(Royal Holloway, University of London)
Paper Short Abstract:
A bluesman and a Congolese musician create an African chronotope on the backdrop of transcultural London, challenging the history of blues as well as the idea of music ownership. The paper engages in the music encounter through audiovisual media, relating this discourse to current academic views.
Paper long abstract:
The paper will reflect on a specific case study wherein an African-American bluesman and a Congolese musician compose and record from scratch an original album in three days in a squatted studio in London. A shared sense of belonging to Africa releases an outstanding transcultural power, allowing the two artists to overcome the cultural diversities of two very different musical languages and to elaborate a common discourse by focusing on discovered and imagined connections between their life histories and mindscapes.
The musicians insist upon a presumed derivation of blues progression's dominant 7th chords from Central Congo Mutwuashi music. Rather than a return to the source, the protagonists conceive their musical encounter as the expression of a unique African music language that bridges over oceans and centuries of oppression, displacement, and oblivion. Such a multifaceted, rhizomatic idea overflows oppositions like traditional/modern music, original/imitated, Western/local as well as monolithic views of cultural lineage and historical origins. These diasporic African music creators see history as "contingent rather than teleological" (Reddell 2013: 91), closely resounding cultural claims coming from postmodern and postcolonial scholars like Mbembe and Eshun.
This musical experiment manifests the strong presence of a wide net of interconnections between Africa and its Diaspora across the Black Atlantic - like Pan-Africanism, Rastafari, African American human right activism, anti-regime African protests. The researcher engages with the artists through participatory filmmaking, embedding non-linear narratives coming from fieldwork protagonists as integrated research methodologies and theoretical frames.
"Boomerangs and Roots" - rumba, rap and reggae as African or Afrodiasporic musics?