Source:African Rhythmic Patterns

African tribes, like most indigenous people, are intuitive cultures…they have a world view which is conceived as universal oneness.There is an interconnection of all things that compose the Universe. ” The African cosmos is like a spider web: its least element cannot be touched without making the whole vibrate. Everything is connected, interdependent.”‘ This interconnectedness is conceived as a kind of “vitalism” or life force which pervades all of nature: rocks, trees, lower animals, the heavens, the earth, the rivers, and particularly man, who is a vessel for this oneness which permeates and infuses all that is.

Relationships between men and within men are regulated by notions of flow. Flow is rhythm and rhythm becomes a useful way of conceptualizing African people’s rendering of the notion of personality. Definitions of personality in the West emphasize the uniqueness and the insularity of the individual. Because of the vitalism and rhythm that constitute the genetic structure and dynamics of life, it is essentially nonsensical to speak of a separate and isolated entity called the “self.” Rhythm then becomes a key concept in understanding the function of the person from the African perspective. The concept of vibration, movement, or flow unifies all people and all things.

Therefore, the point of emphasis is the relationship and the interconnection between people rather than focusing on the separateness, uniqueness or individuality of people.

Proper rituals and relationships that reinforce their connection with the “tribe” (community) renew the recognition of the universal life force that flows within and through the person as a whole. On a very concrete level this is reflected in the considerable social orientation of African people. The coming together and sharing with each other in a harmonious manner reaffirms the rhythmic flow between self and others.

Dancing is highly symbolic and significant when viewed within this context. The rhythmic nature of music shatters the illusion of separateness and fuses the listeners into a shared state of being becomes an affirmation of unity among the people.

“To dance is to give oneself up to the rhythms of all life.”— Dr. Maya V. Patel

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