University of Limerick
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African performance epistemology: fundamental indigenous creative theories and philosophies for application in contemporary music education

posted on 2023-04-28, 09:21 authored by O’DYKE NZEWI

Music curricula in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa have been for a long time shaped by Western paradigms and exogenous pedagogic theories. A major result of the above reality is the undermining of the philosophy that guides creativity in indigenous musical arts practice of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which is informed by an indigenous knowledge system birthed in the crucible of the people’s distinctive history, philosophy, creative theory, geographical location and cross-cultural influences. Another cost of this purely Western paradigm in the music education of African musical artists is the loss of the opportunity to inculcate the humanistic and communal values that are the bedrock of indigenous musical arts education. There is, therefore, the need to re-evaluate the content of African musical arts discipline as it is currently taught in schools and nudge it towards being in decent communion with African performance epistemology. Drawing from my over twenty-five-year experience in the teaching and learning of indigenous African music and my personal practice as an African classical drummer, I investigate in this research the possibilities for identifying creative formulations that could be harnessed for classroom education and performance across the African continent, and the humanity-based philosophies and values embedded in indigenous cultural arts practices that can be harnessed for molding learners towards exemplary citizenry. Since it is an arts-practice research, the primary research method is qualitative, drawing insights and data from interviews, articles, feedbacks from student journals and interactions with students and so on. Experimenting with the teaching and performance of two pieces, with the first subjects being Western-trained non-African students of music and the second comprised of local African performers with no Western music education, I compare and contrast the differences between the two performances in terms of the pedagogic process, content and genre, and the impact of the methodological approach. The two performances adopted an indigenous knowledge approach to the teaching and learning of indigenous African music. The preparation of the two performances demonstrated that the application of this pedagogic approach in contrasting contexts is possible and that a deep and introspective engagement with theepistemology of African indigenous performance practices provides a viable model for musical arts education pedagogy. The research finds also that what remains is to formalize this approach like the existing non-African theories of music education.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Colin Quigley

Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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