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"We have in this book a Rosetta stone for mediating, or translating, African musical behavior and aesthetics." --Andrew Tracey, African Music. "John Miller Chernoff, who spent 10 years studying African drumming, has a flair for descriptive writing, and his first-person narratives should be easily understood by any reader, while ringing unmistakably true for the reader who has also been to West Africa." --Roderick Knight, Washington Post Book World. "Ethnomusicologists must be proud that their discipline has produced a book that will, beyond doubt, rank as a classic of African studies." --Peter Fryer,Research in Literatures. "A marvelous book. ... Not many scholars will ever be able to achieve the kind of synthesis of 'doing' and 'writing about' their subject matter that Chernoff has achieved, but he has given us an excellent illustration of what is possible." --Chet Creider, Culture. "Chernoff develops a brilliant and penetrating musicological essay that is, at the same time, an intensely personal and even touching account of musical and cultural discovery that anyone with an interest in Africa can and should read. ... No other writing comes close to approaching Chernoff's ability to convey a feeling of how African music 'works'." --James Koetting, Africana Journal. "Four stars. One of the few books I know of that talks of the political, social, and spiritual meanings of music. I was moved. It was so nice I read it twice." --David Byrne of "Talking Heads". The companion cassette tape has 44 examples of the music discussed in the book. It consists of field recordings illustrating cross-rhythms, multiple meters, call and response forms, etc.
While living in West Africa in the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the stories of "Hawa," a spirited and brilliant but uneducated woman whose insistence on being respected and treated fairly propelled her, ironically, into a life of marginality and luck as an "ashawo," or bar girl. Rejecting traditional marriage options and cut off from family support, she is like many women in Africa who come to depend on the help they receive from one another, from boyfriends, and from the men they meet in bars and nightclubs. Refusing to see herself as a victim, Hawa embraces the freedom her lifestyle permits and seeks the broadest experience available to her. In Exchange Is Not Robbery and its predecessor, Hustling Is Not Stealing, a chronicle of exploitation is transformed by verbal art into an ebullient comedy. In Hustling Is Not Stealing, Hawa is a playful warrior struggling against circumstances in Ghana and Togo. In Exchange Is Not Robbery, Hawa returns to her native Burkina Faso, where she achieves greater control over her life but faces new difficulties. As a woman making sacrifices to live independently, Hawa sees her own situation become more complex as she confronts an atmosphere in Burkina Faso that is in some ways more challenging than the one she left behind, and the moral ambiguities of her life begin to intensify. Combining elements of folklore and memoir, Hawa's stories portray the diverse social landscape of West Africa. Individually the anecdotes can be funny, shocking, or poignant; assembled together they offer a sweeping critical and satirical vision.
The prospects of a sixteen-year-old West African girl with no money, education, or experience might seem pretty depressing. But if she's got a hell of a lot of nerve and a knack for finding the funny side in even the worst situations, she just might triumph over her circumstances. Our heroine Hawa does, and she did. In the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the story of her life as an "ashawo," or bar girl, making a living on gifts from men and her own quick wits, and here presents it in Hustling Is Not Stealing, one of the most remarkable "autobiographies" you will ever encounter. What might have been a sad tale of hardship and exploitation turns instead into a fascinating send-up of life in modern Africa, thanks to Hawa's smarts, savvy, and ear for telling just the right story to make her point. Through her wide-open and knowing eyes, we get an inside view of what life is really like for young people in West Africa. We spy on nightlife scenes of sex and deception; we see how modern-minded youth deal with life in the cities in villages; and we share the sweet and sometimes silly friendships formed in the streets and bars. But mostly we come to know Hawa and how she has navigated a life that few can even imagine. The first of two funny, poignant volumes, Hustling starts with an in-depth introduction by Chernoff to Hawa's Africa. From there the book traces her remarkable transformation from a playful warrior struggling against her circumstances to an insightful trickster enjoying and taking advantage of them as best she can. Part coming-of-age story, part ethnography, and all compulsively readable, Hustling Is Not Stealing is a rare book that educates as thoroughly as it entertains. "You can see some people outside, and you will think they are enjoying, but they are suffering. Every time in some nightclub, you will see a girl dressed nicely, and she's dancing, she's happy. You will say, 'Ah! This girl!' You don't know what problem she has got. Some people say that this life, it's unto us. It's unto us? Yeah, it's unto me, but sometimes it's not unto me. When I was growing up, I didn't feel like doing all these things. There is not any girl who will wake up as a young girl and say, 'As for me, when I grow up, I want to be ashawo, to go with everybody. ' Not any girl will think of this. "--from the book Winner - 2004 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing
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