The World of South African Music: A Reader

The World of South African Music: A ReaderPublisher: Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Year: 2005
Pages: 368 pp
ISBN: 1 904303 36 6

Extracts from Reviews

The strengths of The World of South African Music lie in its inclusion of different voices: the book deliberately includes black and women writers, and writing that is both academic and non-academic (poetry and memoir). It incorporates writing about musical hybridity and syncretism, as well as its political engagement. By carefully selecting the readings, Lucia is also attempting to redress imbalances and recuperate lost stories – focusing on a range of writers and informed by racial and gender equality. The Reader thus resonates with the overarching political imperative of reclaiming past heritage, but importantly not to the exclusion of cultural practices seen as hegemonic (for example, western classical music) or those not ‘purely’ African (Hindu, Cape Malay and Afrikaans folk music). And it acknowledges culture as dynamic: South African music (history) as a story, not of myths of origins, but of music affected by acculturation, transformation and re-transformation. By embracing many musical discourses, the Reader helps to articulate the Arts and Culture learning area statement’s aim to cover ‘traditional’, ‘classical’ and emergent Arts and Culture practices.

— Susan Harrop-Allin, South African Journal of Musicology: SAMUS, 2005

The World of South African Music is challenging for the reader precisely because it presents so many different – and often conflicting – narratives. Given the general lack of reflective, critical practice in South African education, it would be difficult to use the text as a direct teaching resource in music. In order for Lucia’s Reader to be used effectively in the education sector, it will require mediation: it is not designed specifically for classroom implementation and, because of its complex subject, necessitates expert intervention for teachers to be able to read and process the materials. The World of South African Music could be used in a teacher-training context to help educators interrogate received notions of South African music and question the way they understand its history. As such, I suggest that it is not a primary music education resource as it assumes a deep level of engagement and understanding of theoretical and methodological approaches central to a critical ethno/musicology. Lucia’s Reader highlights the necessity for collaborative work between music educators and ethnomusicologists, which would contribute significantly to music education materials development.

— Susan Harrop-Allin, South African Journal of Musicology: SAMUS, 2005

The history of South African music, if written properly, could also serve to illuminate in miniature many of the workings of the larger society … The world of South African music is not that history, nor is it intended to be, as the editor makes clear in her Introduction. But I believe this volume to be as close to that history as we have yet come, and to be the most important book on South African music to have been published in the past decade … Lucia’s Reader is a must for anyone with any interest in African music. More than that, however, its breadth of coverage means that it should appeal to anyone interested in ethnomusicology, politics and music, or the now much-vaunted field of intercultural musics.

— Chris Walton, The Musical Times, 2006

Christine Lucia’s excellent introduction lays out clearly and cogently her guidelines for selecting the texts for her book, and the problems associated therewith … This book features some 60 texts, whittled down, we are told, from a far larger number. Given the constraints involved, the editor has shown a deft hand in choosing her material, which covers some 200 years and myriad of topics Western, indigenous, classical and popular. The extracts themselves are by authors of all possible skin colours and political persuasions. And yet this admirable inclusivity is achieved almost by sleight of hand; one never has the feeling that texts have been included out of some politically correct desire to achieve maximum representation at the cost of scholarly rigour. This is no mean feat in South Africa today.

— Chris Walton, The Musical Times, 2006

These writings span about two hundred years of South Africa’s recorded history from the early nineteenth century to the present. They are arranged chronologically in four sections … The preference for a chronological rather than, say, a thematic structure stems in part from Lucia’s expressed wish to avoid being seen to impose a narrative frame- work on the material. As commendable as this may be, it does mean that there is a danger that the chosen readings may not be adequately contextualized … Lucia has assiduously tracked down a fairly extensive range of diverse sources. Altogether there are 61 short and judiciously edited readings in the volume. Some are already well known and were presumably chosen for their frequency of citation, whereas other more ephemeral sources are rescued from relative obscurity. Whatever Lucia’s intentions, there can be no doubt that the very act of selecting certain readings rather than others amounts to a process of canonization

— Gary Baines, H-NET, 2007

Lucia’s introductory essay makes some telling comments about the past and present states of musicological scholarship in South Africa. She points to the limitations inherent in the pieces penned by pioneers in the field of South African ethnomusicology that are included in the text … South Africanness is contested and there is considerable debate about what constitutes ‘South African music.’ While Lucia does not engage directly with these issues, she recognizes that South African identities are constantly being constructed and that the country’s musical genres are subject to constant renewal and transformation. If music reflects something of the changing nature of South African society, then this volume amounts to an attempt to historicize developments in its music. As such, The World of South African Music makes a valuable contribution to the field of ethnomusicology.

