Reinstating the epistemological logic of indigenous musical arts for humanity-framed life education

Meki Nzewi –
  University of Pretoria

The paper queries the persisting dominance of elitist Northern hegemonic music education in the vision, policy and design of classroom education in the Southern, particularly African countries. The discerned, viable epistemological lore of indigenous African musical arts is tendered. The logic provides the pedestal for the role of musical arts and science education in humanity-ingrained African traditional child upbringing, life education and management of salutary societal systems compared to the imported versions of contemporary musical arts sense, meaning and education. From there the prevalent sophisticated mentality and temperament of elitist research and scholarship dialectics are cross-examined. The contemporary challenges beguiling musical arts scholarship, transmission, expressions and experiencing are then briefly diagnosed. A re-orientation and re-training classroom musical arts project researched and propagated by CIIMDA (Centre for Indigenous Instrumental Music and Dance Practices of Africa – Education, Research and Practice), which prioritizes indigenous African epistemological paradigms is briefly tendered before concluding testimonies.

Keywords: arrogance, contemporary challenges, education, humanity conscience, indigenous African epistemology, musical arts and science, narrative, research

The outsider voice querying or contradicting hegemonic injunctions need no longer be silenced, message throttled. Humanity wisdom does not necessarily reside with the privileged, the powerful. After all, over historical time slaves who emancipate from territorial-political dominance recouped unique human image by relying on the merits of their original mind products. Hence this discourse adopts the academically undervalued indigenous African narrative mode of engaging with, performing and enduring pivotal knowledge transmission, to contest entrenched assumptions about cosmopolitan school musical arts education practices and scholarship. The epistemological formulations and practices of indigenous musical arts transpire as a soft science, a spirit force that is applied to proactively probing and managing sensitive life and societal issues. Forthrightness was a cherished fundamental virtue that marked specialist indigenous practitioners as ombudspirits. But we remain conscious, as appropriate, of the hegemonic regulations of literacy scholarship, which persist in discrediting and intimidating historically-validated humanning merits of the prodigious but humble knowledge modes and products of the South, with respect to Africa.


Santos (2012) succinctly argues the ‘Sociology of Absences’ as a colonialist imposition, which the arrogance of Northern hemispheric knowledge hegemony and economy conjured to undermine the prodigious knowledge constructs and epistemologies of the South. He identifies five logics of ‘non existence’ which the colonialist knowledge politics applies to discredit ill-perceived and thereby prejudicially denied knowledge authorities outside the Northern epistemological constructs. The denial of Southern territorial and intellectual autonomy has justified appellations of fallacies of arrogance such as ‘ignorant, backward, inferior, local or particular and unproductive or sterile’, which Santos has discussed as the status ascribed by the North to Southern intellectual dispositions and knowledge products. Northern knowledge benchmarks then became imposed as canons that regulate the academia, international polity systems and approve humanity practices up to the United Nations and its agencies. The remote controlled agencies then craft and supervise generalized international conventions that actually entrench and enforce Northern principles of life and knowledge as well as sanction deviations.

The profound humanity foundations of the indigenous knowledge civilizations of the South are more often than not misperceived, prejudicially interpreted, condemned and virtually excluded in constructing and prescribing what should be considered universal knowledge standards. Such self-conceited Colonialist intellectual posture that ignorantly demeans and condemns the Other, has been exemplified thus: ‘The colonial officers in Africa who could not tolerate the psychic excitation of African music had to wage a lost war against it because of the human nature of getting offended by, and striving to destroy an overpowering force or affect that has not been understood’ (Nzewi 1997, p. 61). Southern leadership elite are humored to participate in international forums and decision-making bodies that prescribe binding universal benchmarks for globally conducting/regulating humanity, social-political and knowledge issues. But there is little evidence that they contribute uniquely Southern voices: the unique humanity integrity and knowledge civilizations of the South remain systematically but subtly sidelined in the globally prescribed or binding practices and conventions. Thus Southern leadership elites accept and impose inapplicable extrinsic knowledge systems or humanity practices on their de-voiced, mentally intimidated populations. Absence of authentic Southern wisdom is thus strongly evident in the prescriptions of international benchmarks for theory, best practice and scholarship in modern global education sites. Disciplinary enclaves in academia are controlled by Northern hemispheric knowledge constructs and dictates including the field of the musical arts and sciences, which relegate the integrity of indigenous African humanity-framed epistemology.

This narrative discourse sets out to articulate the need to reinstate humanning integrity in the definition of what constitutes conscientious education, research and creativity in the musical arts as a science originally conceived to manage overall humanity (mind and body) and polity wellness in Africa. Indigenous people’s knowledge practices in the musical arts are founded on purposive humanity logic that underscores creative inspiration, theory and conformations, while cautiously expressing some sonic-choreographic abstractions that distinguish the globally dominant Northern inventions and practices. Intellectual dispositions, intentions and configurations thus command modest but prodigious features and constructs that eschew the egotistic, de-humanning, commoditization aspirations that drive modern creative and performative aspirations. In the context of school musical arts education and practice, therefore, this article queries the ‘sociology of absence’ of indigenous African knowledge exemplars, which the dominant Northern knowledge politics masterfully imposes globally in conventional epistemological constructs and practices as well as research orientations.

The focus on the integrity of indigenous African epistemology that commands integrative ideology (musical arts science as integrated performative expressions) will be conscious of the prevalent Northern compartmentalizing ideology that regards Music as a disparate discipline. Currently, attitudinal re-think in the micro specialization mentality in the academia is coming strong. Education bureaucracy and knowledge politics may eventually see wisdom in re-installing holistic human-making education a la African indigenous paradigm that instills broadminded intellection as well as imagination of life. It is thus inspiring that the International Society for Music Education (ISME) has welcomed a Special Interest Group on Practice & Research in Integrated Music Education (PRIME). This implies that a few broad minded scholars are thinking back to the humanning roots and designs of music as an integral of a holistic, and thereby more effectual knowledge system: The original sense and meaning of symbiotic conceptualization, conformations and transmission of the performative arts is as a proactive (soft) science of humanning and managing life issues in Southern epistemological wisdom. Isolationism mentality is a mark of insecure, narrowed intellectual cultivation in academia, basic to Northern hemispheric scholarship orientation. Thus, even within isolated music, an aspiring academic is primed to assume that s/he can only intellectualize and practice competently as a musicologist, ethnomusicologist, composer, educator etc. And as such disciplinary infighting rather than collaboration is common. It is human nature to resist and in fact flippantly condemn the seemingly unfamiliar, mystifying. And yet open mindedness, which is not a common virtue in scholarship or modern intercultural interactions de-mystifies, and dispels the seeming inability to recognize the underlying commonalities that harmonize cultures; also the complementarities that under grid musical, choreographic, dramatic and materials arts intellection as well as expressions. Nzewi O argues that every normal human is born aptly creative ‘subject to one’s cultural orientation and direct social environment’ (2009, p. 57). It is innate that any normal human person is musical (sings at will, freely), a dancer (dance-walks to aesthetically communicate peculiar moods at moments of unordinary or spiritual excitation), an actor-dramatist (conjuring/contriving expressive facial and physical gestures to amplify feelings and discourse), and a costumier (imagines anticipated daily encounters in choosing daily accoutrement or make up). Extraordinary attributes or capabilities beyond commonality then select proactive experts and event-professionals.

The arguments hereunder posits discerned indigenous African epistemology as premise for arguing that humanity framed life education should constitute the bedrock for contemporary musical arts education, especially in Africa and Diaspora basic to research and literacy advancement.

Epistemology of musical arts incubation, maturation and specialization — Africa to Diaspora

Rationale for discourse

The epistemology of musical arts practices from conceptualization to theoretical conformations and practical expressions were systematically rationalized, advanced and interacted between African cultures over millennia of human life in the continent. The normally embodied and memorized knowledge practices also traveled with the African Diaspora who pragmatically translated them to manage rural living in plantations and other sites of slave labor in the Americas during the era of slave trade. The (soft) scientific underpinnings of musical arts in Africa were designed to manage stress and communal cohesion, thereby psychical-physiological wellness. The pragmatic re-creation of the intangible heritage, enabled slaves to survive the severe emotional challenges and inhuman inflictions (mental and physical) of their life experiences in the Diaspora. The residing creativities that blended and blossomed in the Diaspora transcended to give birth to international music genres such as the Capoiera, Jazz, Cumbia, Reggae etc. Subliminal consciousness of common humanity enabled survival under slave conditions. The lowly person (slave or servant or laborer) intuitively knows that her/his capacity to accomplish menial or hard labor tasks is beyond the practical disposition and capability of the owner/boss. Exceptional intellectual disposition and professional skill is needed to accomplish the most basic and essential but under-rated essentials of human existence. Idea is abstract. The person who actualizes the abstract into human-social experience is indispensable to the person who merely imagines, conceives or theorizes it. Every application of particularly tedious practical skill demands applied intellect. Quite often such a practical producer employs psycho-active musical arts as a mind-balm and spirit-lubricant that accords solace when the menial or arduous basics become more emotionally and physically demanding. Hence a laborer who performs with intangible musical arts company quite often enjoys more stable mental and physical health, also humanity disposition than a stiff-hearted supervisor/overlord. Survival under stringent or severe circumstance, natural or otherwise, is to a great extent a matter of spiritual tuning. And African ancestry had designed and continued to update as per life situations, peculiar scientific constructs and performative dynamics of indigenous musical arts that tune spiritual dispositions thereby managing mind wellness.

