ORAL TO WRITTEN: AN ELECTRONIC APPROACH TO DOCUMENTATION OF THE NIGERIAN FOLK AND POPULAR MUSIC GENRES

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ORAL TO WRITTEN: AN ELECTRONIC APPROACH TO DOCUMENTATION OF THE NIGERIAN FOLK AND POPULAR MUSIC GENRES

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Music as a human phenomenon, though ethnic bound, has a universal appeal. This appeal is better understood and appreciated when it is documented in an easily understandable and readily retrievable form. A common belief is that African folk and popular music genres could only be paraphrased and not possibly put in their real pictures. On the contrary, however, Nketia (1993) opines:

What Africa needs at this period in her history are not only collectors but researchers who will combine collecting with scholarly studies, researchers who can see the implications of what they collect for culture and development, education and creativity or for scholarly investigation into traditional and contemporary problems in their particular field of African studies, Africans in full command of materials they collect (p. 5).

There is no future where there is no present; hence, the present affects the future. Man has always and will perhaps never relent in searching for facts yet unknown to him, for answers to questions yet unanswered. It seems paradoxical therefore that in this age of increased mass education in music and nationalism, Africans are seemingly less prepared than ever before to explore the music of their own time. The introduction of digital sequencing keyboards has brought a new dimension to music documentation. Electronic devices were desired and envisioned long before their production now that it is here in the form of software and hardware, infra-red and Bluetooth, keyboards and tone generating machines, altogether called computers. The question is whether it is possible for the musical sounds of African traditional instruments like dundun (the Yoruba talking drum), ekwe (the Igbo slit drum), or kakaaki (the Hausa trumpet) be properly notated and documented?

1.1  Background of the Study

Many composers from the 1960s to the present day have appreciated the immediacy and accuracy of performance and the variety of sounds that electronic instruments provide. Resources for the composition and performance of electronic music have recently been broadened considerably through the introduction and use of the Musical Instrument Digital Interference (MIDI). The MIDI is a remarkable system that enables composers to manage quantities of complex information and allow computers, synthesizers, sound modules, drum machines and other electronic devices from many manufacturers to communicate with each other. Originally of interest only to serious composers, today MIDI-based systems are used to write and perform film scores, teach music theory, create rhythm tracks for rap music, and provide music for computer games. Also with the MIDI, the numbers of ways in which the electronic synthesizer may serve composers seem limited only by the boundaries of human initiative and perception (Moylan, 2009).

1.2    Statement of the Problem

African music is arguably difficult to transcribe. Several attempts have been made at notating African music in a way that will achieve accuracy and satisfaction. Pantaleoni (1968) suggested a tablature system of notating Ewe drumming, with various symbols to indicate whether the drum has been struck on the edge, at the centre of the head of the drum, whether the drum is struck with open or cupped palms, etc. Koetting (1970) devised the TUBS (Time Unit Box System) notational system used to indicate the fastest musical pulse in a piece of music, more recently is the development of electronic potatone keyboards which combines the most advanced tone generation technology (Ekwueme, 2004). Other systems and devices for African music notation abound but so far the Western staff notation appears to be the most favoured system. However, the staff notation has its own limitations for it does not entirely give the exact representation of African music elements or the intentions of some vocal and instrumental performances.

Also, in the area of production of Nigerian folk and popular music genres, there is much room for improvement. Nigerians need to grow in production of clean and qualitative tapes of folk tunes for documentation. Often, Nigerian artists do not pay attention to the production and documentation of our music. This needs serious attention. It is clear that proper documentation of Nigerian folk and popular music is hardly done by our Nigerian musicians because most of the composers and creators lack the required musical literacy. Consequently the next likely solution should be for the technologically educated musicians to step in. However the problem is the fact that the available music software are more suitable for Western music genres than the African music genres.

1.2  Need for the Study

The nature of the system musical notation and documentation counts against the possibility of its acceptance and proper application to justify its creation. Based on this fact, it is evident that in Nigeria today, music printing facilities are not easily accessible. Thus the Microsoft word copying system is receiving more acceptances in most business centres than computer music printing.

The cultural policy for Nigeria in part II, section 6.3.1 on Performing Arts states that the state shall preserve and present Nigerian music, dance and drama on film, video and audio slides. Furthermore, Nigeria lacks laboratories and laboratory equipment for deciphering and measuring microtones and overtones between pitches. There is a lack of sufficient indigenous experts in the field of music; thus Nigerian technologists have not been able to produce modern and digitalized machine for proper documentation of indigenous music genres.

