Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


Calin Mihailescu


It is often claimed that African traditional literature is mainly oral. Though Okpehwo (131) writes that every piece of oral literature is supported in the first place by the musical quality of the human voice, African oral literature has a particular form: the category of sung poetry, which, in some cases, is accompanied by musical instruments. There are many instruments used for this purpose, and cordophones are just a category. In Central Africa, the most common is a monochord instrument that ethnologists call musical bow. In the Democratic Republic of Congo for instance, almost every tribe has a name for it: dikupu, kakulumbu, ngwotso, lukungu, and lungungu. But the case of Gabon and Burundi is especially interesting. In both countries, there is more than mere music or mere sung texts involved in the genre. In the culture of the Fang people of Gabon, mvet (or mver in some regions) refers either to the instrument used, the player of the instrument, or the epic stories sung, out of which a whole literature is made (Le Mvett. Vol.1. 11). In Burundi the word umudúri applies to a musical instrument and to the story that is produced during the performance. Thus, in both cultures, we have a genre consisting of recited stories that are accompanied by music produced by a monochord instrument. Umudúri has always been part of Rundi traditional art, especially in the category of instrumental music: it is played alongside the drum and the zither, to name the other equally popular instruments.



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