Experiential features

The manifestations and experiencing of musical arts epistemology in Africa and Diaspora feature age and gender emotions as well as organizational categories. These derive from theoretically rationalized cosmological, environmental and life sensitizations of the essence of being human actualized in community practices. As already argued and demonstrated elsewhere (Nzewi 1997, p. 31) there are ‘Africa-peculiar formulae’ about musical arts and science conceptualizations, constructs and practices that characterize African cultures south of the Sahara, and which derive from common philosophical and theoretical rationalizations. Peculiarities that mark cultural manifestations derive primarily from super structural factors of presentation informed by environmental resources, human movement and inter-borrowing, also communication needs and languages. Hence it is almost always possible to categorize a musical piece as African upon first aural or visual encounter. Further analytical insights that take account of instrumentation and language then begin to enable distinguishing cultural sonic preferences and stylistic traits. We therefore base our discussion of Africanness in the musical arts on identified evidences of common humanity-framed philosophy and theoretical-idiomatic principles that underpin creativity and practice (Nzewi M & Nzewi O, 2007). Further illustrative discussions of African epistemology will focus on Musical Arts & Science Education; Research and Scholarship Dialectics; and Contemporary Challenges in Musical Arts Expressions and Experiencing.

Musical arts and science education

A musical arts classroom in Africa, as per traditional transmission paradigms, should function as education-for-real life classroom in which theorization of structural principles and creative aspirations as well as performative experiences and reflective discourses are related to real life situations. The heightened spiritual atmosphere generated by musical arts activities produces a super normal mental state for calmly transacting critical life issues that could ordinarily generate tension or crisis. Hence music was a primary channel for administering societal criticism and inculcating societal norms and morality in traditional living. African epistemological forte in musical arts transmission subtly emphasizes interactive play-mode sensitizations that endure in memory as well as embodied skills. The musical arts was instituted to mould attributes, attitudes, humanity-sensitive conscience, and the theory is embedded, explicated and learnt in systematic performative activities.

Nyland and Acker (2012) call attention to the considerable studies by researchers on early childhood education, and the approaches scholars and teachers are designing for cognitive learning by children including Tafuri’s (2008) treatise, and the Learning stories approach. Their study recognizes ‘existing knowledge’ and children’s ‘exploration of music through the use of their bodies and sense, and the opportunity for playful response’ (Suthers and Niland, 2007). Some of the ideas resonate with indigenous children’s music knowing and practices in indigenous Africa typified in the Uga, ‘Rhythm busters’, study (Nzewi, 2009). This discourse briefly apprises enterprising musical arts teachers and researchers in Africa about the existence and nature of the accumulative African indigenous episteme that remains available in rural locations. Appropriate indigenous exemplars can be tapped to instill cultural knowledge integrity in classroom learning. There are three progressive stages in Early Life acquisition of musical arts skills enacted in the spirit of play (Mann, 2002): Pre-birth or Fetal stage of indirect (empathic) performative sensitization; Babyhood independent life explorations marked by experimental or heuristic knowledge acquisition; and Adaptation or Putative Creative Actualization stage of calculated autonomous expressions.

Pre-birth or Fetal stage

Indigenous African (soft science) rationalization of maternity health requires the average African woman who is pregnant to engage actively in normal subsistence activities as well as participate actively in community musical arts performances sometimes up to a few days before child delivery. The fetus at any stage of gestation is empathically sensing the mother’s emotional states, and indirectly partaking of the sonic and motive vibrations of the mother’s life and artistic activities. The pan African indigenous maternity dance style (Nzewi, 2009, p. 82), one of the indigenous dance designs that induce specified organ fitness, is a scientific design intentioned to choreographically massage a pregnant woman’s reproductive organs thereby ensuring physiological fitness from pregnancy to delivery. The average fetus is thus progressively sensitized and exercised artistically in the womb through being a sympathetic partaker of the vibrations (sonic, motional and emotional) generated by the mother’s dancing body and mood. Indigenous enlightenment credits a gestating fetus with corporeal intelligence, which is as well being developed through the artistic sensations assimilated from the dancing and musicking mother. After all, it is the corporeal intelligence of the fetus, which makes it dance-kick to signal that it is ready to be delivered, except in instances of induced labor or operated birth due to other health reasons beyond the routine physiological priming of mother and baby. The corporeal intelligence of an average African baby in the womb is thus already strongly stimulated by indirect participation in the musical arts before birth. Immediately after birth the intuitive intelligence instinctively makes the newborn engage with the mother’s breast milk when hungry. Primary and life long emotional alignment and allegiance with the mother and other family members develops during constant somatic contacts and body language of carrying and soothing babies at rest or play or work or breastfeeding. Sheila Woodward (1992) has discussed ‘Music education for the fetus and newborn’ citing a number of modern research corroborations of this original African indigenous knowledge practice.

Babyhood knowledge explorations stage

Immediately upon arrival the new born baby is a sensorial participant in the musically expressed joys that normally welcome it to partake of life in traditional Africa. In modern fashionable upbringing a new baby acquires a cot in which it is virtually isolated from bodily contact with mother and family unless it insistently cries for special attention. Emotional distancing continues between child and mother through nurturing babies with cow milk offered with insensitive bottle-contact instead of emotive-somatic mother’s milk entailing breast sucking. ‘Cow’-emotion/sensing (artificiality) instead of human emotion/sensation (empathic feeling) could be instilled. What a person associates closely with, also consumes materially and mentally, and how it is consumed, all shape mental, physical and emotional intelligence, attributes or behavior. The modern baby is further offered a lifeless toy as constant companion and insensitive, emotionally unresponsive playmate. Thus emotional isolation (individualism) starts being sensitized at birth along with developing machine/material soul-attributes, that is, insensitivity about other humans’ feelings and welfare.

In traditional African cultures a baby is constantly in somatic and interactive emotional contact with the mother and older family members even through the night. Thus instinctively, empathic feelings, other-consciousness and humanning bonding with the mother and family members are interactively instilled. The baby is routinely connected to a human carrier’s body as a sentient partaker in the daily activities and cultural rhythm of life in the family and community. It is rocked rhythmically when troubled or about to sleep, not inside a cot, but in empathic human warmth imbibing the soothing motion of a dance-stepping-cooing-singing human carrier. Thus imperceptibly a traditional African baby before the toddler age is cumulatively inducted into the society’s cultural rhythm and sonic-preferences (Nzewi, 1983) as a sentient, indirectly active participant. By the time the baby can sit s/he is already capable of producing independently, appropriate vocal and dance gestures to communicate varied emotions or interpret expressively, any on-going musical stimulus. The crawling baby or toddler has uninhibited freedom to heuristically explore sound and movement on any available object, and is urged to stand and walk through joyously responding to encouraging chorus and rhythm produced by older persons. Upon learning to speak, folksongs and stories are enacted with adults and fellow children to instill societal discipline and mores, narrative aptitude and consciousness of culture, nature and cosmos. By the time the child is walking s/he is welcomed to participate in children’s musical arts activities that could be autonomous creations, or adaptations of adult types. In the Ama Dialog project1 we were able to record a child of three years acting the principal role of a simulated spirit manifest parading the community with a (chastising) whip in a children’s dramatic play by an ad hoc children’s group of three to eight years old.

