African tone languages
But such an analysis is bound to lead to some difficult questions such as – Is music a form of language? What is the significance of this interrelationship?, etc. These questions will be answered in the following passages. Such aspects as “in-time performance”, reportorial and generic distinctions will also be scrutinized.
The most substantive evidence for the relation between African music and language is to be found in the song lyrics. Let us take the example of Daniel Avorgbedor’s popular song “It’s a Great Song”. The song belongs to a unique African genre referred to as “war of insults and music”. Rival groups from different villages engage in a contest of wits and insult each other. Factuality is not as important as their artistic merit. Even if the verses contain falsehoods and unwarranted maledictions, they are overlooked. For a western student of music and culture, such a practice may seem odd or even base. But it is important to understand the role such a musical expression plays in the African cultural context. First of all, much innovation is required in composition to bring about the desired effect. The particular insults relating to irregular teeth, body topography, family ancestry, people’s personal sex lives, etc, may appear unseemly for someone not accustomed to such renditions. To truly appreciate such a style of music, one has to pay attention to the wide variety of literary devices used by the composers (who are also called Anlo-Ewe poets) (Agawu, 2001).