Following his research on the New Year Carnival in Cape Town and the publication of a book on the subject, Denis-Constant Martin embarked on research around the theme of music and identity in Cape Town. The culmination of this research will be published by African Minds in November 2012 in the book Sounding the Cape: Music, identity and politics in South Africa.
For several centuries Cape Town has accommodated a great variety of musical genres which have usually been associated with specific population groups living in and around the city. Musical styles and genres produced in Cape Town have therefore been assigned an “identity” which is first and foremost social. Sounding the Cape seeks to question the relationship established between musical styles and genres, and social ― in this case pseudo-racial ― identities.
The history of music in Cape Town is minutely recomposed and examined through the theoretical prism of creolisation, with analytical tools borrowed to the most recent studies of identity configurations. It demonstrates that musical creation in the Mother City, and in South Africa, has always been nurtured by contacts, exchanges and innovations made possible by exchanges, whatever the efforts made by ruling powers to separate and divide people according to their origin. Musicians interviewed at the dawn of the 21st century confirm that mixture and blending characterise all Cape Town’s musics. They also emphasise the importance of a rhythmic pattern particular to Cape Town, the ghoema beat, whose origins are obviously mixed.
The study of music demonstrates that the history of Cape Town, and of the whole South Africa, undeniably fostered a creole societies. Yet, twenty years after the collapse of apartheid, these societies are still divided along lines that combine economic factors and “racial” categorisations. This volume argues that, were music given a greater importance in educational and cultural policies, it could contribute to fight these divisions, and promote the notion of a nation that, in spite of the violence of racism and apartheid, has managed to invent a unique common culture.
Denis-Constant Martin is an Outstanding Senior Research Fellow of the French National Foundation for Political Sciences, attached to the Centre Les Afriques dans le Monde (Sciences Po Bordeaux, University of Bordeaux, France). He teaches Political Anthropology at the Bordeaux Institute of Political Studies. Through the study of cultural practice, Martin’s research focuses on the relationship between culture and politics in an attempt to understand the social representations people hold about power systems. For more than twenty years, he has been conducting research in and on South Africa, with a special interest for Cape Town’s cultures, festivals and musics. He is the author of Coon Carnival, New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present (David Philip, 1999), as well as of a great number of other academic articles and volumes.
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The Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) has completed one of the most comprehensive studies of African universities ever undertaken. For the past four years the initiative, coordinated by the Centre for Higher Education Transformation in South Africa, has conducted research into tertiary systems and premier universities in eight African countries focusing on the roles of higher education in economic development and democracy, as well as a comparative study of three OECD countries.
HERANA has produced some 20 reports including its culminating volume Universities and Economic Development in Africa. In exploring the complex relationships between higher education and economic development, the research uncovered three urgent needs – for a social ‘pact’ on the key role of higher education in emerging knowledge economies, strengthening the ‘academic core’ in universities, and greater coordination among higher education stakeholders including governments, universities, the private sector and society.
For more information, see the detailed reviews and comments commissioned by University World News in their special African Edition.