Currently, virtual, toys-imaging of life as well as adult expropriation of children’s capability to independently and authoritatively think, feel and create own valid knowledge and materials, dominate sophisticated recipe for the social, intellectual and emotional nurturing of children at home or school. These are the now fashionable sophistications of modern life education and socialization, globally. Children are thereby denied opportunity to interact with humanning actualities of life and nature, which accrue early mental maturity/creative capability and emotional security. Relating in isolation with toys and mechanical play objects as well as remote television inevitably erodes humane feeling. As already indicated, it induces individualism and attendant insensitivity for the moods, vibes and feelings of real fellow-human persons. This often extends to immediate family members from early age, and could eventually lead to indulging early age misbehaviors and technologically facilitated psychosis. Modern family life style, fanciful early education contrivances and social-environmental hazards inhibit the child’s opportunities to gain psycho-social security or emotional stability, which live musical arts activities with peers effectualize. These are traditionally inhered in encounters or exchanges that involve real life feelings, sharing, humanity-conscious interactions and bonding through play as spirituality enriching creativities with fellow sensitive neighborhood, school and home children. Home-space narratives and games with abiding moral landing, embodied or inculcated in memory, further ensure conforming to societal morality expectations without need for coercive measures. Hence tradition instituted play forums such as moonlight games and neighborhood, often gender conscious, playgroups where children enact shared fellow-humanity in intellectual cum spiritual enrichment activities. Some were conceived to mediate and obviate emotional anomie or later life psychological crises. A socialization oriented school or classroom environment is an ideal contemporary site, particularly in non-rural school locations, to provide playful humanning redemption for learners with emotionally disadvantaged upbringing. Purposive live musical arts activities begin to intangibly implant sublime socio-spiritual orientation as a fundamental life skill.

Putative creativity actualization stage

This is the autonomous creativity stage at which children display artistic attributes that often compare and challenge adult prototypes in traditional Africa. At the same time they are welcome to participate actively at the fringe, in adult musical arts events. Music education scholars have recognized autonomous children’s musical arts creations2. In African cultures children create and build own instruments and costumes, which they regard and deploy as suitable and authoritative although they could be disposable. Raw materials are sourced from nature and discarded home objects. But every opportunity to perform on adult instruments is seized. Adults did not build ‘toy’ instruments for children’s use. That would be tantamount to insulting the adequacy of child intelligence and capability, although adult advice could be sought and given. Thus life long education in creative and craftsmanship skills as well as knowledge of materials is gained through experimental-experiential learning from early age. Children’s artistic creativity and performance forums especially at rehearsal stages were vibrant with robust critical interactions that mentally stimulate participants, and sensitize the virtues of collaboration and accommodation.

Heuristic learning that marks children’s musical arts explorations in traditional Africa implicates experimenting with errors and pragmatically converting them into positive creative/performative outcomes. Being instinctively primed to transform errors into creative development of performance-in-progress builds self confidence and spontaneity, thereby obviating performance stress or anxiety that assails some modern schooled performers. In traditional musical arts education group creativity and criticism is the norm. Finished items eventually get endorsed by all community members, openly and interactively, during public performances at appropriate community sites. Autonomous children’s creations or re-creations could be sensitized and inspired by observed adult prototypes. Sample creative sensitizations include: self administered socio-therapeutic games such as maskitlane of Sikhukune children in South Africa3, which is a solo psycho-dramatic play that casts stones as problematic human protagonists dramatically interacted by the child-player who also employs verbal narratives; children’s spirit manifest drama simulations that prime spirituality consciousness; guessing and mathematical games that sharpen intuitive acumen and calculation skills; literary narratives including folktales with morality dictums that inculcate societal codes of conduct and life roles. Folk tales as well transmit knowledge of, and respect for fellow humans, animals, plant life, nature and cosmic forces etc. The above discourse deriving from cultural sensitizations and studies warrant that in contemporary musical arts education in Africa and the Diaspora it must never be assumed as Campbell (2007, 883) cautions, that children, particularly African children of any age, are mere ‘tabula rasa — blank slates, on which adults as teachers and parents could write what they believe (d) children should know’4.

At maturation everybody is expected to be a competent partaker in the musical arts and science activities of the community. Some may then train to develop specialist skills recognized and encouraged from early age, and which could entail attachment to adult specialists. Every performance occasion is a formal learning site while creative development continues through life. Experts emerge and get acknowledged especially in event-musical arts types that command performance composition (spontaneous re-creation of the standard form and content of a piece as per contingency in event-contexts). Life long inclusivity is a traditional convention from childhood, and commands that all members of the community irrespective of age and gender or handicap must be competent and knowledgeable in the musical arts lore of her/his community. Everybody is thereby a grounded evaluator of the merits of a performance as well as the expertise of specialist performers. Evaluation was acute, spontaneous, demonstrative and educative as much as there was post performance discussion of achieved affect/effect relative to generally known epistemological standards.

Research and Scholarship dialectic

There is respect for the genius and prestige of fashionable modern advances (statistical scientific measurement, technological, literacy and media) in knowledge research, extension, preservation and dissemination. But it must be noted that most of them are actually sophisticated expansions of the scope of ideas and creations already precedent in traditional societies. A sad reflection on modern intellectual attitude is that in the pursuit of fame/ego and the material enrichment appertaining, the actual unwritten precedents or circumstances of assumed new discoveries are intentionally obscured, hidden. Also in modern re-inventions or sophistications of the old, due attention is scarcely given to the humanity demerits of applauded new marks of genius. When social and humanity fallouts result, they ignite more brilliance in rescue contrivances. In other dimensions the dishonest inventors could incur psychical afflictions.

A humble academic intellect must acknowledge the virtues and values of indigenous knowledge archetypes from which cognitive updates derive. Such a disposition accrues the individual researcher/propagator as well as general beneficiaries enhanced humanity disposition and mind health. Advancement initiatives deriving from cognizance of the HOW (mechanics) and WHY (usually sublime humanity intensions) of traditional knowledge produce beneficial modern developmental outcomes. Research disposition and investigation that strive to achieve systematic knowledge discoveries and advancement along with scholarship (learning gained through systematic study) was well established in most, if not all indigenous cultures of the world. The institutionalization of modern literacy versions championed by the North has now gained ascendancy but unfortunately snobs the integrity of ancestral lore.

Apportionment of crudeness or magnificence/refinement is a matter of judgmental indisposition- disregard for the humane values/virtues, intellectual integrity, and societal benefits of a phenomenon. And yet primary social identity for any individual anywhere is bestowed by ancestral surname. We of course bear in mind that the crude and raw edibles are far more nutritious and healthful than refined or purified editions. When further, artificial sweetening or coloring or breeding is entailed, the concealed harm increases. So it is with old epistemological integrity and its fanciful sophistication. The now generally ignored models of early human genius provided the foundations for the most modern-advanced contemporary versions of language and communication (verbal, media and otherwise), societal polity organization, habitation and agriculture, food, medical science and musical arts. Admittedly knowledge rationalizations and creativity need to accrue beneficially. For instance, the origin of modern telephony, up to the cell phone benefits as well as dangers, is the long distance communication technology of the African giant wooden slit drum. The ageless folktales in Africa, almost always musically laced, envisioned and vividly dramatized the idea of space travels as well as verbalizing non human actors (in nature or cosmos). The traditional ideas have now become actualized and experienced in modern space travel and animation technology. The point being stressed is that virtually all modern theoretical brilliance and grand inventions are logical and sophisticated advancements of the rational progressive intellect, inventive disposition, and also the scientific research and development legacy of ancient, adequately civilized human-cultural knowledge systems of the South and North. The dialectics being posited should interrogate virtues, and tame psychosis in modern research and scholarship aspirations.

Access to musical arts values is a fundamental human right in traditional African ideology because of the prodigious health, socialization, and mind/system management benefits that are imbibed through mandatory active participation. Indigenous African mental disposition and life imaginations were suffused with spiritual consciousness that ordered societal conduct (corporate or individual), and modeled the modal collective African psyche that respected and accommodated all humans. The sound musical was perceived primarily as an intangible phenomenon, a spirit injunction (order and affect), which if resisted or countermanded incurs supernatural sanction. Traditional modes of formal enculturation and transmission ensured that everybody became knowledgeable about the potency, sense and meaning of the musical arts through actively experiencing and witnessing its effects and affects at appropriate performative sites. Specialists (social or skill defined) further transcend general competence to practice as ‘divinely mandated’ (Anyahuru in Nzewi et al, 2009) practitioners who capably employ the spirit force of music to monitor, critique, sanitize, sanction, censure and generally maintain customary laws and moral accountability in traditional societal systems. Such societal roles must be musically (spirit force) processed without fear or favor, employing the medium of super-ordinary narrative: formulaic structures and language (lyrical, iconic or gestured). Because music oversees public conscience and order, as well as manages community consciousness, the entire community protected practitioners from recrimination by any sanctioned transgressor (high or low) of communal ordinance and ethics. The specialists, like their traditional medicine counterparts, assiduously researched their objectives, methods and materials. As divinely appointed societal monitors (ombudspirit) bound by spiritual oath, the specialists must not lie in musical renditions; otherwise it was believed that they would suffer psychosomatic retributions. The traditional spirit (sonic) or blood (for traditional medical practitioners) oath is psychically affective basic to the torture of conscience that actually worked in indigenous, spirituality-ordered societies. The verbal oaths and laws of modern religions and constitutions/laws being merely worldly-verbal, are easily contravened without such super ordinary consequences, although depression could accrue.

