From Timbuktu To The Mississippi Delta

How West African Standards of Aesthetics Shaped the Music of the Delta Blues (Revised First Edition)
By Pascal Bokar Thiam, Ed.D.
©2015, 154 pages

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    From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta explores how West African standards of aesthetics and sociocultural traits have moved into mainstream American culture and become social norms.

    I was curious to know why African Americans (and the country as a whole, for that matter) began clapping on beats two and four, and why we’d get dirty looks if we were caught clapping on the wrong beat. I had a desire to know 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. I wondered why 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. And finally, I wanted to know 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.

    Pascal Bokar Thiam, Ed.D., is on the faculty of the University of San Francisco, California, and the French American International School where he teaches jazz and world music courses in the Performing Arts Division. He is a jazz guitarist and vocalist of Senegalese and French background. His CD Savanna Jazz Club, which combines the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie with Senegalese rhythms, made the top 40 of U.S. jazz radio stations nationwide. He is the owner of the award-winning Savanna Jazz Club of San Francisco. His areas of interest include jazz education, social justice, and diversity.
    Other Cognella titles by Pascal Thiam:

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    In this beautifully crafted and timely book about music, Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam guides us straight to the serious questions of the origin of Jazz and Blues throughout a long journey across West Africa. This book is a must read for those who care not only about music, but are also interested in social justice, colonization, and slavery.
    Magueye Seck, Ph.D.
    Professor of Sociology
    Curry College

    Pascal Bokar Thiam journeys us back to root sources, visiting ancient string, voice, and cultural traditions of Africa that shed revealing light on the birth of the blues.
    Willard Jenkins (
    Arranger of African Rhythms: The autobiography
    of NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston

    ...makes the most compelling argument for the African roots of blues and jazz. Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam not only documents the trans-Atlantic crossings of West African musical practices, but he demonstrates that an entire aesthetic philosophy survived the Middle Passage. This book ought to be mandatory reading for anyone remotely interested in modern music and its ancient lineage.
    Robin D. G. Kelley, Ph.D.
    Author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times
    of an American Original
    Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity
    University of Southern California, Los Angeles


    The Music is so varied that we still have no real idea what African music is.

    I do know this, though: When an African touches an instrument, whether that African is an extension like Louis Armstrong or a master healer from Morocco or Mississippi, that instrument becomes an African instrument.

    When a person is touched by African music, from his skin to his soul, that person has become Africanized. Perhaps this is the true meaning of universal: something foreign that reminds you of your deepest self.

    Dr. Thiam has made a major contribution and this book should be in every school and home.

    Randy Weston
    Composer & Pianist
    NEA Jazz Master