Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1987


The music of Africa has long intrigued many Westerners. From scattered comments in the accounts of explorers of the so-called Afrique Noire to the full-fledged ethnomusicological studies of the last fifty years, the constant theme has been the fundamental role of music-making in African life and society. And of all the elements of that music, rhythm has received the most attention.

There is something to be gained from looking closely at the early writings on African music, for although they represent the work of non-specialists, and for all their ethnocentricism and anthropocentricism, these accounts touch on the fundamental questions regarding the nature of African rhythm.


This article was originally published in The Journal of Musicology, available at



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