"South Afri­can Popu­lar Music and Poli­tics" - Early Career Rese­a­r­chers Work­shop


23. May 2023
10:00 – 13:00 h
Herrengarten 3, AH 217/18
University of Siegen

We warmly welcome all interested BA, MA and PhD students to participate in the workshop. Though there are two required readings in English and the workshop language will be English, questions can be asked in German and will be translated by the facilitators.

If you would like to participate in the workshop, please register by writing an email to: theresa.nink@uni-siegen.de.

In the workshop "South African Popular Music and Politics" the professors Sylvia Bruinders and Liz Gunner, visiting from South Africa, scrutinize the meaning of "the popular" in popular music, and its intersections with political meanings and struggles from a Southern African perspective. They illuminate how through popular music group identities are performed and contested, and how scholarly engagement with popular song can itself become the subject of legal contestation.

Prof. Sylvia Bruinders

Associate Professor Sylvia Bruinders is Head of Ethnomusicology and African Music at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town where she teaches courses in Ethnomusicology, African and World musics. A former Fulbright scholar, her dissertation on the Christmas Bands Movement in the Western Cape received the Nicholas Temperley Award for Excellence in a Dissertation in Musicology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has published several journal articles from this research and her monograph, Parading Respectability: The Cultural and Moral Aesthetics of the Christmas Bands Movement in the Western Cape, South Africa was supported through a Postdoctoral Fellowship of the African Humanities Program and published by NISC in 2017. She is currently the Director of the Mellon-funded Pan-African research project, Mapping Africa’s Musical Identities, which includes six universities on the African continent. She enjoys hiking, swimming, and Pilates.

Prof. Liz Gunner

Liz Gunner is Visiting Professor, Global Stature and Excellence, in the Department of Languages, Cultural Studies and Applied Linguistics (LanCSAL) University of Johannesburg. She obtained her PhD in African Languages and Literatures from SOAS, University of London, and her focus was on Zulu praise poetry (izibongo). Her work is on orality and social meaning in an African context, on political song in South Africa, on gender and orature, and on media, especially radio. Her recent books are Radio Soundings: South Africa and the Black Modern (2019); Radio in Africa: Publics, Cultures, Communities, eds. Liz Gunner, Dina Ligaga and Dumisani Moyo (2012), and earlier, Power, Marginality and African Oral Literature, eds Graham Furniss and Liz Gunner (2008). Liz is working on a book on music and precarity in post-1994 South Africa that might be called, ‘The Road, the Song and the Citizen’. It focuses on a genre located inside and outside ‘the popular’, called ‘isicathamiya’, from a Zulu word, -cathama - ‘to walk on tiptoe’.


10:00 – 11:15 h

Prof. Sylvia Bruin­ders:
Produ­cing Loca­lity and Perfor­ming Iden­tity: Christ­mas Bands in the Western Cape

What is popu­lar music? Who defi­nes what popu­lar music is? What does the concept of popu­lar music mean to diffe­rent people or commu­ni­ties? We will explore a band prac­tice that is popu­lar amongst certain commu­ni­ties in Cape Town.

11:45 – 13:00 h

Prof. Liz Gunner:
Popu­lar Song on Trial

What happens when an article that explo­res the import­ance of poli­ti­cal song in South Africa, and focu­ses on a parti­cu­lar song, and a parti­cu­lar poli­ti­cal party, beco­mes part of a major court case, seven years after its publi­ca­tion? What is the role then of the author, namely myself? What is the new, entangled life of the acade­mic paper?