Female Voices from an Ewe Dance-drumming Community in Ghana: Our Music Has Become a Divine Spirit, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Female Voices from an Ewe Dance-drumming Community in Ghana

Our Music Has Become a Divine Spirit, 1st Edition

By James Burns


234 pages

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Ewe dance-drumming has been extensively studied throughout the history of ethnomusicology, but up to now there has not been a single study that addresses Ewe female musicians. James Burns redresses this deficiency through a detailed ethnography of a group of female musicians from the Dzigbordi community dance-drumming club from the rural town of Dzodze, located in South-Eastern Ghana. Dzigbordi was specifically chosen because of the author's long association with the group members, and because it is part of a genre known as adekede, or female songs of redress, where women musicians critique gender relations in society. Burns uses audio and video interviews, recordings of rehearsals and performances and detailed collaborative analyses of song texts, dance routines and performance practice to address important methodological shifts in ethnomusicology that outline a more humanistic perspective of music cultures. This perspective encompasses the inter-linkages between history, social processes and individual creative artists. The voices of Dzigbordi women provide us not only with a more complete picture of Ewe music-making, they further allow us to better understand the relationship between culture, social life and individual creativity. The book will therefore appeal to those interested in African Studies, Gender Studies and Oral Literature, as well as ethnomusicology. Includes a DVD documentary.


Award: Given honorable mention for the Nketia prize from the African Music Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology, 2010. ’Burns’ study significantly contributes to the scholarly understanding of Ewe expressive culture.’ Journal of Folklore Research ’… a significant contribution to the fields of ethnomusicology, African studies and women's and gender studies. This text effectively combats many of the worn notions of Ewe traditional dance-drumming as static and passive. … The inclusion of the voices of Ewe women is a noteworthy addition to the body of literature on Ewe music and dancing.’ Journal of International Library of African Music ’The author convincingly demonstrates how the women of Dzigbordi are able to achieve a balance between established norms of the group and their individual artistic inputs. … The accompanying DVD contains much interesting visual material, repeating and illustrating the main arguments made in the book; it could actually be watched on its own. … [Female Voices] will be of interest to anyone involved with gender studies, ethnomusicology, and Ewe culture.’ African Affairs 'Female Voices from an Ewe Dance-Drumming Community in Ghana is a successful interrogation of musical events as an integral part of social experience. Its clarity of language, ethnographic depth, and effective use of musical transcriptions and video illustrations make it an excellent addition to the literature on West African music.' African Studies Review 'The DVD offers a window that makes [the text] far more accessible… this book will be of interest to anyone engaged with West-African dance-drumming (with the video enabling more examination of the dance than is often the case), through to more general interests in the way that traditions are being re-created and updated, accessing under-represented musical creativity by women, and general concerns about the role and dialogue produced by an ethnographer.' World of Music

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: our music has become a divine spirit; Daughters of the drum; The dance space; We are a community dance-drumming group; Doing it for everyone to see; Glossary; Interviews; References; Index.

About the Author

James Burns is an Assistant Professor of Music and Africana Studies at Binghamton University, USA.

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General