Traditional musical arts theater relied on the compelling psychical affliction of public ridicule for effectively sanctioning serious offenders and sanitizing the societal mores. Offenders would be succinctly characterized (mannerisms, nature of specific offences etc) in such musical theater renditions without mentioning the actual names of transgressors. The audience would immediately identify the culprits and their offences by the succinct descriptive. Public ridicule remains a most severe and effective sanction than physical punishment or imprisonment for any hierarchy of deviants who transgress societal moral codes in modern polity affairs: Whose psychical equanimity can withstand the torture of becoming a mass, public ridicule openly-expressed upon every public appearance? In traditional African instances offending recipients were known to have voluntarily absconded to escape the torture of such open communal condemnation and rejection. They would at best abscond, far away from the community for years, until restitution and pardon were affected, often ritually for re-integration into the community/society.

Modern wisdom has ceded to modern religions and constitutional/law agencies the traditional functions of the musical arts as effective super ordinary agency for maintaining law and order in Africa (psychical affliction punishment). The result is proliferation of economic, political and social crimes, and blatant immorality in high and low places, such that traumatize and destabilize modern minds and polity respectively. Human agencies are easily compromised. So the privileged of modern political and religious institutions who are mandated to administer morally stable societal systems have ended up indulging and covering up gross immoralities, relying on manipulating ambiguously crafted law enforcement methods and legalities: How the sophisticated modern religion and secular law (constitutional or juridical) dispense the written, non-spiritually binding laws to offenders depends on the political, social and religious hierarchies and privileges of offenders. Diabolic spirituality (Nzewi, 2005) thus prevails, as quite often the officialdom of the modern systems that make the laws, are the grand, ensconced offenders in both religious and secular domains. Privileged criminality in grossest terms has become systemic in the modern African, and indeed global social-religious-polity dispensations. More because the enduring epistemology of indigenous musical arts designed for social action, and which could be pragmatically re-instituted to instill benevolent spirituality, thereby probity and justice in the societies, has been sidelined and silenced. Indigenous African maxim instructs: ‘If an elder (authority/sage) transgresses public morality, even a child should immediately don a tattered basket (simulate the musical arts agency of spirit manifest/voice) to publicly expose and discipline the erring elder (authority)’. But the modern trial of a privileged, influential offender can take years to a life time without closure whereas the conviction and punishment of inconsequential offenders, sometimes innocent victims, takes a matter of days or weeks.

The African modal spirituality has been dispelled by modernist materialistic dispositions, scientific-technological wonders and the hypocrisy of the elite. For instance, the modern Christian edict preaches: Thou shall not kill - but the Church has continued to honor ‘holy (crusade) war’ killers as knights; thou shall neither covet nor envy nor exploit the belongings (heritages) of another - but both the Christian and Colonialist forces coveted the ecological, mineral and knowledge heritages of Christianized and Colonized peoples, exploiting and expropriating them for own capitalist and aggrandizing obsessions. The owners were condemned as ignorant and barbarians in order to self-justify the right to expropriate their natural wealth and cultural inheritance without humanity conscience or compensation. Retributively, as natural and intangible heritages get recklessly exploited for capitalist expansionism the repercussions of nature in form of global warming and vicious life orientations inevitably manifest and escalate. The influential sermonizers are the privileged pharisaic culprits who invent partial remedies or contrive official pardon for transgressing against humanity and nature. The ignored and repressed masses have become so systematically intimidated that they cannot dare to evoke and launch the raw, redemptive or remedial epistemology of the indigenous corrective musical arts without being efficiently punished and traumatized or eliminated by the very guilty, criminal authority, whether individual, corporate or State.

Still, consciously and pragmatically advanced, the traditional African corrective agency and its epistemology remain contemporaneously capable of effecting corrective social action, especially with respect to performatively inducing sublime mind management in particularly school education. But the generality of the populace should first be mobilized and (school or media) educated to collectively protect the contemporary social-action practitioners as was the case in tradition. Effecting moral rearmament as a social action imperative remains a primary function and capability of purposive musical arts. Hence we urge that indigenous principles could still be regenerated and applied effectively within contemporary nervous, secular and religious governance dispensations. Humanity conscious, practice-intensive musical arts education and practice is of the essence. The entertainment lining in African indigenous musical arts acts as a channel (a lure and lubricant) that facilitates achievement of intended serious utilitarian objectives. Re-instating the force of musical arts for social action should then be the concern of school music education and its conscientious practitioners, nationally and internationally. Musical arts education designed for effecting social action remains a primary agency for instilling peace and humanity conscience globally, to contain the escalating incidents of inter-human hatred, prejudices and traumatic confrontations. National polity/policy officialdom has to be on the side of music educators and learners for such social action that could instill public morality, thereby boosting national integrity, and there from global humanity conscious collaborations.

Illustration: An indigenous event musical arts genre, ESE, is a divinely sanctioned inquisitor that publicly evinces whether a deceased adult male merits ancestral canonization honors in an Igbo, Nigeria funerary theatre. Deriving from research, I experimented with testing its potential for contemporary social action. I designed, wrote and staged an original musical arts theater, Ordeal for Regeneration (published as Dance of the Worthies in Nzewi, 2009). The dialogue and music simulated ESE inquisitorial theatre dynamics to publicly interrogate the conscience of the privileged in governance and economy who are unleashing the vices besieging Nigeria’s polity systems. The total theatre production was staged at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1991. It received appropriate intuitive audience commendation. But the top University hierarchy became alarmed because it also obviously mirrored their official malfeasance, which reflects the national malaise. Further performances were stopped after the opening night. Subsequent repressive measures launched by the threatened top University officialdom culminated in the dismissal of the author and director from University service. I challenged the punitive action in court for two years. But the point was made that advanced indigenous model of musical arts for social action (coercing official probity without hard weaponry or compromise able legalities) retains the capability to effectively monitor, query and conscientize contemporary polity systems given daring practitioners. Other instances of testing musical arts for social action a la traditional epistemological heritage have followed.

We then argue and urge that conscientious, humanity framed advancement of indigenous epistemology in contemporary musical arts education can be an effective agency for mind management and social action in Africa and elsewhere. African minds still retain genetic consciousness about the proactive nature of indigenous musical arts. Evidence is also available in some spontaneous public demonstrations of discontent that are musically marshaled (although often flippantly used) in African countries for instance. Current academic research and education practice cannot continue to assume that humanity conscious, and thereby functionalist musical arts knowledge transmission and acquisition cannot transpire in classroom instructions and published literature. The classroom as a societal construct should be sensitive to, and interrogate as well as interact with the realities of learners’ and teachers’ polity milieu. As such it subverts cultural life education to simply transplant often culturally extraneous and experientially remote knowledge sources in learners’ intellects and life imagination at any level. This chicanery has so far entailed stringent regulation of who (human origin) decrees and produces acceptable (benchmark) knowledge, and who must accept and consume such on (often misplaced) trust. So far, the published Northern cultural-intellectual knowledge versions have constituted the benchmark knowledge in classroom transmissions in Africa. The ideal should be that the published versions must be validated in the context of experienced knowledge (invariably oral-proactive Southern versions) in order to transmit education that imprints culture-humanity sense in the real life of learners and in public milieu. As such, musical sense (theoretical principles and structures) should be studied in the context of musical meaning (how and why music effectually transacts issues of life in a societal milieu). Culture-humanity sensitive learning should, therefore, reposition the values and virtues of traditional prototypes, which prove the true-to-life-and-nature maxim: What appears at the superficial perception to be simple, rough, raw and tough invariably generates intense beneficial outcomes (intellectual and healing); on the other hand, what is gorgeous, glamorous and/or purified often contains scarce humanity and health essence. Hence we caution: Probe beyond the artificial glamour of vanity, to perceive how fancy camouflages baseness. The epistemological agenda in academia as much as early education should be wary of promoting fanciful education in the musical arts.

