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Performance, Power, and Practice in South Africa

First popularized by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon, the a cappella music known as isicathamiya has become internationally celebrated as one of South Africa’s most vibrant and distinct performance traditions. But Ladysmith Black Mambazo is only one of hundreds of choirs that perform "nightsongs" during weekly all-night competitions in South Africa’s cities.

Veit Erlmann provides the first comprehensive interpretation of isicathamiya performance practice and its relation to the culture and consciousness of the Zulu migrant laborers who largely compose its choirs. In songs and dances, the performers oppose the class and racial oppression that reduces them to "labor units." At the same time, Erlmann argues, the performers rework dominant images to symbolically reconstruct their "home," an imagined world of Zulu rural tradition and identity.

By contrasting the live performance of isicathamiya to its reproduction in mass media, recordings, and international concerts, Erlmann addresses important issues in performance studies and anthropology, and looks to the future of isicathamiya live performance in the new South Africa. Featuring an Introduction by Joseph Shabalala, the lead singer and founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the study of music, performance, popular culture, or South Africa.

462 pages | 24 halftones, 4 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1995

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Music: Ethnomusicology

Table of Contents

Video Contents
Figures and Musical Examples
Note on Orthography and Translation
Introduction: Joseph Bekhizizwe Shabalala: A Unifying Force
1: Performance Theorized
2: Isicathamiya Performance Represented
3: The History of Isicathamiya, 1891-1991
4: The Unhomely: Performers and Migrants
5: Ekhaya: The Past, the Home, and the Nation Revived
6: The Home Embodied: Dance and Dress in Isicathamiya
7: Praise and Prayer: The Rhetoric of Isicathamiya
8: Attacking with Song: The Aesthetics of Power and Competition
9: "Strengthening Native Home Life": Isicathamiya and Hegemony
10: Things Will Come Right: The Political Economy of Noncommercial Performance
11: "Two Worlds, One Heart": Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Postscript, 1994
A Select Discography of Isicathamiya


American Folklore Society / University of Chicago: Chicago Folklore Prize
Honorable Mention

The Arts Council of the African Stu. Ass: The Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award

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