Musical home-making and cultural domestication: uprootings and regroundings of South African maskanda performance
Barbara Titus (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the ways in which musical practices of inhabitation are appropriated as controlling cultural fixations. It also addresses the ways in which communities and individuals embrace, twist or queer such fixations, (re)creating their own spaces of dwelling and belonging.
Paper long abstract:
This paper engages with the tension between musical home-making and cultural domestication. In particular, it explores the ways in which musical practices of inhabitation are appropriated as controlling cultural fixations. Senses of home are employed to 'unhome' and disown people. The paper also addresses the ways in which communities and individuals simultaneously or subsequently embrace, confirm, twist or queer such fixations, (re)creating their own spaces of dwelling and belonging. I focus on the South African music genre maskanda that functioned for decades as the aural equivalent of an apartheid 'homeland' - a musical reserve that was consciously tailored towards the containment of people through the dissemination of cultural stereotypes. I provide a close listening/viewing/reading of Shiyani Ngcobo's performance of his song 'Asina lutho' ('You see us with nothing') in the Tropentheater in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in June 2010. The maskanda song states in words, sounds, dance and dress South Africa's violent history of forced movement and restriction in geographical, cultural and social respects. Ngcobo's performance is a powerful personalization of public space demonstrating how South Africans manage to dwell in such enforcements and re-spell them, musically and culturally. Through this act of close listening I further explore Sara Ahmed's notion of 'homing' (2003, 9), a reprocessing and regrounding of habits (singing techniques, tonal material), objects (riffs, songs), names, and histories that have been uprooted in decades of apartheid segregation, oppression and cultural isolation as well as her acknowledgement that 'diasporic or migratory homes can "queer" conventional conceptions of home' (2003, 8).
Dwelling in musical movement: making a home both in and through music