It is every African learner’s fundamental human right to partake in practical cum literacy learning of the prodigious psycho-social underpinnings of indigenous musical arts integrity. Heritage should be foundational in contemporary school education policy and designs in order to instill cultural-human identity. Currently (in spite of decades of political independence) subtly mind-enslaving colonial, capitalist economy and fashionable religious agenda remain perpetrated in classroom education policies and curricula conscience in Africa. The cultural intellect of learners get systematically amputated, and the nationally ill-rationalized education systems thereby continue to churn out puppet minds, ‘‘‘mimic men” posing as scholars’ (Agawu, 2003 pp. 188). To reverse the on-going cultural-mental betrayal of posterity, Africans should, from policy to curricula designs, start to emphasize the humanity-framed epistemological lore of African indigenous knowledge integrity at all levels of education in the social and humanity sciences as well as polity/policy rationalizations. Uniquely profound theoretical rationalizations frame all African indigenous musical arts and science. The embedded genetic genius is evidenced by Diaspora musical arts inventions and survival-primed theory. Researching and regenerating such latent genetic memory is not difficult, and constitutes a prime force in humanity-framed reinstatement of cultural intellect and re-instilling of societal morality. To enable the self discovery, Masoga (2007) has articulated that a collaborative framework is desired to define viable standards and roles for learners, educators, curriculum designers, school administrations, communities, and researchers. Policy and curriculum designs should then be grounded in indigenous knowledge-sensed musical arts epistemology in contemporary Africa and beyond. Priming cultural originality in creative acuity and the fellow-humanity consciousness appertaining, which constitute the epistemological forte in indigenous musical arts lore, remain much neglected imperatives in contemporary education designs.

Three approaches to engaging with the epistemology of indigenous musical arts and science determine the degree of factuality in understanding and contemporaneously advancing its musicological, philosophical and psycho-social constructs. These are: 1. Actual-factual -– embodied knowing through experiential cum intellectual entrainment. 2. Empathetic -– emotional/exotic knowing that may be enhanced by extra musical connections and compensations. 3. Virtual or ephemeral – distanced superficial knowing that results in parrot mentality and consumerist education; that is, attempting to fit flippant abstractions of the indigenous into extraneous education ideology and knowledge moulds. These dynamics query the role of education and classroom educators/teachers in Africa in terms of positioning Africa’s knowledge civilization in global discourse. None is an exclusive capability of cultural insiders or outsiders.

Actual-factual musical arts knowing

This commands capability to cognitively reason or advance knowledge from the intellectual benchmark and perspectives of the originator or creator. Actual-factual knowing is experienced in real live circumstances, and becomes embodied as well as imprinted in memory as much as the senses. The characterizing elements and idioms may or may not be familiar upon initial encounter. Participatory learner ship becomes essential for authoritative knowing, and necessitates respectful (open-minded), active immersion in performative context, deploying analytical and creative intellects as appropriate. This is the ideal humanity-framed method in acquiring musical arts knowledge that marks indigenous African epistemology. The knowledge acquired endures and accrues in depth of understanding on every creative immersion or mental recall. This dynamic of knowledge acquisition in the musical arts cannot be achieved in classroom education that emphasizes virtual transmission (verbal-aural) of knowledge that requires mere regurgitation by learners/students during evaluation. Actual experiencing should be followed by reflective articulation and documentation of the philosophical, theoretical, psychological and active principles or idioms as in modern literacy dispensation. Partial knowing is the lot of persons who do not have the advantage of life participation. The lesson for contemporary musical arts education that applies African epistemological paradigm is that learners are more intellectually secure when they first perform, and thereafter narrate their actual experiential perceptions or impressions, or otherwise know the theory then perform to confirm it in actual experience. This is irrespective of oral or advancement literacy mode of performance.

Empathetic musical arts knowing

Entails ability to apply compatible knowledge background to making sense of a strange or novel knowledge encounter. There maybe no practical engagement. But initially the knowledge phenomenon is sufficiently agreeable to warrant virtual immersion through visual empathy or auditory sensing. In the musical arts, imaginary associations, sometimes extra-musical, could be evoked for appreciating strange features or making sense and meaning of the piece. When the impression stimulates sufficient interest, attempt could be made at actual simulation or adaptation based on own peculiar knowledge experience. In the process, some degree of actual knowing and adoption/adaptation could be attained. An adaptation could turn out to be a unique recognizable version of the original. Such is inter- or multi- cultural knowledge interactions. In the African philosophy of knowledge exchange (borrowing dynamics) it is the norm to demonstrate creative originality (artistic or aesthetic) when adopting, as a creative acumen is an expected capability of every normal human individual. The philosophy and practice has enabled knowledge adaptations, advancement and new creations integrating existing models within and between cultures. To reproduce (imitate) exactly even in instances of performing learned actual knowledge is deemed dull intellect in indigenous Africa: ‘a person without own intellect’ according to Anyahuru (in Nzewi et al., 2009). The lesson for contemporary musical arts education that inculcates African humanity spirit is encouraging learners to demonstrate creative signature in performing the known. This could be improvisation on themes or performance-composition of known pieces in which situational stimulations shape artistic/aesthetic reinterpretation of the content of a known piece.

Virtual/ephemeral knowing

In this option incompatible or extraneous knowledge background is stringently applied to perceiving, judging, theorizing, analyzing or rationalizing a novel experience. This can be defined as superficial encounter with the sense and meaning of an exotic but interesting phenomenon, musical arts or otherwise. A perceiver lacks an applicable emotional genetic or cultural reference for understanding or relating with the humanity or intellectual or health merits of a strange experience. The perception and assessment then becomes prejudicial or flippant, and any tolerance and acceptance on faith would be based on superficial impressions. There is no sensible rapport or respect in virtual or ephemeral knowing. Virtual knowing marks the outcome of classroom learning that prioritizes transmitting non-culturally rationalized exotic classical musical arts education in Africa, which learners parrot in evaluation or performance exercises. The cultural geniuses of learners become disabled. Jargons of formality (as Northern) and informality (as African) in transmission have further been disingenuously assigned to systematically discourage learners and researchers from actual-factual engagement with the integrity of their uniquely formal cultural arts epistemology. Any action that is systematically re-enacted with or without situational variations has distinctions of formality and theory.

Contemporary Challenges

An absurd mentality that hinders modern acceptance and utilization of original idea/knowledge for the benefit of the generality of mankind is the tendency to focus on who (social/cultural/academic/racial/ethnic/ego acceptability) is producing a knowledge icon, and therefore qualifies to be heard; instead of what (the substance/benefits/validity) is being communicated or offered irrespective of the human specificities of the originator or source. Hence Northern mentality often finds it difficult to welcome, accommodate or acknowledge Southern voices that offer original/unique contributions of global relevance. If the contemporary world would start paying attention to the conscience and humanity benefits of old wisdoms and knowledge practices, there are some products (tangible and intangible), particularly musical arts) that will engender rather than endanger life, peace, beneficial progress and psycho-social wellness in all spheres of national and international life. Modern education in all disciplines and at all levels is witnessing impressive intellectual sophistries and technological wonders. Evidence of humanity virtues and conscience are increasingly scarce in most globalization doctrines, industrial productions and polity practices. Some of the enchanting scientific and technological inventions of particularly the ‘developed nations’, increasingly endanger or destroy human lives and nature, globally, because of excessive profit orientation. Hence humanity conscience is of the essence globally, a disposition imbued by the indigenous musical arts objective and epistemological logic appertaining.

Reflections on elitist versus old epistemologies

Modern high-flown sciences, theories, legalities and agencies purported to foster peace as well as humanity ideals in national and international affairs abound. They range from some United Nations declarations/conventions to national, local and non-governmental initiatives and scholarly inventions. Still prejudices, discriminations, hatred, morbid intolerance, sectarian violence, secular and religious conflicts, wars and senseless destruction of innocent lives, crass immorality and social-legal injustices etc proliferate and escalate globally to severely censure aspects of modernist mentality and inventions. There must then be a problem with the articulated theories and fashionable methods of most well-intentioned and applauded designs. Impressive theories, conferences, peace accords and missions, also other practical and legalistic interventions that have been contemporaneously fashioned and applied occasionally achieve only panacea and short lived solutions or collapse totally in practice: the well meaning prescriptions and agreements may sound impressive and plausible but are clever political gimmicks, which become ingeniously manipulated or undermined for national, clique or personal convenience. Some get fragrantly compromised or thwarted by overriding power games, or pander to the materialistic priorities of armament industries and capitalist economy subtly marshaled by the privileged to overwrite and destroy what could be beneficial to all mankind. Thus many noble intentions to prosecute fellow-humanity consciousness become conveniently sidelined, in fact thwarted in practice. The factor of a supra-human affective-effective force (currently de-activated and functionally deviated) becomes imperative to instill in modern minds obsessed with worldliness a disposition to respect public morality in all aspects of life. If humanity attributes can again be conscientized in modern human affairs, human-generated traumas will abate, and wastage of innocent lives will abate. This objective warrants that the dominant aesthetic/contemplative instead of proactive disposition of the current school musical arts education needs re-evaluation and redefinition. With sober rationalization the discipline could once again deliver humanity-framed conscience, instead of sophisticated entertainment education. Repositioning the functionalist Southern musical arts epistemology, a humanity-framed soft science, is therefore of the essence, and will adopt literacy education mode in achieving such virtuous humanity commission in the contemporary school system without prejudice for Orality. The age-tested, practical psycho-active force and sanction of indigenous musical arts epistemology has capacity to succeed where sermons and legalistic edicts are failing contemporary mankind.

