy again. He has vanished in the seaof New York City.

    In the 1970 issue of the urnal African Music, musicologist Atta Annan Mensahstartled readers with a somewhat unusual classification of musical traditions. Incontrast to other ethnomusicologists who often discussed musical performance interms of community contexts or socio-cultural contexts-speaking for exampleof "court music," "initiation music, "religious songs," "work songs," "topicalsongs," "chantefables," "self-delectative songs," etc.-Atta Annan Mensah classed

    musical traditions according to their momentary position on a fictitious scale representing their life-span.

    He had worked out his scheme during fieldwork in a small village, Zumaile, inPetauke District, Eastern Province of Zambia, with aNsenga-speaking population.

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    The scheme, he wrote, was not his, but itwas theway some of the 350 people inZumailevillagewere themselves lassifying heir usical activities.

    So, Mensah arrived at three categories: a) passive traditions; b) moribund traditions; ) active raditions.

    He then enumerated several of these traditions under each heading. For example, he mentioned that kalimba, a small lamellophone with a gourd resonator, was"moribund." The last performer in the village was a person who had settled there,originally oming rom ozambique.

    Atta Annan Mensah then attempted an analysis of the causes thatwere responsible for Growth, Change, and Decline ofMusical Styles. He stressed that many socalled traditions were, in fact, externally borrowed, remaining popular for a while

    until people got tired of them, borrowing something else. Mensah stated:

    The causes of decline inmusical traditions n umaile lie not only in their ecominghackneyed, in creative inertia, r in the declining importance f the ceremonies inwhich they ccurred, ut rather n their oss of prestige. Mensah 1970:101)

    We have confirmed this many times; last year also inMozambique when werecorded Rosairio Madautha, one of the last players of a fourteen-note fan-shapedkarimba in the Tete region. He was also known as a technical expert for repairingcellphones, radios, cassette players, all sorts of gadgetry involving metal, wires,

    and to an extent electronics. He said that there were two causes for the disappearance of lamellophones as musical instruments in Africa: one was that youngmen associated thismusic with old and uneducated people; some guys would evenlaugh at him if he had not achieved a certain reputation in the village because of hisexpertise in repairing cellphones. The second reason was that iron-working technology had been lost; no one was able tomake new instruments that would soundas good as the ones their grandparents had made. The lost culture is now only onrecord inmuseums with their magnificent collections of African lamellophonesand their nineteenth and early twentieth entury proliferation into a hundred different types, especially inMozambique and Angola (Kubik 1 99a, 2002).

    Our research team has repeatedly studied endangered technologies, not only ininstrument manufacture, but also in performance. This concerns even imported,factory-manufactured instruments. case inpoint is the technique of flute embouchure in kwela, the azz offspring that originated in South Africa around 1950.

    I'd like to show you a final cinematographic document that takes us to the year1967 inMalawi, southeast Africa. You will see the flute laying technique and jazzstyle variations by the young Donald Kachamba, then about fourteen, in the bandof his brother Daniel on guitar, with eight-year-old Moya on rattle, nd BulandisoniKapirikitsa on bass (cf.Kubik 1995, 1999b;Malamusi 1994).

    DVD example: Kachamba Brothers 1967. Filmed (originally in 16 mm) in theChileka area and inBlantyre, Malawi (figure 4).

    Daniel Kachamba died in 1987, and Donald we lost in 2001, after his tremendoussuccess as artist in residence at the University of California, Los Angeles. There

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    - --~~~~~~~AN

    Figure 4.Kachamba Brothers Band (photo from ilmrecording, 967)

    is a CD in his memory that has just been released by the University of California,about his work with UCLA students in 1999.

    The problem today is that the flutes are no longer manufactured. Only a fewspecimens survive. But luckily Donald's music has not vanished. In time he wastraining young relatives inhis home village, notably Sinosi Miendo and Christopher

    Gerald who-guided by Moya-have continued Donald's band. Sinosi's guitarchords are rooted in azz, and he also sings the blues. Donald Kachamba's Kwela

    Heritage Jazzband is available on CD. You can hear some of the new directionsthismusic is taking.

