Top ethnomusicologists and traditional artists to meet in Durban

The University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa will host an international African music symposium that will bring together academics, artists and documentary filmmakers with an interest in Africa and the Diaspora.

The International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) African Musics Symposium will take place from Tuesday 29 September to Sunday 4 October at the university’s Howard College campus. It will see delegates exchange research and creative outputs about African music and dance. The symposium will also see discussions on academic papers, concerts and workshops where delegates can interact and share knowledge. 

South African traditional artist Madosini. Photo: muafa1234.tumblr.com
South African traditional artist Madosini. Photo: muafa1234.tumblr.com

The keynote speaker is distinguished emeritus Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia, a Ghanaian ethnomusicologist and composer, considered Africa’s premier musicologist. He has lived an amazing legacy spanning decades and is considered the most published and best known authority in African music and aesthetics in the world.

Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee and Programme Committee, UKZN academic Dr Patricia Opondo, said she was very proud to be able to bring this prestigious international symposium to Durban. She explained that the symposium has three themes: African Bows, Harps, Fiddles, Guitars; Packaging Heritage; and Transnational Diasporic Cultures. 

“It is so exciting that after a year of planning, we are now just a week away from celebrating this decade of presenting African folklore and indigenous performing arts through mounting the annual African Cultural Calabash. This year is special as we have included a three-day symposium that includes paper, workshop and film presentations by 35 performer-academics around the globe," said Dr. Opondo.

“To have esteemed emeritus Professor Kwabena Nketia presenting the Keynote Address is indeed the cherry on top. These four days and the preceding weeks provide life-changing experiences for our music students, particularly those majoring in African Music and Dance, as we will bring the best in the field to them. They will not only listen to groundbreaking research but be able to participate in amazing workshops - and best of all perform to an illustrious international community,” she  explained. 

“We will also be bestowing a Lifetime Achievement Award to the UKZN Umakhweyana Bow teacher, Clement Sithole, in recognition of his contributions in preserving this Zulu indigenous instrument that he learnt at the feet of the late Princess Constance Magogo, the mother of Honorable Mangosuthu Buthelezi,” added Opondo. “We have also invited the South African musical bow icon and legend, Madosini from the Eastern Cape, one of South Africa’s musical treasures, who will perform on uhadi and umrube.’

About 100 guests are expected to attend, including Professor Dave Dargie, who has a prolific publication record spanning over 40 years on Southern African bows, particularly those found in the Eastern Cape. Other artists and scholars will come from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, Uganda, Cape Verde, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Malawi, as well as from Portugal, Germany, USA, Turkey, Hungary. Delegates who teach and research African Music and Ethnomusicology at the music departments of the major South Africa universities – University of Cape Town, University of Witswatersrand, University of Pretoria and North-West University - will also be in attendance. They can all expect to participate in exciting workshops of music and dance from a number of different ethnic groups from various African countries and learn from research findings of ethnomusicologists and African researchers on a broad variety of subjects.  

Papers to be presented include  ‘Southern Africa’s Remarkable Heritage of Musical Bows: Does It Have a Future?’ by Prof. Dave Dargie (Germany/South Africa); ‘Re-packaging Heritage, Reinventing Africa: Rethinking Musical Education, Culture and Insight into Diasporic Cultures’ by Ayorinde Oladele (Nigeria/South Africa); and ‘Ethnomusicological Perspectives on the Nile Project: Musical Collaboration as Transnational Cooperation’ by Damascus Kafumbe (Uganda/USA).

“The symposium will showcase UKZN’s mission to be the premier institution of African scholarship - and indeed in inspiring greatness,” said Opondo. 

African Cultural Calabash

The symposium dovetails with the 10th anniversary celebrations of the African Cultural Calabash, hosted by the African Music Project at UKZN. The African Cultural Calabash is an annual folklife event curated and produced by the Applied Ethnomusicology section in the School of Arts’ African Music and Dance division. This pan-African show takes place against the backdrop of Durban’s xenophobic disturbances earlier this year and will see pulsating performances from trailblazing international acts, including Tomeletsi Sereetsi (Botswana), ZviriMudeze (Zimbabwe), Jembeken (Mozambique/SA, USA); Zippy Okoth (Kenya), Ngalanga Ensemble (Mozambique/SA) and Praise Zinhuku (Zimbabwe), who will serenade the audience with music and dance from across the continent. The line-up also includes Madosini and Southern African bow researcher-performers Dave Dargie and Cara Stacey. KwaZulu-Natal's own Clement Sithole will perform on an old Zulu indigenous instrument, the umakhweyana bow, as will postgraduate student and maskandi star Nozuko Nguqu.

Following the performances will be a function showcasing delicious African cuisine from throughout the continent, making the African Cultural Calabash a not-to-be-missed evening of indigenous music, dance, fashion and cuisine. Dr Opondo added: “Come dressed in your African gowns and beads and skins, in true pan-African spirit, and celebrate with both legends and youth practitioners and researchers.”

Tickets for the African Cultural Calabash concert are on sale for R200 for adults and R150 for students and pensioners. Contact Thulile Zama (+27) 31 260 3385) at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music on the Howard College campus or email culturalcalabash@gmail.com.  For more information visit the Cultural Calabash website.

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