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Accepted Paper:

Jembe hero: West African drummers and global mobility  
Pascal Gaudette (McGill University)

Paper short abstract:

In Guinea, young drummers attempt to leverage their newfound status in order to punch through the barriers that increasingly restrict the global mobility of West Africans. In becoming cosmopolitans, those who succeed inscribe themselves within not so new West African imaginaries of heroism.

Paper long abstract:

In Guinea, West Africa, the status attributed to the musicians who play the wooden, goat-skinned "jembe" drum has historically been very low. But over the last fifty years, the jembe has progressively "gone global", and today some master drummers earn a living by teaching jembe workshops to amateur aficionados everywhere. In Asia one week, Europe the next and North-America the following, these masters build global social networks, opening and plying the trade routes for the commodification of their roots. In this paper, I will describe how the modern fetishism for African drums and drummers has created an alternative economy of status for jembe musicians. I will examine how, against significantly increasing barriers, young musicians in Guinea are leveraging this economy to follow their elders into global mobility, attempting to achieve a cosmopolitanism through which they too can inscribe themselves into West African imaginaries of heroism.

Panel W001
A new virtue? Imaginaries and regimes of mobility across the globe
  Session 1