Music in Africa: Critical Listening - The Mande World

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Music & School of Arts

Module overview

In this course, we look at the diverse cultural world of the Mande peoples (Bamana, Maninka, Mandinka) with special emphasis on Mali and Guinea. We will consider the role of Mande languages, social structures and cultural values in creating musical styles across the savannah region of West Africa and into the global world. Vernacular concepts will be explored throughout, providing insights into the musical structures, repertoires and aesthetics that lie at the heart of the great Mande traditions and instruments such as the kora and ngoni. We will analyse the roles of cultural industries, technologies and production values in creating 21 st century styles and sounds.

The lectures are organized broadly by genre and era; each lecture will revolve around contextualised critical listening to five iconic recordings spanning seven decades of music, though in the seminars we may broaden our scope. These recordings represent some of the major musical trends in the Mande world from the 1950s onwards, covering a range of styles and artists, some internationally famous but others mainly known on the local scene. Each piece tells an important story cutting across time and space - from rural roots to the recording studio, shedding light on why Mande artists have such a high profile on the international stage.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Students will become familiar with some of the major styles, musical instruments/ensembles, and recording artists of Mali, Guinea, and the wider world of Mande musical influence, and develop a critical understanding of the ways that they have been represented in the literature and global music industry.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word review (20%)
  • One 2,500-word essay (50%)
  • One Listening Test (30%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules