How was Africa seen by the West during the colonial period? How do Europeans and Americans conceive of Africa in today's postcolonial era? Such questions have preoccupied anthropologists, historians, and literary scholars for years. But few have asked the reverse: how did--and do--Africans see Europe and the United States? Fewer still have wondered how Western images of Africa and African representations of the West might mirror one another. In a detailed study spanning from the late nineteenth century to the present, renowned anthropologist and ethnomusicologist Veit Erlmann examines the very creation of a global imagination for black South Africans, Europeans, and African Americans. To this end, he explores two striking episodes in the history of black South African music. The first is a pair of tours made by two black South African choirs in England and America in the early 1890s; the second is a series of engagements with the international music industry as experienced by the premier choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo after the release of Paul Simon's celebrated Graceland album in 1986. Readers will find the cast of characters involved in these intertwined and international dramas at once telling and impressive. Among the many players are African National Congress co-founder Saul Msane, Queen Victoria, African-American musician and impresario Orpheus McAdoo, Xhosa Christian prophet Ntsikana, W. E. B. Du Bois, Michael Jackson, and Spike Lee. Music, Modernity, and the Global Imagination tells the story of how these artists, activists, and agents effectively invented each other in travel diaries, religious hymns, concert performances, music videos, Broadway plays, and autobiographies. Erlmann also argues that the resultant mixture of myths and fictions--as distinctly imagined by these diverse historical actors--entangled South Africa and the West in ways that often obscured the newly emergent global imbalances of power, or else blurred the polarities of the colonial and postcolonial world. Ultimately, this book reports on a transatlantic dialogue that carries direct and profound implications for the world's arts and cultures. It is the black diasporic discussion between South Africa and the West, and it is a conversation--about society, music, and Utopia--that is still in progress.
- Publication Date:
- 10 / 05 / 1999