Musical theatre that publicly stages object lessons has already been tendered as robust indigenous deterrent to transgression because it induces psychosomatic afflictions in offenders of any standing or aplomb. If proof about this is needed we tender a critical reflective logic. Since millennia of human existence on earth, up to the current materialist and selfism priorities that dominate personal and national aspirations, decisions and actions, stably organized human groups (dubbed primitive by arrogant modernists) had interacted, resolved conflicts, intermingled, migrated, exchanged tangible goods as well as edifying intangible goodwill without mutual extermination. Group mergers and diplomatic knowledge collaborations did occur. Originally in Africa, womanhood was the ultimate socio-political authority – prodigious but humble Earth-force. The musical arts, a feminine agency, was the divine mediating force in human affairs. Modern societal polity systems including democracy are actually thriving on bequeathed old knowledge systems, now sophisticated but largely insensate because social-political-economic authority became usurped and dominated by male, Sky-force. The now relegated, super ordinary agency of musical arts did sustain virtuous living and relating in old Africa if not other traditional human societies. Even during the period of traumatic mind- and systems-conquering encounters with invading outside world the musical arts of Africa still ably enabled human minds to survive and spiritually transcend the psychical devastations and physical brutalities perpetrated by colonial-missionary forces, slave trade, expropriations of space, land and natural resources.

Reflective posers: Is our modern ‘civilized’ age really an age of sophisticated barbarism? Does modern elitist rationalism bother to ponder why the repressed of old societies (and even the system-repressed of modern societies of the world) have been spiritually resilient, mentally stable and even multiplying more than the glamorous oppressors? Can the soft science of indigenous musical arts still be effective as an intangible psycho-social factor of accommodating suffering, of engineering social cohesion and group stability; as a routine mental wellness therapy as well as inspirer of spirit for co-existence, which it accomplished in traditional Africa?

Re-cycling for emphasis: The humanning potentials and theoretical limits of this still viable supra-ordinary agency that modulates obnoxious spiritual indispositions while spiritually-socially connecting world peoples at international, national and local levels needs advancement. Human existence is increasingly embattled and imperiled by intolerant ideologies and diabolic inventions. The mania of materialism and flippant entertainment continues to corrupt minds and life imaginations globally, invalidating the ideologies of embattled modern religions. More posers: Can the global trend be contained, reversed? Can humanity conscience and consciousness still be re-instilled across nations and across cultures? Can musical arts education be proactive in the mind-taming crusade? Can modern musicians in and out of academia be re-sensitized about their divine mandate to apply the musical arts to humanizing ideals?

Every human has a unique DNA signature. But DNA has not established that the basic material substance of the human brain and the spiritual essential of the mind have mutated since the first humans existed on earth. It is the capacity of the mind to reason, expand the vision of life and there from the limits of knowledge, also to envision and reconfigure the scope, means and nature of existence that have been evolving exponentially. The argument is therefore that musical arts conscientiously, purposively ideated, designed and applied by early humans to managing wholesome attitudes in human existence generally, could still be globally applied to resolving critical humanity ills where other sophisticated measures are proving incapable. This would be basic to humanning education ideology and practice. The role of contemporary music or musical arts education policy should then prioritize education for psycho-social action in creative orientations, methodology and performative deployment. Basic will be the professional/intellectual integrity of educators in designing purposive transmission epistemology, predicated on policy allotting adequate emphases to compulsory musical arts education for all comparable to Science and Technology. The policy edict should be musical arts education for sustainable humanity and secure societal living for all. Music scholars and educators must be wary of the mentality that subscribes to contrived hard scientific and technological sophistries in an unnecessary bid to be reckoned as scientifically quantitative and clever. Music has always been a (soft) qualitative science of sound (Nzewi, 2005), a science of sublime living even though the materials and the elements of conformation may entail quantitative mathematical/scientific calculations. Music studies command soft scientific methodology, which effect concrete outcomes in human experience, and definitely owe no allegiance to hard scientific methods of research, delivery and evaluation. After all, if the sound musical should be silenced in the world, all mankind would crack up, incur mass depression, and run berserk (Nzewi 2007, pp.23-38). The more sublimely scientific the structural conformations and instrumental technology, the more mind management capacity musical arts becomes capable of.

Turning the narrative searchlight on scholars, educators and teachers and the humanity quality of our education orientation, we query the validity and conscience of research purposes, methods and regimens. Researchers in the Humanities now appear eager to conform to the fashionable statistical or quantitative fabrications in order to be deemed modern scientifically elite. We continue to emphasize that music is a unique science with respect to African epistemological prototypes. Quantitative research that demands contriving statistical devices to ascertain intangible humanity sensibilities treats soulful humans as programmed soulless machines/objects incapable of reflective dialogue and emotionalism. Mechanical/mathematical responses to contrived often auto-suggested questions, cannot always elicit the mind of soulful humans - attributes, dispositions, sensations, perceptions and truths. Such automated responses remain highly suspect for veracity/reliability in spite of mesmerizing statistical calculations, equations, quantifications and conclusions. An African dictum instructs: ‘Any human mind is a closed bag (of concealments); only what the owner opts to reveal can be known about the content the mind-bag is custodian of’. In narrative interactions, when the mind or/and body is primed to open up and express its real self without artifice, concealments can begin to spill out of the concealed bag. Consider the impersonal conventionalities of expressing superficial fellowship: ‘How are you today?’ ‘Fine, thank you, and you?’ ‘I am okay. Bye.’ But either party could be harboring a load of burdens and sorrows that could be shared and eased in more humane and teasing exchange of heart-felt cordialities. But the statistical researcher scores respondents’ wellness the maximum 4 or 5 points on a Likert scale for such cryptic fleeting common place answers in un-emotively transacted interactions. The typical traditional African mode of exchanging felicity is a dialogic and sincere narrative interaction during which actual states of being are shared and empathized. Some emotional/spiritual enrichment or healing is shared even if physical problems are not automatically solved.

Reflection on a few arbitrary quantitative questionnaire types may be apt: You are researching public morality, and your questionnaire asks a fraudulent public service official whether s/he would embezzle public funds to service a pressing personal need if a chance occurs. ‘NO’ = (4 in a 4-scale progressive probity score). To a salacious priest of any modern religion: Would you ever ogle a female confessant or member of congregation that exudes erotic airs? ‘NO’ = (4 in a 4-scale rating of the moral integrity of priests.) A questionnaire is used to test students’ assessment of a lecturer’s knowledge and delivery capabilities in a compulsory subject, which the students dislike for prejudicial or other reasons. A majority return a score of 1 or 2 on a rating scale of 5. The lecturer is discredited, loses promotion or could get laid off. A greedy, capitalist conscience is not asked to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ about whether s/he would knowingly produce, release and promote a harmful product for mass patronage if the wickedness would maximize profit. The answer is a robust ‘NO’. On the other hand, narrative research or evaluation provides opportunity for verifiable performance and some revelation of actual self. Discursive and performative modes elicit something of the true states of being and knowing. Innate dispositions and life inclinations or imaginations spontaneously emerge even against the restraining precautions of the human discussant/performer. Automated ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, or arbitrary ticking of choice questions in a scale of 0 to 5 when probing human nature, inclination or intention has high chances of being deceptive, humoring, unrevealing and unreliable; but it has become a fashionable scientific/statistical research fancy in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Caution in framing questions is also needed in qualitative research with respect to verbal answers from culture experts. Often the researcher or inquirer gets told what an n interviewee thinks the researcher wishes to know especially if reward is anticipated, or if the researcher displays common scholar-arrogance. In indigenous African marketing interactions the seller and buyer relax and socialize in bargaining prize of commodity. In the process thereof respective humanity natures become interacted and revealed. Compromise even if not exactitude emerges as mutually acceptable price is agreed upon. Similarly, givers of knowledge and acquirers of knowledge need sociable opportunities to creatively discuss or perform what they know, how they know and feel about the values/virtues/validity of knowledge. Right answers about learners’ capability in musical arts knowledge are performatively demonstrated, emphasizing acquiring creative disposition, aptitude and competence. Basing on the discourse of quantitative and qualitative orientation of student teachers by Brownlee et al. (2003), Akuno (2012) argues that ‘teacher education needs to engage with knowledge conceptualized as being creative, and not just reproductive or transformative’. This already endorses age old indigenous African epistemological perspective. Failure should not be the reward for unexpected/non-prescribed outcomes of sincere effort by a learner. But lack of convincing learner effort or interest is cautioned with the maxim that a person who determines to live a lie inevitably becomes self-failed in life, own greatest enemy.

