Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa

Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa

Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa

Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa


The musics of Africa play a particularly important role in expressing and forming identities. This book brings together African and Nordic scholars from both musicology and other disciplines in an attempt to analyse various aspects of the complex playing with volatile identities in music in Africa today. Taken together the papers put new light on the assumed or real dichotomies between countryside and city, collective and individual, tradition and modernity, authentic and alien. The papers are based on contributions for a conference organized by the research project "Cultural Images in and of Africa" of the Nordic Africa Institute together with the Sibelius Museum/Department of Musicology and the Centre for Continuing Education at ¿bo Akademi University in ¿bo (Turku), Finland in October 2000. The book includes a keynote speech by Christopher Waterman (UCLA), and an introduction by Annemette Kirkegaard, Copenhagen University. Southern, West and East Africa are represented in the studies, which cover a great variety of musics.


In 1995 the Nordic Africa Institute launched a research project on culture, “Cultural Images in and of Africa”, which functions as a complement to the studies on economic, political, and social problems and developments in Africa.

Although culture can certainly be entertaining, the aim in including cultural studies in the Institute's research profile is not to convey the message that culture shows the bright side of Africa, but rather to highlight the important role of cultural aspects of development and change.

One aim for the project “Cultural Images in and of Africa” is to analyse and increase awareness of the sources of the images of Africa in the Nordic countries. The publication of the anthology Encounter Images in the Meetings between Africa and Europe in 2001 was one outcome of this, as was the book in Swedish by the project coordinator, Mai Palmberg, on the images of Africa in Swedish schoolbooks (Afrikabild för partnerskap. Afrika I de svenska skolböckerna, 2000).

Another aim is to encourage studies of how culture and cultural creativity in Africa contribute to self-images, that is, to building identities, and expressing the agonies, visions and endeavours in society. In 2001 the project published a first book on these issues in the anthology edited by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Mai Palmberg entitled Same and Other. Negotiating African Identity in Cultural Production.The present book is the second publication on this theme, with a concentration on music.

The Nordic Africa Institute wishes to thank the co-sponsors of the conference in Åbo, the Sibelius Museum/Department of Musicology and the Centre for Continuing Education at Åbo Academy University for their decisive input into the preparation and organisation of the conference, from which the chapters in this book have been selected. We particularly wish to thank professor Pirkko Moisala, curator Johannes Brusila, programme officer Eva Costiander-Huldén, and assistant Henrik Leino.

The African presence at the conference was impressive. Perhaps this is not surprising, given the pivotal role of music in African societies. But it is noteworthy, given the fact that research into this and other fields of the humanities, is suffering greatly in the crisis for higher education and research in Africa, and many African researchers in cultural studies have joined the diaspora.

We wish to thank the Division of Culture and Media of the Department of Democracy and Social Development in the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) for contributing additional funds to make it possible to strengthen the African presence at the Conference.

Uppsala, April 2002 Lennart Wohlgemuth Director . . .

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