Saturday, September 24, 2005

AfricAvenir - E-Library - African Renaissance

AfricAvenir - E-Library - African Renaissance

apophenia: Is Identity About Ownership or Assertion?

apophenia: Is Identity About Ownership or Assertion? - Opinion Meki Nzewi - Globalization Made Africa a Mental Colony - Opinion Meki Nzewi - Globalization Made Africa a Mental Colony

Les Nubians � One Step Forward by Marianna Childress - The Globalist > > Global Music

Les Nubians � One Step Forward by Marianna Childress - The Globalist > > Global Music

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture

Globalization and Cyberculture, Martin Irvine

Globalization and Cyberculture, Martin Irvine


Friday, September 23, 2005

Cock and Bernstein/Melting Pots & Rainbow Nations. Table of Contents

Cock and Bernstein/Melting Pots & Rainbow Nations. Table of Contents Another fabulous piece of writing in digital form. This is so useful, and so current, and I'm thrilled that it's available so easily.

Update: 24 September 2005, 9:45 am.
I can't quite believe it. The whole book is available online. And it is fabulous. I sat up most of the night reading large portions of it, because it is impossible to put down. Well-written, exciting and valuable. I think I should go and ask the authors (one of whom works at Wits) why she was prepared to have it distributed freely this way, for my blogging paper. But in the mean time, this fits so well into my choir music paper, that I can't wait to get reading again.

Reader of South African Music

I don't know whether this link will work off campus, where I have online access to things I don't have elsewhere, but either way, it is worth blogging partly because it was published by a lecturer of mine, partly because it includes chapters written by friends of mine, and partly because it's just plain useful.

Update: 24 September 2005, 9:03 am
Only the introduction of the book is available at this url, but even that is amazing, and it is definately worth a read.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Crisis States Research Centre: The Politics of Conflict Management and Democratic Reform

Crisis States Research Centre: The Politics of Conflict Management and Democratic Reform

South Africa: An Emerging National Identity South Africa [book review]: Ethnicity and Identity in the New South Africa South Africa [book review]: Ethnicity and Identity in the New South Africa Someone else has used Social Identity Theory to deal with South African Identities. The reviewer here says that it's a bit dated, but then, so is Adorno, and that hasn't yet stopped anyone using him. (VBG)

WorldBank: Development Outreach

I like the idea of research for development projects, and this topic is, of course, relevant to my work, but I can't help feeling that the fact that it's an online source has been used as an excuse to be less academically rigorous than the author might be for a peer-reviewed journal article, and that really, the article is less practically applicable than it might be, were it more rigorous.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

BBC News | AFRICA | Rainbow nation at risk?

BBC News | AFRICA | Rainbow nation at risk?

Roots of the rainbow nation -

Roots of the rainbow nation - I never know quite how to respond to things like this. There is a picture of Ndebele women, in costume, sitting before brightly-painted huts accompanying this article, with a caption that reads: "Cultural villages give fascinating insights into the way our people live." I would love to get comments from anyone who has visited a cultural village in this country, about what the experience felt like, and the impression of South Africa you were left with. I wish I knew why this sort of marketing of South African-ness makes me so uncomfortable. Is it just because it is exclusionary? As a white South African, I am directly excluded from this marketed impression of my own country. But at the same time, villages like this really do create a stagnant impression of what South African culture really is. Has anyone noticed that the only people who really seem to still live like this are those living in the artificial environment of the cultural village? South African culture, even in its deepest traditional forms, when lived in the present, is hybrid. I have a friend who works with electronic music during the semester, and then returns home to a village with no electricity. That is the reality of far more people than this frozen Utopian ideal projected by so-called "cultural villages." Perhaps the purpose of "Township Tours" is to redress this imballance to some degree. And perhaps it even works, some of the time. But I still feel that there is a big part of who we are, and what we are, that these things can't show a tourist, and that marketing ourselves like this, rather than marketing our exciting artists, development and global engagement, perpetuates the impression beyond our boarders that we are not able to engage with the "big fish." In a seminar over the weekend, there was some debate over whether Johannesburg is a world-class city, or an African world-class city, or simply an African city. Of course I don't have answers for that, but I'd like to see us becoming all of the above. Our identity as South African makes me feel that this really is the right place for me to be. I become so excited when I think that legally, we are one of the most inclusive, accepting nations. The concept of human rights, as it is built into our constitution, puts us worlds ahead of many so-called "first-world" nations, because we really are about people. We are about recognizing and including people. we are about tollerance, and more than tollerance: acceptance, co-operative co-existance, appreciation of individuality. We are first world in terms of our resource of people. But looking at the picture on this page, you would swear otherwize. I'm not saying that cultural difference is undesirable. Quite the contrary. But I am saying that rigid notions of what culture is, or what makes something authentic, or more specifically, authentically Africa, or South African, is counter-productive if it creates a false impression in the minds of others of our true level of development and potential for trans-national engagemen. Culture is about us, about our sense of self and other, and about understanding how we fit together, and into a broader context. And in that sense, it is both inward, and outward looking. Rather than marketing ourselves to an audience who are primarily interested in the entertainment value of who we are (a terrifyingly degrading and patronistic idea in itself), we should be seeking to really engage, first, by understanding ourselves, and then by understanding how we vary from others, and then by enjoying both. Selling our exoticism to the world does not open real markets. Selling our diversity, and our resultant ability to understand, however, does.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

