Accepted Paper:

Music videoclips in Ethiopia: setting the urban space, culture and identity  


Isabel Boavida (Addis Ababa University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses Ethiopian music videoclips set in urban spaces and "singing" experiences of urban realities, and aims to understand the representation of the urban space, culture and identity in the context of social chance. Whose and what kind of messages are displayed through these media?

Paper long abstract:

Music videoclips are a flourishing, widely popular industry in Ethiopia like elsewhere in Africa. Popular artists' and special collections' albums are released in VCD format; public and private TV channels broadcast them showcasing cultural diversity, but also as powerful propaganda devices for identity redifinition (and / or) consolidation, in which indeed urbanization and migration play major roles.

Lyrics, musical composition, choreography, setting, video editing constitute a performative ensemble presenting more or less obvious or more or less complex messages, aiming at the public desire by entertaining, moralizing, moving.

This paper is the result of five years of observation and consumption of these multimedia objects, and lately more systematic reflection over their eventual impacts on individuals and society. It will focus on the analysis of videoclips set in cities, and songs on urban spaces, selecting mainly those composed since the Ethiopian millennium (2007) but referring too to classics which are widely known and often replayed by younger generation's artists.

The paper will

a) propose a categorization and topicalization meant to find odds or common points with similar media across the continent;

b) try to understand the ways of representation of the urban - plural? monolithical? steteotypied? modern? ideoligized? - in the context of the urban social change;

c) read the social, cultural urban mosaic displayed by videoclips and songs' lyrics against the grain of Ethiopia's ambiguities over building a national identity;

d) question the "marginality" of these mainstream media objects.

Panel P173
The Urban African Space and Its Marginal Literatures/Performances