IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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The interplay of ethnic and other identities in Tsonga popular music
Ignatia Cynthia Madalane

Last modified: 2013-01-22


Studies on black South African popular music have often invoked the idea of identity performance: certain music genres are associated with particular ethnic identities, for example maskanda with Zuluness. This work shows how various South African popular musics construct ethnic identities. Although ethnic identity continues to be performed in contemporary black South African popular music, there is also, I argue in this paper, a performance of and discourse on identities that exceed ethnicity. In this paper I focus on the relationships between ethnic identity and other identities that elide the national South African identity as manifested in the stories and music of two Tsonga musicians from different generations, General MD Shirinda and Jeff Maluleke. From several in-depth interviews with these musicians I analyse their use of language and modes of self-representation, in their music and in their discourse on their music during apartheid and post apartheid times. In so doing I show how the musicians' thinking about and practicing of identity moves between different levels of affiliation at different historical moments.

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