Rouget, Gilbert. Musica Reservata: Two Initiatory Chants for the Vòdún Worship Society in Benin. Translated by Cari Friesen. Ethnomusicology Translations, no. 12. Bloomington, Society for Ethnomusicology, 2021Abstract: Rouget analyzes the recordings of two pieces for vòdún initiation ceremonies for the deities of Xɛvyòsò (thunder and lightning) and Sakpàtá (the Earth), which he recorded near Porto Novo, Benin (formerly Dahomey), in 1958 and 1969, respectively. These pieces are performed in great secrecy and differ significantly in form and style from the drumming, dancing, and singing performed for the public “coming-out” ceremonies at the end of the initiates’ period of seclusion. Using staff and sonogram transcriptions, Rouget focuses on melodic and strophic repetition, as well as the function of chromaticism, a rarity in African music. These pieces reflect how the initiates move from a state of “dispossession,” or self-alienation, which the author chronicles in his photographs, before they are symbolically reborn in the public portion of the ceremony. Rouget argues for the pieces’ status as sacred works of art, originating from before colonization, that are worthy of aesthetic appreciation.
Originally published in French as Musica Reservata. Deux chants initiatiques pour le culte des vôdoun au Bénin. Paris: Palais de l’Institut, 2006.
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