Mmensoun Audio and Video Selections

Audio Selection:

The cantor is playing the two-pitch lead Aben for a group
The same performer provides the call for both the chorus and the horn response. Here the cantor is playing the two-pitch lead aben

Two musicological observations should contribute to your appreciation of this music as you listen to this audio clip. First, there are really two parallel ensembles heard here, one is vocal and organized in the typical call-response pattern of soloist-chorus, the other is instrumental (the horns) and is organized similarly with the solo horn doing the calling and the rest of the horns responding as a chorus. Both groupings are heard over a polyrhythmic grounding provided by two drums (ekukura and opentsin) and a metal percussion plaque (gongon). Second, the material performed by the vocal and horn groupings is basically identical, the melodies they sing and play being shaped by the tonal patterns of the text being performed. This is most clearly perceivable when the melodies of the choral responses are compared with those of the horn responses. In the vocal responses, only two pitches are used–the sung pattern of high and low pitches being determined by the spoken tonal pattern of the text (Fante, the language, is tonal). When the horns render the same text, they do so by being divided into two groups of three horns each. The “chord” produced by one of these groups sounds higher than the “chord” of the other. Thus the tonal pattern of the text can be rendered by having the two groups of horns hocket their respective high and low clusters.

Texts/Translations from Songs Heard in the Audio Sample:

woara wo nua, woara abofra nye wo . . .
abofra do nsu adze a wowyi no mna hen
okum e wo nua

[the performers are calling for help for a drowning boy or girl
“woara wo nua” means “he/she is your own brother/sister”]

Video Selection: 

The video clip opens focused on the cantor, who leads two iterations of the same call-response phrase. Following this, the cantor and chorus switch to their horns and perform three iterations of another piece. Three horn players contributing to the lower-pitch cluster are visible.
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The next segment includes good shots of the drummers and the timeline player; dancers executing appropriate movements to this variety of music are also briefly seen.
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The final episode of this clip simply presents an overview of the participants in this pre-arranged recording session.

Performance Forces:

gongon metal percussion plaque struck with a metal rod; time-keeping instrument
ekukwa single-head goblet-shaped tubular drum struck with two L-shaped stick beaters; lead rhythmic instrument
opentsin single-headed tubular drum, goblet-shaped, struck with both hands; rhythmic support instrument
11 aben ten one-pitch or one two-pitch side-blown lip-reed horns manufactured from tied together slats of wood; hocket instruments
cantor male (also performs the two-pitch aben)
chorus male, approximately twelve (many of whom also play single-pitch aben)

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