The politics and conscience of Citations

It is accepted that scholarly publications enable broad dissemination of disciplinary researches, discoveries and views that advance states of knowing and practice. Indigenous conventions prescribe cautious advancement of states of knowing and practice in cultural knowledge, emphasizing humanity conscience in research orientation, experimentation and utilization. Hegemonic convention requires that what is acceptable for publication in a journal or book must conform to the scholarly prescripts of Northern ascendancy. In research and publication, the strict academic stipulation on adequate citations of existing literature mainly aggrandizes and privileges Northern scholars/writers as the acceptable “authorities” on Southern indigenous knowledge intellect and creations. The critical problem arising out of such problematic academic conscience queries the scholarship politics and humanity sense of automatically regarding publications by non knowledge creators/practitioners as the authority on the intellectual merits of Southern knowledge civilizations. Expectedly academic publications have been dominated by scholars from the North as much as currently, scholars from the South, some, mental puppets of the Northern intellectual dictates, are getting on board. Academic knowledge hegemony designates the authoritative creators and practitioners of indigenous knowledge civilizations as mere informants while ceding authoritative ownership credits for their knowledge expressions to any Northern, and more recently including Southern, intelligentsia who report such knowledge practices in books, articles or media by virtues of elitist research parlance and legalities. Thus Northern writers claim the privileged intellect that should expropriate, pontificate on and approve authoritatively Southern knowledge creations and practices by virtue of documenting them with any degree of analytical factuality. Hence Edgardo (2002: 260) notes that: ‘Since the Eurocentric colonial assumption is that the only possible knowledge is Western University and industrial knowledge, it follows that only knowledge which corresponds to this paradigm can be registered and protected as intellectual property.’ This is privileged modern scholarship roguery. Any original knowledge creator/practitioner is the primary and appropriate knowledge copyright owner. Humanity conscience warrants that the research scholar in all sincerity is a collaborating literacy explicator and disseminator, and could therefore share subsidiary copyright credits and earnings with the actual patent owners, assuming cognitive literacy representation.

Indigenous knowledge systems of the South are already culturally rationalized, approved and communally patented. The products are practiced and advanced as beneficial and authoritatively intellectual. Humbleness mediates exercise of intellectual capability in traditional creative attitude. Such products have proven to be adequately humanity viable and valid for the life circumstances of the owners irrespective of researchers’/writers’ extrinsic perceptions and judgments. Hence I query the scholarly conventions of according tokenistic mention as mere ‘informants’ or ‘respondents’ to indigenous knowledge owners, creators and suppliers in publications while ceding legal ownership (intellectual property rights) for culturally patented knowledge to the scholar-researchers (irrespective of factual representation) is morally outrageous. And yet ethics is a highly bandied integrity in academic research discipline. As much as the privileged attitudinally resent unpleasant truths about their false-assumptions we dare to challenge entrenched scholarship aberrations of claiming sole patent ownership for indigenous knowledge inventions by virtue of publication. To start with, if a researcher/scholar/observer is already versed in the particular subject of research, why take the trouble and expense of traveling to the field to investigate what you already know? Ethical conscience therefore warrants that the fact of opting to research, analyze, deduce and conclude in literature (factually or otherwise) about other people’s existing knowledge authority should not confer ownership – intellectual or commercial. It is tantamount to privileged/legalized plagiarism.

It is further emphasized that unless a researcher/writer is ethnically cognizant or has direct creative-performative knowledge of the indigenous knowledge topic, the published literacy arguments and conclusions remain tentative or speculative. Such speculations mark many publications that claim to have interpreted African knowledge systems, including indigenous musical arts and science lore. Sadly, African learners and researchers are compelled to cite such literature as ‘authorities’ (by privilege of being reviewed by non-owners/practitioners) thereby perpetuating often unviable speculations about African intellectual or knowledge integrity. Thus intellectually bewildering terminologies have been invented and ascribed to indigenous theoretical logic that informs musical arts idioms, grammar and elements. (Often the ignorant scholar-experts deny that original unique theoretical underpinnings ground indigenous knowledge productions and practices). Misrepresentative terms such as ‘cross rhythm’, ‘polymeter’ ‘repetitious’ etc abound. (Repetition is actually an African musical arts science of the mind.) It is ethically justifiable that the scholar/researcher could cross-validate research findings with articulate cognitive indigenous knowledge experts, and thereafter could co-publish with them as a literacy partner in copyright ownership declaration, given good conscience.

Current prescript in the academia requires a student embarking on field research into an indigenous knowledge phenomenon in Africa to first demonstrate evidence of copious library research a la literature sources in proposal, before being deemed intellectually equipped to encounter the subject of field research. The African researcher thereby already becomes mentally predisposed (wrongly or rightly) about the indigenous knowledge constructs. S/he begins to perceive the knowledge originally created by the cultural owners from the often extraneous, prejudiced or misinformed intellectual lenses prescribed by the North on how the products and rationalizations of African mental processes should be perceived. Grooming original thinking in research commands where possible that the African student-researcher should first experience the subject of research with an open mind. During this preliminary encounter the researcher would become cognitively primed about the epistemological nature of the subject by the knowledge creators/experts, thus gaining first hand exposure before ever designing an appropriate research proposal. After intensive field research activities and preliminary field-sensitized analysis, the student must then visit published literature. S/he must privilege first hand explications by the knowledge owners over any already published contradictions in analytical/deductive arguments and conclusions. Field experience affirms that there is no normal indigenous expert worth researching, who cannot competently articulate what s/he consciously and competently does. The inability of a researcher to relate and elicit or communicate intelligibly in the field is another matter, not the inability of the cultural knowledge owners/experts. It is then hereby argued that research procedure in African indigenous knowledge patents must not start with getting pre-minded by published literature on a topic any misrepresentations of uniquely African intellectual genius by unrealistic scholars. Repetition: The explication by knowledge authorities about what they do that is worthy of a researcher’s interest comes first as foundational knowledge for appraising published interpretative literature.

Technology equation in musical knowledge acquisition and expression

Technology is having tremendous beneficial as well as deleterious impacts on humanity globally. Technological ordering of life and music has always been there from the design of the hunting bow, which served its cultural modest purpose. This also served as the African musical instrument that sensitized the theory and practice of the octave. Traditional technology in Africa was underpinned by humanity conscience, anchored on pervasive spiritual consciousness of the universe (tangible and intangible). Modern technology has greatly facilitated life at the same time as some callous, sensational technological wizardry devastate mind and life. Diabolic technology voids humanity conscience and causes mental disequilibrium, occasions environmental hazards and magnificent destructions of human life that generate mass trauma. Thus some celebrated break-through in technology do have adverse effects. When, for instance, technology facilitates the performance of a symphony by a sole operator on a computer, it is acclaimed, a work of rare genius. The human disaster of job loss that queries the need for training capable human music performers is lost sight of in the euphoric celebration of the solo ego. Same is evidenced in industries that increasingly employ technology (which do breakdown) to displace efficient human manpower, thereby causing job loss for masses.

