African dancing has both historical and social traditions that reflect more significance than those of many other cultures. The dances help celebrate not only special events and festivals, similar to other cultures, but often tell the stories of the nation’s history. Unwritten oral history, passed through generation before writing became part of the culture, often included African dance as part of the process.
Many of the dances taught the young about social morays and values, others were simply for the joy of celebration. Some of the dances were tributes of thanks to the gods for helping the tribe achieve success on a hunt or harvest.
Many tribes trained singers to provide the music for the African dance. They produced intricate harmonies and set the rhythmic pace for the dance. While most of the music came from vocals, often drums accompanied the singers to provide heavy rhythms for the dancers. The bougaragou, on of the drums used, is by far the most popular, although there are dozens of others.
The drum and the rhythm is provides signifies the heartbeat and essence of the tribe. It shows the tribe’s vitality. Similar to the ringing of a bell on as a call to gather, the beating drum also indicates the need for a community gathering. It’s a symbol of solidarity throughout all African nations, and joins the people, just as the history and production of the African dance.
European and Latin dancing often are about partners and highlight the abilities of the two. It involves the relationship of the dancers and shows with the passion of their embrace and the hand holding postures. African dancing, however, often separates not only the sexes but also the various ages. It is more about community and telling the story of different life stages.
Singers for the dance provided the background music. The trained voices produced intricate harmonies and melodies and often provided the rhythmic pace for the dance. Some tribes used more than just the vocals for the rhythm; they used drums also. Of all the many different drums the tribes used in their dance ceremonies, the bougaragou was the most popular and frequently used.
The heartbeat of the dance came from the drums and it showed the essence of the tribe. The rapid strong rhythm indicated the tribe’s vitality and strength. Just as chapel bells call people to worship, the drum called the village together for meetings and ceremonies. It also provided a symbol for the joining of all African nations, just as the African dance does.
While every culture has national dances, often, opposite sexed partners perform those of Europe and Latin America. These dances may display the culture but they also show off both the relationships between the dancers and the abilities of the dancers themselves. The African dancers often were uni-sexed and of one age group. The African dance is all about the story, not the dancers.
European dancers, displayed affection with a touch and an embrace. This is not typical of African dancers where social morays condemned the display of public touch. The culture maintains that moral value in their dance. This explains why most dances are gender specific, don’t have the dancers touching and are often relegated to specific age groups. Some examples of the African dance help to display the information on its history and tend to be typical of the types of dance used by the many tribes.
Winning wars was important to the various African nations and to help them build courage and become dominant on the battlefield, they participated in warrior dance before the battle ensued. The dance started slowly but as it progressed, it became wild and violent. It displayed the gruesome actions on the battlefield.
Other African dances besides these mentioned hold a hold a high place in the tribal traditions. The dances display important cultural morays and play a big role in understanding the culture and history of the tribes.
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