The sociology of recording in Africa south of the Sahara

  • Klaus Wachsmann
Keywords: Music -- Africa, Southern -- Field recordings, African Music Society (South Africa), Southern -- Social aspects


In recent years, at conferences on the welfare of folk music, much comment could be heard on the rapidity and thoroughness of the changes which affect society today. However, there was no witch-hunting; the mood was not to blame but to understand. Although there was a feeling that it was pointless to resist this kind of change, there was also some mental reservation that some good might be done if the disruption of continuity in folk music could be prevented, at least in some small measure, without interfering with its evolution. Needless to say, that at these congresses the tension between those who wished to promote stability in tradition and those who wholeheartedly wanted a new era of a new kind of folk music, could only be felt as an undercurrent. But the division has led to the formation of strange alliances. Those intent on a positive attitude to rapid change, moved perhaps by a social gospel promising a new and happier world, found themselves shoulder to shoulder with those who simply realised that popular entertainment in the garb of folk tradition sold well. On the other side, the supporters of continuity and authenticity found themselves agreeing with African nationalists and the scholars, united in a deep concern for the achievements of a tradition which both believed to have deep roots. From this common platform they opposed the extravagant claims of the entertainment-first school. The African Music Society reflects this view when it speaks of music offered by the gramophone companies in Africa, with a strongly exotic flavour . . . featuring for the most part selections of popular American and European origin.
How to Cite
Wachsmann, K. “The Sociology of Recording in Africa South of the Sahara”. African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, Vol. 2, no. 2, Nov. 1959, pp. 77-80, doi: