Evaluation of music in Zambia: Chibale

Evaluation of music in Chibale, Zambia. This article is an introduction to a series of articles. We explore how people in Chibale evaluate music, what they value most about music and dance, and why.1We present the research for these articles in Ways of working for uncovering underlying principles.

People in Chibale discern things worth evaluating and not worth evaluating in the following way.

Some things can’t be done right or wrong, like walking along the road.
Other things can be done right or wrong, like cooking.
And then there are things that can be done better or worse than others, like hunting, healing and performing music and dance.

We look at evaluative judgements about music and dance. Why is something wrong or right? When is a performance better or worse than that of somebody else? What are the themes that underlie these judgements?

We compare the preferences and the judgements within two periods, the 1980s and the 2000s, and between both periods. As for the latter, we will, for instance, see that musical judgements about the effect of music and dance, especially on a personal level, have become most important. And that judgements about the structural and notably changeable features of music and dance have become less important. 

Effectiveness is the most important thing when assessing songs, dances and gatherings. Also a teaching text or action (kufunda) is there for its effect since it makes you do something good or do it differently.
BanaNshimbi personal communication, 1987.

Proverb 182Example from the proverb book Amano mambulwa.3Photo 121.

Apali umunwe epali ne bala

Ico wimininepo eci citika.
Mwaliba imilimo iingi nomba cila umo alikwata uko camutwala nokukoselela eko abikisha amano pakuti imoneke.

Evaluation of music in Chibale, Zambia: introduction.

Where your finger points is where there will be a field for you

The intentions of people differ like people differ.
There are many types of talents in the world but each one of us goes for what is good to her so that fruits are seen at the end.

Studying evaluation

Evaluation of music in Chibale, Zambia. Nketia4Nketia (1984: 4). while writing about the aesthetic dimensions of ethno­musicological studies felt obliged to caution fellow music researchers. “Aesthetics of music must concern itself not only with enquiry in general philosophical terms, but also with empirical studies of aesthetic principles in the variety of musical expressions in oral and written traditions cultivated in different regions of the world”.
The articles in this series on the evaluation of music in Zambia are the result of an empirical study of the evaluation of music in Chibale. We wanted to gain insight in
forms of musical evaluation and in the different types of musical preferences and judgements. And we studied the relations between these types.
We collected data on musical preferences and judgements in qualitative research between 1981 and 2013 and in three surveys held in 1985/86, 1987 and 2004.

A guided tour of the evaluation of music in Chibale

Evaluation of music in Chibale, Zambia. If you want to read all articles about the evaluation of music in Chibale, we suggest you read them in the following order.

In the last 60 years, the appreciation of local and external cultural expressions in Chibale has fluctuated. This article provides a short overview of the fluctuations.

We discuss the different ways in which music is evaluated in Chibale.

What is considered a mistake in music performance? One of these mistakes, not sustaining the last tone of the chorus melody, needs some further explanation.

In Chibale, the right to the benefits of the application of a skill is a concern. What about this when it comes to music and dance? And, what about popularity in music and dance? Success and popularity are interrelated, but they are not the same. Success concerns the effectiveness, for example ritual effectiveness, of one’s performance while popularity pertains to the public response to and need for one’s performance.

Then we turn to preferences for and judgements about songs, dances and performers.

Preferences for songs, dances and performers

Judgements about songs

Judgements about dances

And, Judgements about performers

And conclude the series with The evaluation of music in Chibale: conclusion.


IJzermans, Jan J. (2024) Amalimba. Music and related dance, text and ritual in a single area in Africa. https://amalimba.org/evaluation-of-music-zambia-chibale/