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Title:Social and Musical Responses to Islam among the Vai during the Early Twentieth Century
Author:Monts, Lester P.
Periodical:Liberian Studies Journal
Geographic term:Liberia
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Architecture and the Arts
History and Exploration
Abstract:The author employs both musical and cultural data to explain the evolution of Islam and the way in which the Vai, a people living in the coastal region of present-day Liberia, responded to it during the early 20th century. During this period, some segments of Vai society were more affected by Islam's cultural offerings than others. Whereas funerary rites were infused with many Muslim elements, social and religious life, which was controlled by the secret societies, remained reticent to Muslim influence. Agents of reform included 'mOli' (Muslim) men, who convinced the people that the protection they sought from traditional modes of worship could be increased several timesfold should they convert to Islam, and young Vai men who had studied in 'mOli sanja-nu' (Muslim towns). The agents of Islam were also carriers of new ideas about music. New genres and practices were introduced and identified exclusively with Islam. The primary form of musical assimilation during this era took the form of substitution, whereas Islamic music replaced extant traditional genres in activities such as funerary rites. Chanted prayers and Koran recitation replaced spoken dialogue when appealing to higher powers. Although the Vai adopted some of the eschatological features of Islam, hinting at notions of heaven, hell and final judgement, assimilation was not complete. Bibliogr., notes, ref.