Thursday, April 24, 2014

Genre research project 38/1359: Bikutsi

Bikutsi is characterized by an intense 6/8 rhythm, though it is occasionally 9/8 and its tempo is usually quarternote. It is played at all sorts of Beti gatherings, including parties, funerals and weddings.

Beti gatherings fall into two major categories:
  • Ekang phase: the time when imaginary, mythological and spiritual issues are discussed
  • Bikutsi phase: when real-life issues are discussed
A double sided harp with calabash amplification called the mvet is used during these ceremonies, by Beti storytellers, who are viewed as using the mvet as an instrument of God to educate the people. The Ekang phase is intensely musical, and usually lasts all night. There are poetic recitations accompanied by clapping and dancing, with interludes for improvised and sometimes obscene performances on the balafon (a type of xylophone). These interludes signal the shift to the bikutsi phase, which is much less strictly structured than Ekang. During bikutsi, women dance and sing along with the balafon, and lyrics focus on relationships, sexuality and the lives of famous people. These female choruses are an integral part of bikutsi, and their intense dancing and screams are characteristic of the genre. Traditional bikutsi was often ironic in its content, as many modern bikutsi songs still are.


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