There are also humors: In 2010 we attempted to use available and efficient computer technology to transcribe recorded indigenous African music into staff notation. The software produced a mass of undecipherable, non-musical hieroglyphics. Upon inquiry we received the response that available music transcription technology was not conceived or developed to capture African creative theory and structural conformations in music. So the humble genius of authoritatively indigenous musical configurations befuddled mighty (transcription) technology. Furthermore, computer precision is incapable of generating the qualitative humanity emotions that a human performer evokes in spontaneously interpreting a piece of music live. Nor can computer simulation conjure the humanity values, which the performance composition imperatives of African creative-performative logic evoke. Most of all, increasingly glamorous technology listening gadgets promote self isolation (even in a crowd), and imperceptibly disable auditory organs. When fantastic modern technology breaks down, minds are shattered, sometimes with disastrous health and life consequences. Indigenous technology in African, often relegated as crude, is always rationalized and tested to obviate unintended harm to human mind, body and relationships as much as possible (Nzewi, 2004). The material and technology and the vibrant energy emissions of indigenous music instruments such as drums, bells and strings imbue mind and body health re-enforced by intended healing sonic structures already discussed elsewhere (Nzewi, 2005). Overall, technology undermines the values and virtues of live-music participation, experiencing and spiritual connections. Humanity-framed life education in music queries preferences for some voguish technological wizardry fashionable in and out of classroom sites. On the credit side some noble technological minds and productions have wondrously enabled human life, connections and co-existence.

The narrative cogitations so far pose the question: How to effectively transmit and acquire humanity-framed musical arts knowledge modeled on African indigenous epistemology and context in contemporary learning sites?

CIIMDA Reorientation Initiative

The Centre of Indigenous Instrumental Music and Dance Practices of Africa (Education, Research & Practice), CIIMDA, is an extra governmental initiative that was started in 20045. The mission was to re-orientate and re-train musical arts educators and learners in some southern African countries on implementing Africa-sensed musical arts epistemology in contemporary classroom education. CIIMDA education design advances the indigenous humanity-framed paradigms, basic to research with literacy perspective. The course activities enable participants to discover that it only takes open mindedness and practical participation for anybody to grasp the theoretical and practical underpinnings of creativity and performance in African musical arts. Central in course orientation and activities is awakening and deploying the innate creative capability in every normal person as per indigenous musical arts epistemology, which primarily stimulates innate creative acumen and humanity disposition. The course modules explicate the philosophical, theoretical, (soft) scientific and psychological as well as humanity orientations of indigenous musical arts as social action conceptualizations. The music literacy module initiates or updates the participants’ capability to read, write and perform pieces written for African music instruments, principally the membrane drum, for solo and ensemble performance evaluation at the end of a course. Novices confidently and competently perform written African instrumental music within hours. Participants as well undertake field research in communities and produce research documents or/and practical teaching logs to qualify for the Certificate in African Indigenous Cultural Arts Education offered through the Continuing Education @ University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Among other activities during the two to three weeks of centralized courses, participants comprising school teachers and Ministry officials are organized into small mixed groups. Each group is guided to select a folk tale with strong moral dictum. It is analyzed for musical, narrative, improvised dialogue and dramatic potentials. Each group next independently transforms the folktale into a live theater that integrates music, dance, drama, and improvised costume/stage properties. The musical arts piece is rehearsed and staged within the period of a course at CIIMDA Center. Group members assume production duties as actors (human, animal and nature roles), directors, musicians, choreographers and where possible costume/property persons. Finally members of each group produce written reflections on their participant experiences to entrain the practically imbibed knowledge for future classroom and creative activities. In outreach courses lasting 3 to 4 days, which CIIMDA delivers in country locations, participants are mainly teachers and learners. They are mixed up in groups. Each group as part of course activities, produces a dance or music drama piece that is finished and presented by the end of the short course. Production and acting roles are performed by both learners and teachers collaboratively. In a remarkable instance, an eleven years old girl choreographed and produced a dance piece involving fellow learners as well as teachers of her parents’ age range. Participants are instigated to reflect on rehearsal and performance activities used to articulate the theoretical and moral principles embedded in their practical knowing. Theoretical and philosophical rationalizations in indigenous African music, dance and drama are humanely unique: The design of textural, structural, and formal logic, idioms and grammar are artistic transformations of the principles as well as experiences of life, nature and affective/effective cosmos; indigenous research in music instruments materials and technology are informed by the science of imbuing mind and body health. CIIMDA courses in theory and philosophy of music induct classroom teachers and learners whose music education backgrounds are primarily of Western classical music into the African logic. A cardinal tactic in delivering CIIMDA course activities is stimulating and teasing out the innate creative acumen of course participants. Some have successfully applied these to demonstrating self capability by forming school performing groups.

CIIMDA started organizing school children’s musical arts festivals in 2007. The heightened inter-group dynamics of a festival atmosphere is channeled into a forum for further stimulating creative disposition and collaboration among learners. This sensitizes other humanity consciousness and inter cultural respect from early age. Teachers who have gone through the CIIMDA courses give testimony during project reviews that their confidence as teachers have been enhanced by the practical capability to transmit the theoretical, philosophical and humanity principles of their indigenous knowledge systems in classroom musical arts education. The performing groups set up by some of them thereafter have given cultural prestige to communities and schools including invitations to perform at State and international occasions. The Ministries of Education in the various participating countries have witnessed and attested to the benefits of the program evidenced in the vibrant classroom and community activities of involved teachers and learners. Unfortunately the preferences of elite education planners and policy makers to impose exogenous knowledge imports in African classrooms persist in the various African countries. Education bureaucracy continues to resist reforming Eurocentric curricula contents to reflect evidenced African epistemology although CIIMDA has published and presented learning materials to assist in such curricula revision that would prioritize Africa-sensed cultural content.


There should be correspondence between old indigenous and modern academic epistemologies. The intention of the former is humanity-framed education for virtuous living and dying in a society; the intention of the latter should ideally be to update the inherited intellectual framework of the former with necessary advancement of its substance, purposes and methods. In principle the theoretical elements and basic contents overlap. Literacy mode becomes advantageous for the preservation, and global dissemination of the indigenous. But it does not supersede the virtues of orality, which in any case still marks modern classroom knowledge delivery no matter the sophistication of technological support. Moreover, indigenous music was designed as a memory prompter in traditional education, and could still help contemporary learners memorialize critical knowledge in other subjects of classroom learning.

Generally the humanity-framing of the indigenous knowledge conceptualizations and designs especially the mind-management formulations are direly needed for tackling some contemporaneous problems of human upbringing, survival, cohesion and progression. Without the foundations of the past, there would have been no present; without a surname (verifiable ancestry), personal identity in public is vague (human flotsam). And there are not much, new that have not been primed by what existed or was imagined and hypothesized in the past. To lose touch with, or fail to honor the virtuous roots that birthed our present brilliance, bequeaths irresponsible intellect and flighty life orientation to posterity. Prejudice and arrogance must be eschewed in academics as they short-circuit/warp cognizant knowing of the Other, advancing of own valid and authoritative heritage, also incurring psychical injury to self.

Instances of base aspirations such as ego inebriation and flippant although fashionable brilliance result from relegation of morality conscious epistemologies such as marked humble old humanity-framed knowledge systems. The musical arts and sciences were instituted to install sober intellect and moral integrity in all life circumstances, learning included. Music, at least indigenous African music, was conceived, scientifically conformed and systematically transmitted for the management of mind wellness and healthy associations. It becomes sad when musical arts specialists, particularly the educators, negate virtuous intellectual dispositions in and out of classroom. The epistemologies of the South remain viable, and can be advanced to sober deleterious Egos and the traumatic fallouts of greed and prejudices conflicting humanity globally. The integrity of indigenous musical arts and sciences is invaluable asset that needs to be re-installed to frame the designs and contenting of humanity conscious practices in contemporary education sites. What is best for all humanity, and thereby sustainable mankind will accrue. Indigenous musical arts was, and could still be virtuously advanced and transmitted as intangible reality central to life; not just as academic phenomenon accessory to life.


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1 The Ama Dialog Foundation for African Arts was a non Governmental Organization funded by the German Foreign Office, 1993 – 1999 to research, resuscitate and advance various indigenous African cultural arts practices of the Igbo of Nigeria. The research objectives of the project delved into various musical arts genres: traditional women’s classical (abstract) wall paint-drawing, mud wall architecture, and production of Africa-sensed modern educational materials in the cultural arts.

2 See Bresler (ed.) 2007, Section 8 on ‘Child Culture’

3 The maskitlane children’s traditional psycho-drama drama genre was captured during the Mother’s Milk, Mother’s Muse, children’s musical arts project funded by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, 2001- 2003. The project researched and collected children’s musical arts creations and performances of South African leading up to mini festivals in all the 9 Provinces.

4 Patricia Campbell has perspicaciously researched and discussed the ‘premise of children as members of an autonomous (musical) culture’ from historical depth that also queries presumptive scholarship integrity informed by Europe as well as sampling other world culture studies that include John Blacking ‘s (1967) elucidations on Venda children

5 See Masoga et al. (2009) Chapter 10 for a discussion of ‘CIIMDA initiative for culture-sensitive musical arts education in Africa ‘