Book by Local Author Looks at African Roots of the Blues



Musician, composer, bandleader and educator Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam has published a revised edition of the book, “From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta: How West African Standards of Aesthetics Shaped the Music of the Delta Blues.”


The first edition of the book is frequently used as a college level text for music arts students, and the new edition addresses the continued evolution of the music.


“From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta” methodically explores how West African standards of aesthetics and socio-cultural traits have moved into mainstream American culture and become social norms.


Explaining the inspiration for his book, he said, “I was curious to know why African Americans began clapping on beats two and four; and why we’d get dirty looks if we were caught clapping on the wrong beat.”


He said he was interested in exploring “why the identity of the music of our nation, with its majority population of European descent, had the musical textures, bent pitches and blue notes of Africa and a sense of swing developed here that was closer in syncopation to African culture than to the classical music of Vienna or the Paris Opera; why our nation’s youth moved suggestively on the dance floor with their hips—movements that are closer in aesthetics to African dance than to ballet.


“The journey began on the banks of the mighty Niger River.”


Dr. Thiam is on the faculty at University of San Francisco (USF) in the Performing Arts Department. He teaches Jazz history and theory courses as well as African music survey classes.


He is also director of the USF Jazz Band. Dr. He is a Jazz guitarist/vocalist of Senegalese and French descent.


His recent CD, “Guitar Balafonics,” connects African culture and American Jazz, in terms of aesthetics, charting in the top 20 on Jazz stations nationwide.


Additionally, Thiam is owner and manager of the Bay Area’s award-winning Savanna Jazz Club.


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