Going by the directory of all the publishing and printing business in Nigeria, one may spot just about one or two music printing presses today. Yet, it is evident that some Africans including Nigerians, have been doing great folk and popular music jobs but unfortunately the efforts of these pioneers remain undocumented for any serious musical scholarship. All of the foregoing argues strongly for the need of enlightening the stakeholders in music scholarship in the opportunities inherent in MIDI for documentation of African music.

1.4   Aims and Objectives

This study is geared towards highlighting the relevance and importance of the scientific innovation presented by the Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) for production and documentation of Nigerian folk and popular music genres. Nworgu (1991) explains, among other things, that science came with formalized and systematised approach to enquiring into unknown aspects of life.

As a professional musician who has operated also as a broadcaster and who appreciates the importance of information preservation, this researcher aims at presenting a project report that will provide insight into ways of preserving folk and popular music genres of the Nigerian heritage through the use of MIDI. This report will provide its readers with such knowledge on the use of MIDI and it application software to achieve proper notating of Nigerian folk and popular music genres which will in turn promote music literacy. In addition, this work will be of help to students, transcribers, researchers and individuals who would want to understand the modern technological know-how of music. It will also be useful in isolating musical factors for study or comparison.

1.5      Research Questions

Every research work involves careful investigation of facts and ideas, Nworgu (1991:1) postulates “Man has always searched, and will perhaps continue to search for facts yet unknown to him, for answers to questions yet unanswered”. This study is actually geared towards answering questions highlighting the use of modern technology-driven Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) for documentation of Nigerian folk and popular music. In view of this, this research work will attempt to answer the following questions:

1.  What is Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)?

2.  How does the MIDI work?

3.  What is the nature of Nigerian folk music?

4.  To what extent can MIDI help in proper documentation of Nigerian folk and popular music?

5.  How is MIDI used in archiving folk and popular music genres as items in oral format?

1.6    Significance of the Study

The quest for knowledge is the fundamental determinant of academic activities. This research is an attempt to bring to light processes of documentation and production of folk and popular music genres in Nigerian. Today, we live in a global village where technology has continued to make our world shrink; thus making it smaller and smaller. Besides, the challenges of the 21st century have placed added responsibilities on all academics in this part of the world, regarded as technologically backward. In this 21st century, spearheaded by modern-day technological advancement in music, the researcher will attempt to use this medium to explore the possibilities of documenting dundun, the Yoruba talking drum, ekwe, the Igbo slit drum and kakaaki trumpet of the Hausa tribe using the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI).

1.7    Scope and Delimitations

In this work particular interest was given to the Nigerian folk and popular music genres as it concerns their documentation. Emphasis was on notation and documentation of Nigerian folk and pop music genres. However, to a large extent, the MIDI and all its components were initially programmed, designed and developed by and for the Western world. It means that the concept in question has full compliance to the Western idioms and practice of music as opposed to the African idioms and practice of music. Thus it becomes challenging adapting it to the Nigerian folk music genres.

In the actualization of this work, the researcher had bottlenecks to handle, and these were solved accordingly. Firstly the researcher made a general overview on the study of various software after which he attempted the adaptation of the software to suit the Nigerian folk and popular music genres. This process involved the configuration and reconfiguration of some software to achieve the researcher’s objectives. The Yamaha adapted pitch bend (a cyclic wheel attached to the left end of digital Yamaha PSR keyboard series) was by no small means instrumental in deciphering and measuring microtones and overtones between pitches. In notating the Yoruba dundun drums, the pitch bend was used to convert some drum kit from the Yamaha keyboard so as to realize some of the set objectives of the work.

1.8     Research Methodology

The work relied on discrete scientific and observational approaches. In addition, the researcher adopted a historical method. Primarily, the researcher made journeys to Morayo Music Studio Lagos and Chuks-pee Volo Studio Abuja, where he viewed what was operational in music production via the computer and applied same to his own personal computer; an experience that exposed him to the ordeals and possibilities of MIDI in documenting and archiving orally-based musical practices. The researcher not only observed what other people did in scoring music using the computer but also personally obtained the necessary software and used them in notating Nigeria popular and folk musical idioms. An in-depth knowledge the capabilities of MIDI applications in music production and documentation was further acquired through a hands-on sequencing and scoring of the sounds of the Yoruba dundun drums. Through a library method, several works by different authorities were reviewed as secondary sources. The information gathered helped in forming the bases of literature review.

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