This paper examines how Bassek ba Kobhio's 1995 film Le Grand Blanc de Lambaréné uses music to deconstruct the iconic figure of Albert Schweitzer. At key moments throughout the film, the doctor encounters a young drummer with whom he attempts and fails to communicate musically. The moments have little to do with the otherwise linear narrative. Nevertheless, they structure the film's argument and demonstrate the ways in which an expressive medium becomes an essential ingredient in Western ordering and mastering of the world. Having established this connection, ba Kobhio proposes another model of social identity in which music offers a synthetic and improvisational open-endedness. This point in the film marks the defeat of the Schweitzerian order and announces an alternative to the Western authoritarian model. Unfortunately, it also begins a reification of this musical function that ignores the material conditions of the African present.


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pp. 205-222
Launched on MUSE
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