Drums down the centuries


  • A.M. Jones London School of Oriental and African Studies




No traveller in Africa today, exploring African culture, can be unaware of the central place occupied by drumming, singing and dancing. It is so widespread that we take it for granted. But it might be of interest to pause and to ask, “How long has this been going on?—Has Africa always been like this?” Knowing the remarkable imitative capacity of the African, we might invoke history to suggest that possibly he has acquired this culture from outside influences—from the powerful and widespread influence of Islam, for example. History has, however, left its own record in the diaries of travellers, and the notes of geographers, the sifting of which leaves an interesting deposit of information about African music and dancing down the centuries. There is a curious charm in reading what our forefathers noted about the subject,—a charm which arises partly from the satisfaction of projecting ourselves into the Africa of the past, partly from the quaintness of their language, and not least from the attitude with which these old writers approached African music, some of whose observations are very acute. Space forbids us from quoting in exfenso, and ignorance no doubt hides from us many other interesting references. It might be worth while for our Society to collect more quotations sent in by readers.

Author Biography

A.M. Jones, London School of Oriental and African Studies

Research Member of the African Music Society. Lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. For many years a missionary at Mpanza, Northern Rhodesia. Author of Studies in African Music.




How to Cite

Jones, A.M. 1957. “Drums down the Centuries”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 1 (4):4-10. https://doi.org/10.21504/amj.v1i4.453.

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