American Visions: South Africa's rhythm - the popular music of South Africa is popular in the US also

American Visions: South Africa's rhythm - the popular music of South Africa is popular in the US also I find it fascinating to read the views of others, and particularly non-South Africans, on what constitutes a South African sound. This is interesting not least in its (perhaps expected) condemnation of "modernization", or "Americanization", as it is described here, and references to "African rhythm" and percussion instruments. Any comments, from South Africans, or otherwise, on what constitutes a "South African" or "african" sound?

choral sound, and the bigger fourth

I was going through some of my notes from the Cape Town conference yesterday, and came across a series of comments I had written during a paper on Choral music that focused on two performances of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Homeless". The performances selected were from a 46664 concert, in Cape Town, and a performance the group did with the London Philharmonic. The presenter had used spectrographic analysis to determine that there was a variation in the size of the sung 4th between the two performances, and had concluded that the reason for this was that the latter-mentioned performance had been put through some sort of pitch-altering device. For anyone unfamiliar with the music, "Homeless" is usually performed acapella, and is in the isicathamiya choral style made so famous by LBM. The first of the performances mentioned above is acapella, while the second, obviously, is with orchestral accompaniment. The presenter of the paper assumed that the 4th, which was "in tune" with the orchestra was digitally altered in order to make it so, because in the other recording, the 4th was wider. My comment in my notes was "Couldn't the singers have made the adjustments themselves, by ear?!?
These are highly competent, experienced performers we are speaking about, with experience singing both with, and without accompaniment. The fact that they may choose to sing a wider fourth when performing acapella does not mean that they have to make the same choice every time, or even, as the presenter seemed to suggest, that they are only capable of singing a wider fourth. If they felt that the wider fourth did not suit the circumstances, I'm sure they would have (consciously or instinctively) made whatever changes they believed were necessary.
Later that same day, I had a conversation with a student from another university who was seeking an explanation for the "different sound" between black and white choirs in Grahamstown. His amazement when I suggested that it may be nothing more than habit would have been comical, had it not frustrated me so.
So much time and energy is spent on trying to understand and explain differences between black and white choirs, aesthetically and physiologically, and I can't understand how educated, intelligent people can still think that the difference has some fundamentally racial basis. I have a personal theory that I intend to investigate at some future juncture, that the language we hear in infancy, and the earliest languages that we learn to speak, may alter our physiology enough that they may affect the sound of our voices. The result, I think, is something along the lines of developing strength in muscles you use frequently, and loosing strength in those you use rarely. If you fain a limp for long enough, for example, you will eventually develop a real one. But essentially, it all boils down to habit. We sing by immitating what we hear. You can experience the effect of this by holding choral auditions. the voices you are likely to encounter will probably be of several types, and will fit with voice types you will encounter in other environments. Sure, it may be predominantly black females who have a particular type of gospel voice, white males who have a particular "Anglican Church" type, or whatever, but the reason for this is that the black women listen to, and hence immitate, that particular gospel style, mostly, while the white men sing most often in church. Habit, pure and simple. If you persevere long enough, you can get even the most unwilling singer to alter their sound for the purpose of a particular performance, or number. It really is all about will. And that doesn't mean that anything other than time and perseverance will turn your top lyric soprano into a belting contralto, but it is possible. Develop the right muscles, and anything is possible.
Just please, stop trying to essentialize race! we are beyond that. Singing is about community, not segregation, and calling for cultural "authenticity" on the basis that "black people sing bigger fourths" is counterproductive.

Monday, September 12, 2005

disappointing weekend

Ok, so the linuxchix thing turned out to be less than inspiring. I understand that people can be deeply devoted to the idea of freedom of information, and related ideas, but I don't like getting preached at because I use a mixture of free and propriety software, and I don't like feeling like I have been lured out for the purpose of being sold specific products. Also, I thought linuxchix was supposed to be about promoting floss among women. Well, as far as I could see, I was one of only a tiny handful of women over 18 there! there were mostly school kids about. Oh well, perhaps this wasn't quite the organization for me. will keep looking.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

LinuxChix Africa

The thought of being part of a community of African women involved in open-source promotion and development is thrilling! Please come to wits on Saturday, if you have the opportunity, and get involved. This group promises to be very exciting!