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Beng  

Ferdinand J. de Hen

Article

Marian Robertson-Wilson

A tradition of monophonic sacred music peculiar to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt (for music of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, also called ‘Coptic’,see Ethiopia, §II). Except for a few pieces that, on special occasions, are performed with a vigorous percussion accompaniment, the music is sung unaccompanied, solely by men. The texts of the chants are Coptic, with passages of Arabic interspersed according to local taste and need. Where Copts have emigrated to other lands, parts of the rite may now be sung in French, German or English; such linguistic changes, however, have had little effect on the music.

The term ‘Copt’ (Arabic qib ), now synonymous with ‘Egyptian Christian’, derives from the Greek Aigyptos (‘Egypt’), which is itself derived from the Egyptian ‘Ptaḥ’’, the name for an important deity of Pharaonic Egypt. The Coptic language is the latest stage in the development of Ancient Egyptian, which, during Ptolemaic times, was written in the Greek alphabet with seven additional characters from the demotic (Egyptian) script. Coptic has also borrowed many words and phrases from Greek, which was the original language of the rite. There are two main dialects – Sahidic for Upper Egypt and Bohairic for Lower Egypt; the latter has become the dialect now used in all Coptic rites and in the authorized version of the Coptic Bible....

Article

Gangana  

Article

Gule  

Konin Aka

[goule, ule, kule, kwi]

Ceremonial slit drum of the Guere, Niabua, and Wobe peoples of the Ivory Coast. In the music of the secret kwi (‘spirit’) society the player holds a mirliton in his mouth and conducts a dialogue with the gule, which is later used for purely rhythmic accompaniment. The Guere also play the ...

Article

Article

Laurence Libin

Unique drum of the Nyanja/Chewa people of the Kasungu district, Malawi. It is used in rain-making rites. The cylindrical wooden body has geometric designs on the side reminiscent of rock paintings of the BaTwa Pygmies, and it is thought that the drum might originally have belonged to that people. The body contains rattling elements, said to be human teeth, inserted through a hole in the side. The two heads are made from varan lizard skin. The mbiriwiri formerly resided in a hut at a rain shrine at Msinja, resting on two poles and covered with dark cloth. Every year it was oiled. It was removed only to be beaten at the start of the rainmaking ceremony or for repairs. Only a special functionary (tsang’oma, ‘drum beater’) was allowed to handle it. Another functionary provided new skin for the heads when needed. Reportedly, when invaders sacked the shrine in the 1860s the ...

Article

Nswezi  

Peter Hoesing

[eŋoma dh’enswezi]

Term referring to drums associated with nswezi rituals among the Soga people of southeastern Uganda. These rituals feature a type of spirit possession called kusamira or kubandwa in which participants use music to facilitate and maintain connections with ancestral spirits. So central is this activity to possession ritual that the Lusoga verb for performing such a function is okukubira enswezi, literally ‘to beat the nswezi.’ Nswezi practitioners (baswezi) use these drums, along with gourd idiophones (ennengo) and buzzing aerophones (bugwala), to accompany ritual songs.

Nswezi drums, like the ubiquitous Uganda drum, have hide bottom heads, thinner skin batter heads, and twisted hide tension cords that bind the heads tightly over open-ended cylindrical-conical shells. Tuning is effected by adjusting the cords. A nswezi drum differs from a typical Uganda drum in that the lower, conoidal portion of the shell is concave rather than convex. As a result, these drums sound different from drums of neighbouring areas (e.g., Buganda)....

Article

Psalm  

Christian Troelsgård, John Arthur Smith, Terence Bailey, Paul Doe, Alejandro Enrique Planchart and Malcolm Boyd

(Lat. psalmusGk. psalmos)

An ancient Near Eastern or ancient Egyptian sacred poem exhibiting the following main characteristics: a theocentric subject, short bifurcated units of literary construction and parallelism of clauses (parallelismus membrorum, ‘thought rhyme’); or a setting of such a poem to music. The Greek word itself, used in the Septuagint and the New Testament for the book of Psalms, referred properly to a song with plucked string accompaniment (elsewhere in antiquity it referred also to the movement of the fingers in plucking strings, or to the sound of string instruments). In later usage, the word referred loosely to a metrical or non-metrical sacred poem or song.

This article discusses the music associated with the biblical Psalms and other psalmodic texts such as the biblical canticles, in ancient Judaism, early Christianity and the traditions springing from Eastern and Western Christianity. No detailed account is given here of the various independent musical forms of the Christian liturgy that originated ultimately in psalmody, even though these often retained psalmodic texts; for these ...

Article

(b Shoah, Ethiopia, 1949). Ethiopian singer, church musician, and liturgical scholar, naturalized American. Seyoum began studying music at the age of eight and attended various religious schools in his homeland. As he grew older, he began to learn new types of performance, including the Bethlehem style of singing, Christian chant, and sacred dance. At 17 years of age, he was already named a quanygeta, or “leader of the right hand side,” an important position among Ethiopian church musicians (also called dabrata). He quickly rose from deacon to marigeta, the leader of the musicians. He spent ten years in Greece learning more about liturgical practices and then came to the United States in 1982. Seyoum settled in Alexandria, Virgina, and joined the Debre Selam Kidist Mariam Church in Washington, DC. He became a leader there, and his remarkable musical skills have led to the preservation of many traditional elements of the Ethiopian Christian tradition in America. To codify and disseminate these practices, Seyoum released a six-CD set of liturgical materials. He has memorized the entirety of the Ethiopian Psalter (Dawit) and has intimate knowledge of other sacred books, such as the Ethiopian Hymnary. Seyoum is an expert of instrumental church practices, including those that are tied to the extremely complicated notational system from Ethiopia that includes more than 600 symbols. He is also the only living master of the prayer staff and its movements (an art called ...

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Zār