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Africa Today 48.4 (2001) vii

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Old Music and Dance for New Needs:
Local Performative Responses to New African Realities

The following essays originated as papers delivered as an organized panel at the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Toronto in November of 2000. The panel, entitled "Old Music and Dance for New Needs: Local Performative Responses to New African Realities," featured papers by myself, ethnomusicologists Frank Gunderson and Stephen Hill, and folklorist Lisa Gilman, with ethnomusicologist Michelle Kisliuk serving as discussant.

This group of essays explores the ways Africans take local performance resources and modify them to meet new social and expressive needs. The preceding century, of course, witnessed tremendous change in Africa. While Africans experienced colonialism, Independence, and the transportation and information revolutions, they frequently employed local performative strategies in order to comprehend, modify, and capture the effects those changes had on their lives. Some strategies included using indigenous music in new political contexts, creating new genres to affect new economic situations, accommodating colonialism through dances mimicking colonial practices, appropriating of new resources from neighboring groups, colonizers, or the mass media, and using "traditional" musical forms to index modernity while making a living in a new economic milieu. By examining these strategies, we seek to illuminate new genres in African music and dance, new contexts where African music plays meaningful roles, and ultimately, the ways that Africans use the arts to understand and position themselves vis-à-vis their changing world. These essays demonstrate that contemporary African performance exemplifies what Appadurai and Breckenridge call a "zone" of cultural debate: an arena in which people and their various types, forms, and domains of culture are "encountering, interrogating and contesting each other in new and unexpected ways" (Appadurai and Breckenridge 1988). *

Daniel B. Reed,
Indiana University

* Portions of the above come from the SEM panel abstract which was written by Frank Gunderson, Stephen Hill, and Daniel Reed.

References Cited

Appadurai, Arjun and Carol A. Breckenridge. 1988. Why Public Culture? Public Culture Bulletin. 1 (1): 5-9.



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