September 8th, 2004


____________________[PRO] people don't treat their knowledge lightly


Over the course of several years Paul Berliner, ethnomusicologist, repeatedly asked Bandamibra, an elder musician from Zimbabwe, to tell him the names of the keys of a particular type of musical instrument. The first time he asked, the musician said the keys had no names. Berliner chanced to ask again, and this time, Bandamibra said four of the keys had names. The third time he asked, they all had names but the names were different from those Bandamira had provided the second time. The fourth time, they all had names, but again those names were different from the previous times. The fifth and sixth times, the names were again different from the previous times.

Finally, as Berliner was giving up hope of ever understanding the naming system, the old man announced, "Well, it seems to me that this young man is serious after all. I suppose I can tell him the truth now," and proceeded to describe the naming system simply and clearly.