    Thank you very much for your patience!


    This paper was prepared in the context of the ethnomusicological research projectP 17751 -G06, financed by theWissenschaftsfonds, Vienna, and directed by theauthor.


    III Encontr? Internacional da Associa?ao Brasileira de Etnomusicologia2006 Universos da M?sica. Cultura, Sociabilidade e Pol?tica de Pr?ticas Musicais.

    21 a 24 de novembro de 2008. SESC Pinheiros, Rua Paes Lerne, 195, SaoPaulo.

    Kirby, Percival R.

    1961 "Physical Phenomena Which Appear to Have Determined the Bases and

    Development of a Harmonic Sense among Bushmen, Hottentot and Bantu."

    African Music 21A: 6-9.

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  • 7/28/2019 Gerhard Kubik Small Voices Doomed



    Kubik, Gerhard1995 African Guitar. DVD with pamphlet. Sparta, New Jersey: tefan Grossman's

    Guitar Workshop.1999a "African nd African American Lamellophones: History, Typology,

    Nomenclature, Performers, and Intracultural Concepts." In Turn Up the

    Volume!A Celebration ofAfricanMusic, ed. JacquelineCogdell DjeDje,186-93. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

    1999b Africa and the lues. Jackson: University ofMississippi Press. (Italian translationwith accompanying CD: L'Africa e ilBlues. Roma: FogliVolanti, 2007).

    2002 Lamelofones do Museu Nacional de Etnolog?a. Lisboa: Instituto Portugu?s de

    Museus / useu Nacional de Etnologia. Book andCD with notes English andPortuguese.

    2007 "'Floating'?eine ethnopsychoanalytische Feldforschungstechnik."?sterreichische Zeitschrift ?r Volkskunde 1/11: 249-68.

    Malamusi, Moya Aliya1994 "Rise and Development of aChileka Guitar Style in the 1950s." In or

    Gerhard Kubik. Festschrift, d.August Schmidhofer ndDietrich Sch?ller,7-72. Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft, 5. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

    Mensah, Atta Annan

    1970 "TheMusic of Zumaile Village, Zambia." AfricanMusic AIA:96-102.Rohter, Larry

    2006 "S?o Paulo Halts the eon's Red Glare." International erald Tribune (13


    Rycrofi, avid1981-82 "The Musical Bow in Southern Africa." In Papers Presented at the Second

    Symposium on Ethnomusicology, 70-76. Grahamstown: Rhodes University,Music Department, ILAM.

    Zwerin, Mike

    1994 "Bird Stars in Bebop Garage Sale in London." International Herald Tribune

    (7 September): 8.

    CDsDonald Kachamba sKwela Heritage Jazzband. The Sargfabrik oncert, Vienna, 10

    December 2004, with Sinosi Mlendo, Moya A. Malamusi, Gerhard Kubik, andChristopher erald. Vienna Series in thnomusicology CD Tol 60011. (available from:Department ofMusicology at the niversity ofVienna, Spitalgasse 2-4, A-1090 Vienna,Austria)

    Donald Kachamba at UCLA Fall 1999. Featuring the music of Donald Kachamba withUCLA students nd friends. CLA Ethnomusicology. rtist Series, 3. 2007. (available from: CLA Ethnomusicology Publications, 2539 Schoenberg Music Bldg., Los

    Angeles, CA 90095-1657, USA)From Lake Malawi to the ambezi. Moya Aliya Malamusi. Aspects of Music and Oral

    Literature nSouth-EastAfrica in the 1990s. Pamap 602. Frankfurt mMain: popular

    africanmusic. 1999.Os Herderos da Noite. Documentos Sonoros: Brasil eAfrica Meridional. Selecao e edicao:Tiago de Oliveira Pinto. Sao Paulo: Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo. 1994.

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