The Music

Endangered Traditions

Endangered Traditions

© Greg Hanawalt

Among cultures along the Great Rift Valley, music and dance are considered far more than mere entertainment, being an intrinsic part of life itself, used for ceremonies, and having the power to heal, to harmonize relations within a society and between society and nature.

In many of the traditions, particularly in Africa, the music is not based on individual or “virtuoso” performance, as is often the case in the West; often it is represented by groups of individuals, rather than individuals. Moreover, the music is intimately intertwined with dance.

The influence of western culture, the spread of technology, and fragmentation of societies and families means that now many traditions of music are in the hands of a few elders and on the brink of extinction. The music traditions carry with them a cultural heritage that is also in danger of disappearing.

The Flyways project aims to:

  • affirm the extraordinarily diverse music traditions along the Great Rift by promoting them within their home countries and beyond
  • provide opportunities for decision-makers in the various countries to better appreciate their environmental and musical heritage
  • use music and culture to promote dialogue within and between communities, in order to bring people together to address shared environmental problems
  • celebrate diversity and common ground by bringing together musicians in creative collaboration
Sano Majanja and Chris Berry

Sano Majanja and Chris Berry

“By coming from the west, from America, and by coming to show respect, because I was there because of the beauty and depth of their music, really had a deep effect. People realized that if I had come all the way across the world to hear their music, it must have some value. They realized that while they are worshipping western music, there are people in the west who revere theirs. I believe African traditional music if healing music. I believe African people have found a certain musical technology, if you will, that is healing to the human soul, spirit and body. They’ve discovered something that is a medicine for the rest of the world and needs to be practices, not just archived.”
- Chris Berry


Music Resources

International Library of African Music (ILAM):
Society for Ethnomusicology:
World Music Institute:

Posted in | Leave a comment