Hotness revisited

metaphor and environment in discourse on African music


  • Lyndsey Hoh Copeland University of Toronto



Benin, Brass Bands, Climate, Ecomusicology, Hot Rhythm, Metaphor, Richard Waterman, West Africa


This article revisits a familiar trope in African music studies: “hot rhythm.” By tracing the lineage of the “hot” concept through twentieth and twenty-first century Africanist scholarship, I demonstrate the prevalence of foreign-made metaphors in contemporary African music studies and suggest scholars rethink whose metaphor and whose hotness they employ. What is the relationship of the metaphorically hot to phenomenal sensations of hotness? And what is the relationship of the “hot” concept to lived experiences of heat? I explore the relevance of heat as a material condition and hotness as a condition of being to music making in Africa with reference to ethnographic research with amateur brass band musicians in the Republic of Benin. This essay’s primary contribution is to apply an ecomusicological critique to an enduring climatic metaphor in African music discourse. My appeal to rethink the long-accepted analytical metaphor of “hot rhythm” further strives to destabilise entrenched theories of African music formulated by foreign scholars and instead focus attention on African concepts and experiences.

Author Biography

Lyndsey Hoh Copeland, University of Toronto

Lyndsey Hoh Copeland, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto. Copeland was previously a Lecturer in Stanford University’s Department of Music and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. Copeland’s articles on amateur brass band performance in the Republic of Benin are published in the journals, Ethnomusicology Forum (2018) and Africa (2019), the
latter of which received the 2020 Early Career Prize awarded by the British Forum of Ethnomusicology.


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How to Cite

Copeland, Lyndsey Hoh. 2022. “Hotness Revisited: Metaphor and Environment in Discourse on African Music”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 11 (3):91-122.