Frost Lecture 2016

Mhoze Chikowero, Associate Professor of African History, University of California,
Santa Barbara

  • Thursday, February 11, 7:00 pm
  • Cone Chapel, Willamette University 

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"Beyond the Popular: Epistemological and Historiographical Politics of African Music"

In this Frost Lecture, Mhoze Chikowero centers his newly published book, African Music, Power and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe to present a multilayered history of African music in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa beyond the conventional framing of the “popular.” He proffers a new, critical intervention that engages with questions of power in both the musical cultures and the epistemological and historiographical battles that characterize scholarship on the subject. Much more than write a history of music, Chikowero utilizes music as an archive to write history from a critical African perspective. So central to African spirituality and wellbeing was music that, starting in the 1890s, European missionaries, ethnomusicologists and the incipient state targeted and sought to destroy, subvert or domesticate it in their bid to culturally disarm and colonize the Africans. And it was partly through the same musical practices that Africans fought colonial subjugation both during the First Chimurenga (war of self-liberation) in the 1890s and the Second Chimurenga in the 1960s-70s. For Chikowero, Zimbabwean (and much of Southern African) song therefore constitutes a Chimurenga archive for writing robust, hitherto silenced histories of African being and self-liberation.