Representing African Music
Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions
By Kofi Agawu
Routledge – 2003 – 288 pages
Routledge – 2003 – 288 pages
The aim of this book is to stimulate debate by offering a critique of discourse about African music. Who writes about African music, how, and why? What assumptions and prejudices influence the presentation of ethnographic data? Even the term "African music" suggests there is an agreed-upon meaning, but African music signifies differently to different people. This book also poses the question then, "What is African music?" Agawu offers a new and provocative look at the history of African music scholarship that will resonate with students of ethnomusicology and post-colonial studies. He offers an alternative "Afro-centric" means of understanding African music, and in doing so, illuminates a different mode of creativity beyond the usual provenance of Western criticism. This book will undoubtedly inspire heated debate--and new thinking--among musicologists, cultural theorists, and post-colonial thinkers. Also includes 15 musical examples.
"presents a new way to think about African music. . . . obligatory reading." -- Grant Olwage, South African Journal of Musicology
"few books in recent years have pursued a more ambitious agenda. . .without any doubt the most powerful theoretical intervention in African musicology in a decade or more. . . by a long stretch, one of the most edgy and stylish pieces of writing on the politics of culture in postcolonial Africa to have appeared of late." -- Veit Erlmann, Music Theory Spectrum
"strikingly original.. upset[s] applecarts of convention and dispassionate prose. . . engag[es] readers in thorough, lively, critical debate about African music and Africanist musical scholarship. . .will be required reading for students of ethnomusicology, music theory, and historical musicology for some time." -- Gabriel Solis, Notes
"At times frankly informative, at times darkly ironic, and at times passionately earnest, Representing African Music reads like a resource text, satire, and manifesto all at once…[offers a] trenchant critique of otherwise neutral-seeming representations of African music.. makes many daring statements and reaches a series of alarming conclusions…Those in search of a genuinely global musical discourse…could do much worse than begin their quest by reading Agawu's Representing African Music. His is the unmistakable voice of authentic hope." -- Martin Scherzinger, Current Musicology
"unfailingly intelligent, well informed, and closely argued . . .lucidly and elegantly written. . .stimulating and provocative. . provides an African outlook on controversies that have been primarily covered by scholars in Europe and the United States. . .filled with incisive observations." -- Richard M. Shain, International Journal of African Historical Studies
"This is a strikingly original book, promising to shed new light both on music from across the African continent, and on the history of Africanist musical discourse. Upsetting apple carts of convention and dispassionate prose, this book, while sure to elicit controversy from virtually all corners of contemporary American musical scholarship, should be required reading not only for African music theorists, and historical musicologist with an interest in the politics of representation.
Kofi Agawu's Representing African Music does an excellent job of engaging readers in a thorough, lively, critical debate about African music and Africanist musical scholarship." -- Gabriel Solis, University of Illinois,Urbana-Champaign,Notes