The Oral University. Attitudes to music teaching and learning in the Gambia.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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The present study seeks to examine attitudes to teaching and learning among jalis in the Gambia. Although this is the main focus, the horizon of which the study is carried out, analysed and discussed, is the development of music teacher education in Sweden during the last three decades, and of which I have been a participant.

The intention of the study is to expand current views on music teaching and learning so that teachers will be better equipped to work and function in a multicultural society. Specifically, the intention is to open the doors to the Mandinka approach to music education, in order to illuminate their philosophy of music teaching.

The research question is: What are the attitudes to music teaching and learning in the Gambia, and in what ways are the jalis experiences of, and attitudes towards music and music education expressed?

This study concerns cultural meetings on a number of levels: between people, between institutions and between literal and oral worlds of knowledge. The methodology chosen reflects these meetings: all results stem from the travels that I and my informant and co-researcher jali Alagi Mbye have made visiting musicians in the Gambia and, during a long period, moving in and out of each others cultures.

The core of the empirical data consists of observations and interviews with jalis and other Gambian musicians. The emic and the etic perspectives of these interviews are reflected in different ways. In one of the interviews my main informant, jali Alagi Mbye, acts as a co-researcher, thereby opening up new dimensions to the study. In this interview, it is the accompaniment of the 21-stringed kora that leads the conversation, just as much as the questions. Because of the multifaceted content of this interview, the full transcript and a CD-recording is attached in the appendix.

The results show that the oral jali tradition is in some respects both structured and formalised. Hence, it is described as ‘the Oral University’. Delving deeper into the conversations with the musicians ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the jali musical culture, the thematic outcome is differing. While the ‘insiders’ highlight the intellectual dimension of music education expressed in thoughts on culture and identity, and with references to the Sunjata orature, the ‘outsiders’ highlight the practical instrumental training dimension of music education, expressed, for example, by praising ‘the art of not talking’ as a way of teaching, and claiming that the master level and position is reached when people start to dance to your playing.

In conclusion, these differences in attitudes to music teaching and learning reflect different ways of expressing knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Malmö Academy of Music
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2003 Apr 4
ISBN (Print)91-628-5573-5
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2003-04-04
Time: 10:15
Place: Malmö Academy of Music

External reviewer(s)

Name: Ling, Jan
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Göteborg


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Music


  • multicultural
  • Music education
  • intercultural
  • orality
  • jali
  • the Gambia
  • Pedagogik
  • Pedagogy and didactics
  • Teacher education
  • didaktik
  • Lärarutbildning


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