While the Ik may be seen as victims of a characteristically modern, "post-colonial" situation, the radical changes recorded by Turnbull can give us an insight into what could have happened at certain times in the past, when a particular population is suddenly placed under tremendous stress to the point that the most basic cultural norms begin to break down. Of special significance for us is the relative scarcity of musical references in the book. Whenever singing is mentioned, it's almost always solo singing, not surprising in an atmosphere where social cohesion is breaking down and "every man for himself" has become the norm. The only group singing noted by Turnbull among the Ik is the singing of Christian hymns, and that takes place only when a group is expecting a consignment of food from some missionaries (who never show up). He has nothing to say about what their music might have been like in the past, but if the Ik were a typical African tribe, we can be almost 100% sure that group singing would have been common. In the context described in the book, however, occasions for group singing, either for pleasure or for traditional ritual purposes, no longer exist.
Of course, the Ik represent an extreme case, and it's not difficult to imagine such a disaster leading to a culture dying out completely. But what if it doesn't die out? What if there are survivors who manage to begin anew at some point, what will they be teaching their children? What aspects of their old culture are likely to survive, what are likely to be lost and what new elements are likely to be introduced?Under such dire circumstances it's difficult to imagine that a highly interactive, group-oriented musical tradition such as P/B could have survived. And it's not difficult to imagine how it could have been replaced by something much simpler, as was apparently the case among the Ik. And other traditions reflecting the African origins of the migrants may also have been lost. If the most gifted and experienced wood carvers had been killed, then the African wood carving traditions might have died with them. If the leading shamans died, then the most elaborate rituals might have died with them. It's important to realize that once a tradition is lost, to the point that there is no longer anyone to hand it down to the younger generation, then it is most likely gone forever.