Toronto Metropolitan University
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Rhythm as the Word: African Musical Tradition in the Digital World

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posted on 2024-06-17, 22:28 authored by Nganji Kimonyo
Music has been part of human life for millennia and was initially a fleeting experience that could only be experienced in the moment, but starting in the late 1990s to early 2000s with the development of file sharing platforms such as Napster, music has increasingly been consumed through digital service providers (DSPs) or streaming services such as Spotify. Prior to the era of streaming, musical containers such as phonographs, vinyls, cassettes and CDs made it possible to package, purchase and own music. However, streaming has made music an infinitely playable commodity which we no longer own but rather pay to gain access to. The change from music consumption to musical containers and eventually streaming from its ephemeral beginnings, is relatively new in the history of music but the changes have been profound. This phenomenon is not unique to music but is part of a trajectory embarked upon by various forms of media in all cultures, whereby they are reproduced to the point they are completely detached from their initial form and arguably the tradition from which they come from. Countless cultures have been affected by these new means of consumption of music but not all cultures have the same principles and values. On the African continent various cultures have several musical principles and aesthetic values in common, which correspond to a certain philosophy towards life in general. In this paper I will argue that, because of the aesthetic principles found in the African musical tradition and philosophy of fluidity and an openness to change, the transition towards digital consumption of African music can lead to its evolution and not its elimination. This paper will investigate the values, principles, and philosophy shared by many African cultures and create a working definition for the African musical tradition, describe the current consumption of music through streaming platforms like Spotify, detail why this African musical tradition can reinvent itself in this new world of streaming and what lessons can be learned from it in this age of monumental changes.





  • Master of Digital Media


  • Digital Media

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • MRP

Thesis Advisor

Richard Lachman



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