Hofstede’s cultural theory is a framework for communication across different cultures. The dimensions of concept outline the effects of the culture formed in a society on the values of the individuals that compose said society. They demonstrate the connection between these beliefs and the behaviors giving them a rank on a rating scale (Anastasia). In the traditional African culture, with its emphasis on community experience and involvement, music as a co-culture has remained essential to the institutional life as most of it is aimed at addressing ethical issues (Mimbs). African music has a unique distinctiveness with a broad range of unusual instruments used both individually and in large and small ensembles. Multiple actions can be performed in the same musical piece. For instance, even the people who play a regular reed pipe or a musical bow operate the instrument so skilfully that they manage to play, hum, dance, and do many other things all at the same time (Mimbs). The researcher aims to conduct a library study to discuss the relation between the African culture and African music in respect to Hofstede’s value dimensions that include power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance.
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This aspect shows the way power varies in a society and the acceptance of variation by the members of the community that has a high dimensional value assigned to it. In the African culture, power variation was common, and it manifested in all aspects of both social and political interactions (Anastasia). It is also notable that music played a critical role in the daily activities of the members of the African community as it was featured on numerous occasions. There were songs and dancing during spiritual rituals, initiation, and many other work-related activities such as harvesting. Parties were often started by singing and dancing to the tunes as a way of creating friendship and brotherhood between neighborhoods (Squinobal 292).The musical attires were worn according to the nature of the event. It was designed to appease the ruling class making the distance of power greater, which explains the high value of the power distance factor.
Such level of this dimension is also evident from the musical instruments played. The West African dundun is perhaps the best known of the African talking drums (Squinobal 292). These drums were glass-shaped and produced a variation of pitch and rhythm that alters the motions of the participants. Even after the emergence of the Western education system and language, this musical aspect of the traditional African culture continued to be passed on to the children and youths. Official drummers were considered sacred and were chosen carefully for their work in African communities making the dimension of power distance (Anastasia) high since these individuals were greatly respected and unapproachable.
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The dimension of power distance is evident in the age and music in the African culture, where age determines the role assigned to an individual. The value allocated to the dimension is medium since the younger members of the society were allowed to obtain practical skills under the guidance of a senior citizen. For a young man to be considered an adult, he had to be initiated into both the society and the musical arena. The ceremony of making the transition was full of music as people danced in almost every season of the year. Similar traditions remain in many regions of the African continent. During these graduation ceremonies, adolescents danced from one age class to another (Squinobal 293). It is also curious that up until the initiation, the boys grew their hair out and wore women’s clothes; however, in the course of the ceremony, their hair got cut, and they would become able to dress like men. The activity was marked with wild incidences of the new members until the ceremony finally ended with dance and music.
Traditional African music considered rhythm to be a very important aspect that was tailor-made to accommodate the preference of the incumbent leader making the dimension of power distance high. Even melodic patterns served rhythmic functions as well (Squinobal 234). At least two rhythms were constant even in one-artist performances. Also, it was common that every line had its unique beat that did not coincide with another. Polyrhythm had rhythmic points of reference that marked broader musical phrases for each free pattern. Regarding Hofstede’s value dimension of power distance (Anastasia), it was the leaders who were entertained while the subjects joined the musicians in making the music livelier for them. This fact also proves that the value assigned to this dimension is high.
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The dimension of risk and uncertainty avoidance shows the resilience of the society in coping with the individual aspect in case of any difficulty that forces the society to disintegrate (Anastasia). In the traditional African culture, music served both social and political purposes, (Mimbs) and according to the dimension of uncertainty and avoidance, African music has a small value (Anastasia). It is because modernization is taking control of the cultures, and the government institutions are performing some of the roles performed by the traditional African music, thus making it irrelevant in some aspects. In the traditional setup, an offender would be asked to sing and then he or she would be judged by the performance of the song rather than the offense committed. The primary purpose was to reprimand an offender without labeling him or her a criminal while maintaining law and order in the society. One avoided being labeled a mediocre singer since that would warrant a punishment besides suffering ridicule from the public, and thus one would become very cautious in the future.
The participation of the audience in the traditional African performance was inclusive as everyone felt like part of the music. The music was mostly associated with the ritual and the other ceremonial activities that made the event acceptable for the culture (Mimbs). Unlike in the west, where the audience is kept quiet until a predestined time when they are expected to applaud, in the African culture, the audience was part of the song, and their participation was part of the music. Even though the participation was accepted at all points in the music, there were instances when the audience’s contribution was restricted, thus spontaneity was not allowed till a particular part of the music. The traits of the African music are still preserved even when the music is played both in Africa or other parts of the world (Munyaradzi and Zimidzi 194). The value of the dimension of uncertainty avoidance is small as the connection of the emotional free will attracted fans from every corner of the globe to come and join in the music (Anastasia, 1). Hand clapping or foot tapping were not considered to be offensive as they serve to motivate the performing artist.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
The dimension of individualism and collectivism describes the probability of individuals to remain in a group. African music is high in value regarding the factor of collectivism (Anastasia). It depends heavily on the use of tonal variation, in which many people were included. African languages had the coordination of the rhythm and accents. Words with a message would easily be exchanged between two or more people thus attaining a musical form and pattern of an excellent musical performance (Squinobal 234). The tonal blending of the African music made it more collective thus calling for the unification of the society.
Music was taught as an aspect of the culture in which a child grew and learned until adulthood as it not only provided musical knowledge but also offered other cultural insights (Kingston, Nwakego, and Emmanuel 136). Little children only listened to the music, but with time, when they grew up to be young men and women, they took an active part in the social activities. From the tender age, they could be seen imitating the elderly, and in this process, they learned how to perform such activities as drum beating and playing other musical instruments. Musical games had a critical educational function for the young. It was through the African music that the children acquired social principles that guided them into the adult life. The individualism vs. collectivism dimension of the African music can be considered high on the collectivism side (Anastasia). The premise is the communal nature of the African culture where public participation is more important compared to the single undertaking.
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Conclusively, the traditional African music is an important part of the African culture since it is integral in all aspects. The dimension of power distance is considered high since it was the leaders that were entertained, while the structure of traditional African rhythms was tailor-made to their tastes and preferences. The dimension of uncertainty and avoidance is low since the African culture made it a religion to teach music to children while they were still young. It is to show that even in times of adversity, there was someone available to carry out a particular musical role. It is also evident that the learning of the traditional African music was easy. The reason is that children listened to these songs as they were growing up, and later they played more active roles in the practical aspect of the co-culture. The sensibility of the African music is high since the songs had ethical meanings that could be associated with certain aspects of the society. The music was integrated into the culture, and thus it was an important feature of every cultural ceremony that was held. Lastly, the dimension of individualism and collectivism is high on the collective side as traditional African music was aimed at serving different purposes depending on the nature of the occasion and the audience.