Accepted Papers:

"Beyoncé will dance shaku shaku!" Renegotiating Africa's role in contemporary music genres  


Tom Simmert (Gutenberg University Mainz)

Paper Short Abstract:

Recent African music genres go beyond hybridization in their eclectic way of fusing different influences and become a potential force of innovation. They are reversing established notions of transatlantic artistic relations and thus reconfiguring Africa's role, from 'roots' to role model.

Paper long abstract:

The attention towards 'hybrid' musical styles and their recognition as research objects in the late 1990s was an important step for anthropology and similar fields. In the case of African hip hop for example, there is an overwhelming number of works investigating its hybridization or appropriation in several parts of the continent.

My paper advocates the exploration of even more recent genres of African popular music. Based on examples from my field research in Lagos between 2015 and 2018, I would like to show that the way contemporary Nigerian musicians deal with their influences is characterized by a postmodern eclecticism that goes far beyond such 'hybrid' styles mentioned above. They make use of a multitude of rhythms, melodies, sounds and quotes from different spatial and temporal contexts, thus creating new styles, such as the contemporary 'afrobeats' genre. With this multitude of influences, the individual origins of these often fade into the background, for example the discussion about African roots of American genres like hip hop.

Nevertheless, exchange with 'the West' remains one of the most important spheres of influence for West African musicians, but under different conditions: Whereas in the past two or three decades, new music was mostly imported, the emphasis is now on export, sparking new discourses, in which African elements of new genres are not just historic 'roots' - they are the present and potential future, innovating 'Western' music, which brings about new aspirations and expectations, and the potential to renegotiate power in a globalized music market.

panel Art06
"Boomerangs and Roots" - rumba, rap and reggae as African or Afrodiasporic musics?