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African Studies: "Bo Diddley beat/African Rhythms Project" interviews with Ghanaian musicians, lecture recording, and more

A guide to UF Libraries' research and teaching resources in African Studies. Feel free to let us know what would be useful to have included.

Bo Diddley background

Ellas B. McDaniel (born in 1928 as Ellas Otha Bates at McComb, Mississippi) was best known by his stage name, Bo Diddley. For additional biographical information, refer to the "Biographical/Historical Note" in the Finding Aid.

A pioneering musician and songwriter who introduced an innovative adaptation of the clave rhythm (with West African and Cuban roots), Bo Diddley reshaped American blues, R&B, and rock music with a syncopated shuffle known as "the Bo Diddley beat." Bo Diddley also directed his creativity to modify the sound and look of his signature, homemade, rectangular "Bo Diddley guitar." With its added parts, as ethnomusicologist Kingsley Okyere notes, the instrument recalls African traditions of appending resonators and buzzing pieces on instruments such as the balafon, kora or mbira.

Bo Diddley was one of the first African-American musicians to attract a significant crossover audience, achieving popular success with Black and white audiences alike (though, unfortunately, his popularity didn't translate into the level of financial remuneration he may have deserved). He was a longtime resident of Archer, Florida where he died in 2008. He regularly performed for local audiences in Gainesville, where the downtown Bo Diddley Community Plaza with its outdoor bandshell is named in his honor.

Bo Diddley collaborated and performed with notable musicians throughout his career. Among the most popular musicians he performed with were Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, the Rolling Stones, the Clash, and Ronnie Wood. Wood, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, developed a particularly close musical relationship with Bo Diddley.

A finding aid supporting public research access to the contents of the Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection housed at the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections is available. From the finding aid: "The Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection dates from 1957 to 2009 and largely represents the latter half of Bo Diddley's life and career from the 1980s to his death in 2008. The collection includes publications, correspondence, contracts, concert posters, tour itineraries, lyrics, albums, photographs, awards, instruments, clothes, and artifacts."

Video interviews and related musical scores

As part of his ethnomusicology research and participation in the Bo Diddley Beat/African Rhythms Project, Kingsley K. Okyere traveled during Summer 2022 to his home country of Ghana, where he recorded interviews with musicians of the Kwan Pa Band. Among other topics, they discussed the kpanlogo timeline, also known as the son clave rhythm, and its role in Afrobeats music. Linked below is a video of their conversations with musical examples. Mr. Okyere has graciously provided the video and related materials to UF Digital Collections. In Autumn 2022, Okyere presented his project research to a public audience at UF's School of Music. He lectured on the son clave rhythm and its American popular music adaptation as the "Bo Diddley Beat," demonstrating how he employed it in his original composition, "Show me a Sign." An audio recording of the event, which included a performance of his composition, and sheet music for the composition are also linked below, along with the event poster.

Kingsley Okyere's Master's research video interviews from fieldwork in Ghana, an audio recording of his project lecture presentation, his original musical score, and the project lecture poster.

Access to Mr. Okyere's master's thesis, "The sonic aesthetics of Afrobeats" is restricted to UF users and onsite campus visitors until June 1, 2025, when it will become accessible to the public.

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