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Music and narrative in five films by Ousmane Sembne

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Diop's article focuses on music in Ousmane Sembne's films as an integral part of film narrative. The author first describes the traditional instruments of Senegal and their usage, and proceeds to analysing the mood they create in Sembne's first three socio-realist films (Borom sarret, La noire de/Black Girl, Mandabi). As a narrative counterpoint to traditional instruments, piano dance music mostly indicts the colonial ideology and its aftermath after independence. This study also illustrates Sembne's well-known concern for egalitarianism among the various ethnic groups of Senegal. Diop extends his study to Sembne's changing and experimental concept of sound as a narrative device. He analyses the meaning of vocals (with their translation), the sounds of the environment as well as silence in Emita; and in Sembne's more recent films, he interprets the use of popular stars heard over the radio as a sign of the democratization of the enjoyment of music.
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Keywords: Sembne; environment; music; narrative; sound

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Institute of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, Norway.

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
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