African Rhythm and African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms

Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1979

Order from:  
Publisher's Website

The musical examples that accompany the book are currently available as MP3 files upon emailed request. 
Dagbamba drummers, Tamale, 1977

Excerpts from the journal reviews:

"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"

"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
Customer reviews from the web:

This book's sweetness, modesty, humor and graceful scholarship honors one of the world's greatest achievements. It's about drumming, and life.

this is THE classic on african music. you will find it listed in the bibliographies of almost any serious study that came later. it is in-depth and comprehensive. if you want to get just one: this is it.

This is one terrific book, an incredibly valuable research material source. I'm using it to help deepen my understanding not only of African musics, but also of African-American musics, of Jazz. I'm really glad that I chose to add this to my home library. It is a source I will go back to again & again.

One of the Classics:
This is a remarkable work that fits African music into its cultural context and is consistently provocative and enlightening. It's a world music classic, along with such studies as "The Latin Tinge," "The Brazilian Sound" and "Catch a Fire."

A masterpiece in analytical cultural exploration:
What begins as a primer in African polyrhythm becomes a spiritual quest to understand culture and humanity. Don't skip the endnotes in this impassioned examination of musical tonality and rhythm. Forging a tentative balance between scholarship and interpretation, Chernoff's book addresses the subconscious dynamics of culture, and unwittingly explains "race" more convincingly than the agitprop self-promoters whose explicit goal is to deconstruct the historical consciences of Africans and Europeans.