This exceptional site provides a comprehensive archive of African music and accompanying information regarding its roots, influences, and diverse styles. Visually engaging and aurally rich, one can hear excerpts from the works of many popular artists such as Youssou N'Dour, Ismael Lo, Papa Wemba, Angelique Kidjo, Alpha Blondy and many others.
Instruments of the various regions are introduced and explained, with a virtual musical workshop where the user can experiment with the sounds of African instruments.
Type of Material:
This site can be used in the classroom on a large screen or on an independent study basis.
Flash 5 is a necessity.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The user will learn about the diverse musical styles of African music. Audio narration with accompanying text in French are also an aid in reading and listening comprehension.
Target Student Population:
Students of French and students of music.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
For full comprehension of the site, French language proficiency is needed. No prerequisites for appreciation of the music.
Evaluation and Observation
The major sections of this excellent site are: Griot, Baobab, Carte, Ressources, and Atelier Musical. The Griot invites the user to enter his space by placing a seed at the entrance. Music plays and the great Baobab tree appears with colorful animated scenes in its trunk. A mouseover of each of its roots traces the different musical idioms of Africa: Rumba, Sahel, Maloya, Mandingue, and AfroBeat. Clicking on each individual leaf produces a narrated introduction of a musician, with a text biography and a little radio which can be plugged in to hear the artist's music. Every branch on the tree displays a different artist categorized according to his style of music. This creative organization of content helps the user to perceive the differences in the diverse styles. Clicking on the roots gives a more in-depth description of a given style as well as a map indicating its region and a radio to hear the sound. The user can also obtain detailed information about the instruments of a given region. On the "Cartes" (map) page, three more musical genres are added: Saudade, the style of the Lusophone countries; EthioJazz, the style of Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan; and Mbaquanga, the generic term for the urban music of South Africa. The Resources page has a glossary providing information on the cultures, musical genres, and instruments of all the regions. There are bibliographies, discographies, and external links to be found on all of the above-described topics. The wealth of reference material makes this site a good place to come for research.
Finally, there is a truly unique musical workshop that allows the user to create his own music with African instruments. A mouseover of the instruments defines the instruments. Clicking on the Mix itself opens a kind of virtual recording studio where the user can arrange his own piece of music. This feature makes for a very engaging expansion activity for students of music as well as language and culture.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
As la Francophonie is frequently relegated to a chapter or some pictures scattered throughout French language textbooks, this site will meet the needs of faculty who prefer a more comprehensive treatment of the topic. The site's excellence is in its rich use of media to present a vast quantity of information in a creative, engaging, and pedagogically effective way.
The site can be used at a variety of French proficiency levels if the instructor walks through it with the class on a large screen. The more proficent the end user is in French, the better it can be used independently. However, a skilled teacher can find ways to make the site accessible to all levels.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The design of this site is impeccable. There is a Help pop-up box that explains the various navigational schemes in detail. The audio is clear and extremely appealing. The "radio" allows the user to turn it on and off easily in the event one would like to concentrate on the text without sound.
This site is exemplary in its use of media for teaching and learning.