sound in Songhay cultural experience



This paper considers the “inner” dimension of sound in Songhay cultural experience. For the Songhay of the Republic of Niger, sound is a dimension of experience separate from the domains of human, animal, and plant life. They believe that sounds carry forces that can penetrate an object. More specifically, like many peoples of the world, the Songhay believe that the sounds of praisenames, magical words, and sacred musical instruments create an auditory presence that can transform a person morally, politically, and magically. Given the spatialized view of reality so engrained in the Western philosophical tradition, it is argued that a deeper appreciation of sound in and of itself could open anthropological ears to a penetrating comprehension of cultural sentiment.