Agenda Setting; African Music; Post-Colonial
For post-colonial African musicians, decolonization became an imperative. For musicians, singing in one’s native language was no longer merely creative expression, it took on a more significant role in decolonizing the African continent. This was also the case for composers, particularly those who traveled abroad to study in conservatories and universities in the United Kingdom or the United States of America.
In Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o makes a case for African literature to be written in African languages. He also points out that singers and musicians have resisted mental colonization by retaining indigenous musical practices and promoting innovation in those same practices:
The peasantry and the urban working class threw up singers. These sang the old songs or composed new ones incorporating the new experiences in industries and urban life and in working-class struggle and organisations. These singers pushed the languages to new limits, renewing and reinvigorating them by coining new words and new expressions, and in generally expanding their capacity to incorporate new happenings in Africa and the world (1986:23).
In essence, throughout the colonial period and beyond, African musicians have used music as a tool for sustaining indigenous culture, including preserving languages, and ultimately as a means of post-colonial reclamation of culture and identity.
However, Africa is not the same as it was before colonization. For one thing, Africa has emerged as a post-colonial patchwork of different nations that reflect colonial domination more than indigenous civilization. Many people are now Christians and societies are increasingly urbanized and cosmopolitan, reflecting massive population growth and globalized economies. In ruminating on this reality, African musicians creatively responded to new experiences, innovating their cultures for the post-colonial future. For African societies to create a new cultural experience, while at the same time, prevent further loss of their heritage.
This paper will explore emphasis on African languages by African musicians as a form of agenda setting, priming and framing as theorized by Scheufele (2000). Specifically, I will offer three case studies, one from literary sources (Miriam Makeba), one from the literary sources and personal fieldwork (Laz Èkwúèmé), and one recent example from personal fieldwork (the Forum for Inculturation of Liturgical Music, or FILM). The perspective of singing in one’s native language (and other African languages) as an intentional act of decolonization is reflected in all three case studies presented in this paper.
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Conference: National Council for Black Studies Dates: March 14-17, 2018 Location: Atlanta, GA
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