Musical Structure

The structure of Fante music divided by temporal framework, support rhythm, lead rhythms, and melody
The Structure of Fante Music

The music of each type of Fante ensemble is unique, but some generalizations about the structuring of sound can be made that hold true for most of them. All ensembles use time-keeping instruments, usually idiophones, that provide a temporal framework to which other parts are oriented. All such time-keeping instruments have a timbre that is clearly distinct from the tone quality of drums. The metallic sound of bells or percussion plates or bars being most common.

Every ensemble will include one or more drums on which short, repeated supporting rhythmic patterns are performed. If more than one drum is found serving this function in an ensemble, each will have a distinct tone quality and relative pitch.

At the core of each ensemble there will be a lead drum part that interacts with the supporting rhythmic pattern/s to produce a variety of resulting composite rhythms.

Finally, in most Fante ensembles there will be human voices present performing texted melodies in a call-and-response, soloist-chorus pattern. The group or chorus responses to the soloist’s calls often involve a touch of harmony.

The musical texture of most Fante ensembles has a continuous and dense polyrhythmic and polymetric instrumental foundation with a layer of vocally-produced melody, all coordinated around a short, iterative, regulatory bell pattern. Several genres of Fante music that grow out of European-influenced church and popular traditions–e.g., church choirs, brass bands, and highlife-based genres–retain many of the above discussed elements (bell pattern, supporting rhythmic patterns, call-response melodies) but with a clearly more metrical (in a western musical sense) feel void of the polymetric complexities of the more deeply indigenous genres of music.

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