The transatlantic circulation of music is an important means for identity construction in both Africa and the Americas. The constant re-emergence of the public debate on this musical exchange, interpreting it as either break with tradition, or return to the source, is the subject of this panel.
Since the early 20th Century, popular music from the Americas is present in many African cities. African musicians used and use it as source of inspiration and performed Cuban, Jamaican, US American and other songs. Some observers criticized the effects of this musical encounter in Africa as a rupture with tradition, as a sign of lacking pride in and loss of knowledge of local musical genres. Only recently, academics and other observers preferred to celebrate it as self-conscious appropriation or nostrification, appreciating the change, but still claiming a clear-cut division between African and Western genres. Others however, among them many African urban musicians, offered a different interpretation stressing the African 'roots' of many so-called occidental popular music genres, focusing on connections rather that disruptions. Thus, African musicians claimed African origins of the rumba, the blues, reggae, rap, or house music. Interestingly, with the arrival of each new style these debates return.
This panel invites scholars to discuss how they address the tension between the different claims of either a clear-cut division or else an ongoing transatlantic hybridization of musical styles. We want to ask why this claim of transatlantic musical 'kinship' is so important to the actors involved. How do we address local claims of 'ownership' of global genres? How do we respond to competing claims of ownership of music? Should scholars contribute to a dialogue on origins, which is obviously so important to many actors?