The toyi-toyi is a high-kneed, foot-stomping dance, rhythmically punctuated by chants and call and response. It can be observed at almost any kind of protest in South Africa and Zimbabwe today.
Many people associate it with the South African township protests of the 1980s, when young men toyi-toyied as they confronted police or attended political funerals and protests. But its origins are in fact much further away, and they tell us about a much longer, global history of political and military struggle. This story played out across Africa, moving from north to south, all the way from Algeria to South Africa, with stops in Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, and Zimbabwe along the way.
The 2005 film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha is a South African adaptation and reconceptualization of Bizet’s Carmen. The change in culture and context affects the interpretation of the character of Carmen, who emerges as a strong black woman striving for autonomy within a patriarchal and sexist postcolonial South African society.
The film involves an interpretation of identity as a social construct dependent on the interaction between character and place within a specific period of time–in this case, Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, at the beginning of the 21st century. Its portrayal of the modern Carmen as an emancipated woman within a postcolonial and postmodernist context can be traced by interpreting semiotic signs and specific narrative strategies.
The re-encoding of Carmen’s identity questions intransigent or stereotypical perceptions of Carmen as the iconic femme fatale to which audiences have become accustomed; the indigenized production offers recourse to alternative perceptions of Carmen’s identity. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha does not deny the sensuality and femininity attributed to Carmen in the precursory texts, but it depicts her as an even more complex character than the one in Bizet’s opera.
This according to “The same, yet different: Re-encoding identity in U-Carmen eKhayelitsha” by Santisa Viljoen and Marita Wenzel (Journal of the musical arts in Africa XIII/1–2  53–70; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2016-49747).
The Field Band Foundation
(FBF) is a South African national nonprofit organization that has reached more
than 40,000 youth since its inception in 1997. Modeled initially on the
American-style marching band, the FBF’s performance style, choreography,
rehearsal techniques, and uniforms draw on local traditions and practices
resulting in a uniquely South African musical phenomenon.
As local musicking, FBF rehearsals support the locally defined values of discipline and empathy. The distinctions that FBF members and leaders make between local or global processes or qualities are discernible in the military associations and echoes of local cultural expressions manifested in rehearsal management techniques, uniforms, and choreography. The localizations of musical processes and products and the meanings and values to which these link contribute to the achievement to the FBF’s goals, which the organization aims to articulate in terms of local values.
This according to “Rehearsing values: Processes of
distinction in the Field Band Foundation of South Africa” by Laryssa
Whittaker, an essay included in The Routledge companion to the study of
local musicking (New York: Routledge, 2018, pp. 251–63).
Above and below, FBF groups in action.
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In the mid-1990s South African apartheid ended, and the country’s urban black youth developed kwaito—a form of dance music (redolent of North American house) that came to represent the post-struggle generation. Kwaito developed alongside the democratization of South Africa, a powerful cultural phenomenon that paradoxically engages South Africa’s crucial social and political problems by, in fact, seeming to ignore them.
Politicians and cultural critics criticize kwaito for failing to provide any meaningful contribution to a society that desperately needs direction, but these criticisms are built on problematic assumptions about the political function of music. Artists and fans aren’t escaping their social condition through kwaito, but are using it to expand their sensory realities and generate new possibilities. Resisting the truism that music is always political, kwaito thrives on its radically ambiguous relationship with politics, power, and the state.
This according to Kwaito’s promise: Music and the aesthetics of freedom in South Africa by Gavin Steingo (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).
The Directory of South African Music Collections collates information on special music collections in South Africa in order to stimulate music research on South African materials in South Africa and internationally. In an effort to cover the widest possible spectrum in music research, the directory provides the location and status of documents and collections.
Although only a number of national, provincial and tertiary institutions are currently represented in the directory, the aim is to expand it by including further institutions in the aforementioned categories and private collections.
Above, Stellenbosch University Library, the host institution of this free online database, viewed from the rooiplein. Below, a work by the South African composer Hubert du Plessis, who taught at Stellenbosch University.
Launched in 2011 by the School of Dance at the University of Cape Town, South African dance journal examines past, present, and future perspectives on dance, and aims to create a space for established and emerging dance academic voices in South Africa, Africa, and the international community.
The journal is peer-reviewed, and its preferred language is English; however, contributions in indigenous South African languages will be accommodated at the discretion of the editors, who are also cognizant of the many forms English assumes on this continent, and who endeavor to give them a voice.
Created by Daniel Gritzer in 2000, Southern African & Zimbabwean music connection provides annotated and unannotated bibliographic listings for writings on music from Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as well as links to Internet resources for most of these countries.
This post is part of our series of celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.
Established by Flat International in September 2010, South African audio archive is a not-for-profit visualarchive of rare and sometimes unusual South African audio documents. The project aims to provide a resource for those researching South African audio history.
The database is searchable by artist, label, company, and genre, and the website includes a bibliography and a chronology of sound recording in South Africa. High-quality reproductions of album covers or record labels are provided for each entry, along with full discographic notes and annotations.
This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.
From 4 to 8 October 2021, The Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation hosts the virtual conference Responses in Music to Climate Change. The event brings together scholars, performers, composers, and activists, with the goal of exchanging … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →
In 1947 Ella Fitzgerald, already an acclaimed singer of jazz standards, toured with Dizzy Gillespie, immersing herself in the new style known as bebop. Like Dizzy, Ella responded to bebop’s complex harmonies with an infallible ear, and easily translated its … Continue reading →
The American traditional song Go tell Aunt Rhody originated as a gavotte composed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau for his opera Le devin du village (1752). An English version of the opera was produced in London in 1766; subsequently the melody attracted … Continue reading →