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Analyzing Documents
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Analyzing Documents presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. On this screen, you see an image of female BaAka dancers from the southwestern Central African Republic in the rainforest region dancing a hunting dance called Ndambo. Music and dance are important in BaAka culture. They can be performed for many reasons—sometimes in preparation for a hunt, other times to display skill. Dance and music bring together neighboring groups, helping people build social ties while sharing strategies for survival. As seen in the second image, a written representation of the music from the dance mabo, BaAka music is complex. It is polyphonic (many voices) and polyrhythmic (many rhythms). During a dance, participants engage in structured improvisation, knowing when and how to add or change a phrase or a beat and doing so in relation to others. The social and the aesthetic work together.


As you listen to and watch BaAka music and dance, try to identify some of the many layers in these performances. What is a “performance”? What is the meaning of a dance? Of music? Does this change over time? Who performs each dance? Who coordinates each performance? How do BaAka interact during a performance? How are dances shared and taught? Now listen to Professor Michelle Kisliuk analyze BaAka music and dance.


Now listen to Professor Michelle Kisliuk talk about the music and dances and what we can learn from them. Go to Next Page


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A project of the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University,
with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gladys Delmas Foundation
2003-2005 center for history & new media