DER Documentary

An African Brass Band

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by Hugo Zemp
color, 74 min (plus 9 min of extras), 2004-6

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At the beginning of the 20th century in Jacqueville, near Abidjan in the Côte d'Ivoire, traditional music was forbidden by the missionaries. But the inhabitants' enjoyment of their local festivals proved stronger, and the little town developed its own brass band.

This is the story of that brass band, a brass band that isn't at all like a military band. It's a dancing brass band, an African brass band, that accompanies all the big and little moments of life: national festivals, religious ceremonies, funerals, fetes and celebrations, a musical game involving a football, tunes from the famous Mapuka dance, or the experimental use of sacred drums together with the brass band. A lively debate between the musicians, in which a sense of humor is clearly present, as they examine fundamental questions about their tradition and its transformations in the context of the life of people today. This film was shot in July and August 2002, a few weeks before the outbreak of civil war in the Côte d'Ivoire.

This DVD includes the extra features:
Making of Palm Wine (3 min)
Rehearsal (7 min)


“Zemp filmed... with the ethnographic preciseness and clarity of his past recordings and films from Côte d'Ivoire and the Solomon Islands.” — Joseph S. Kaminski, The World of Music, 49(3), 2007
“Zemp's documentary is shot in crisp digital video with consistently good sound and lighting. ...The combination of excellent performance footage and the musicians' candid commentary make An African Brass Band valuable to anyone interested in brass brand specifically, and West African music and dance in general.” — Robert Rumbolz, Ethnomusicology, 52(3), 2008
“The film offers a rare glimpse into local discourse over musical change. It also poses some important methodological and theoretical questions to research ethics, to the agency and involvement of the researcher, and to the complex negotiation over musical and cultural change. (...The film) is highly recommended.” — Annemette Kirkegaard, Yearbook for Traditional Music, 40, 2008

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Most Innovative Film (ex aequo), Sardinia International Ethnographic Film Festival, Nuoro, 2006

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts