Academic journal article African Studies Review

Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: Five Musical Years in Ghana

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: Five Musical Years in Ghana

Article excerpt

LANGUAGE, LITERATURE, AND THE ARTS Steven Feld. Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: Five Musical Years in Ghana. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2012. xii + 312 pp. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. CDs. $84.95. Cloth. $23.95. Paper.

It is fortunate that Feld includes two marvelous CDs with his fine book. I had begun reading it and was wondering how the music described by the author would sound, until I realized that the CDs were right there! The music has the same beauty, cross-rhythms, and depth of thematic development that had delighted me on many trips to Africa and which I have also heard in the United States. Some previous reviewers have touted the book as offering an alternative view of the development of jazz, although that claim, which is not made by Feld as far as I can see, does not hold up. There are some claims here that African Americans have neglected African musicians or that they have not learned from the best of them, but that argument, I have to say, seems somewhat tiresome and outdated.

Jazz musicians, especially African Americans, have always paid tribute to the African roots of jazz. Louis Armstrong was clear in stating that his grandmother came from Ghana and his roots were there. He clearly stated the influence of European concert music on his music as well, but so have musicians such as the superior African drummer Nii Noi Nortey, who accuses some African American musicians of choosing inferior African musicians for their groups. Some of this kind of criticism clearly falls into the category of sour grapes on the part of musicians who were not always the first choice of American musicians. …

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