— Gary Baines, H-NET, 2007

The World of South African Music is an extraordinary book. It calls itself a ‘Reader’, but also, more accurately, ‘an archeological site’. For what readers will find in these pages is not so much a history of South African music; nor, for that matter, interpretive ethnographic narratives … This book could better be described as a display of fragments of writing about music in South Africa, contextualised by the editor, Christine Lucia, in a number of ways … Lucia’s historical sensitivity, fairness and her palpable love of writing in all its forms are as enticing as her refreshingly creative sense of play and exploration in selecting, grouping, juxtaposing and comment on these texts.

— Stephanus Muller, Fontes Artis Musicae, 2007

The World of South African Music surpasses (in a positive way) the editor’s intention of providing ‘an anthology of sources’ and a ‘panorama of views’ … Musical diversity in all its South African complexity is indeed the defining characteristic of The World of South African Music. And if this scope may be unusually ambitious for a Reader, it is not without boundaries of sorts. Everything that is presented by Lucia between the covers of The World of South African Music is held together by two strands: ‘South Africa’ and ‘music’. The question arises: Are these two themes, evoked over all of this ‘vast and shaoy terrain’ encompassing ‘the spread of music, writing and habitations – past, present, concrete, abstract’, convincingly coherent intellectual justification for a book? The present writer is convinced that the answer to this question is ‘yes’.

— Stephanus Muller, Fontes Artis Musicae, 2007

The publication of The World of South African Music is without doubt an important event in South African music research … Lucia’s introduction alone is destined to become a core text of historiographical and theoretical discussion in South Africa. At its best it is bold, provocative and insightful. It does not shy away from the difficult theoretical aspects of representation – confirming that all text selections in the book have been read with and against the grain – and contains delightfully astute forays into cultural criticism and comparative historiography … let here be no doubt: Christine Lucia has done South African music a huge service with the publication of this marvellously rich anthology. For both local and international readership interested in South African music, this book is already one of the few absolutely indispensable acquisitions.

— Stephanus Muller, Fontes Artis Musicae, 2007

Christine Lucia takes up the challenge of representing in a single text the diversity of South African music, writing about music, and music scholars. While not aiming to be comprehensive, she strives to bring attention to the multiplicity of voices about South African music – some of them intersecting, others not … To balance her presentation of articles variously representing hegemonic viewpoints, and to counteract the effects, in the bulk of the collection Lucia privileges contemporary work and less known writing or authors. The resulting eclectic and stimulating collection is one of the important achievements of the project.

— Louise Meintjes, Journal of Southern African Studies, 2008

Scholars and teachers will find this text useful in various ways. The quirkiness of earlier papers offers undergraduates colourful opportunities to learn to do interpretive work with source material (e.g. an excerpt from Moravian missionary Christian Latrobe’s 1818 journal). The brevity of all the pieces is useful for the classroom. Obscure materials are made easily accessible to scholars across the disciplines whose work touches on issues concerning local artistic practices … Music specialists and scholars of South Africa’s intellectual history now have a compilation that amounts to a historiography of South Africanist thinking about local music. With the addition of Lucia’s thoughtful 46-page introduction, the well researched compilation also serves as a valuable document for international scholars concerned with the geopolitics of knowledge production – with knowledge of the South by the South.

— Louise Meintjes, Journal of Southern African Studies, 2008

The World of South African Music is a product of its political moment while it represents South Africa’s musical past. Lucia’s express refusal to limit her collection to those voices that would weave together into a singular narrative takes seriously the sensitivity cultivated through the liberation struggle to enable the voices of all while not speaking on others’ behalf. She takes the risk of presenting a dispersed argument in order to show multiplicity. She lets these papers stand as themselves, for themselves, in relation to one another, co-constituted by a shared political history … Overall, that these papers are made available, imaginatively juxtaposed and adventurously curated feels exhilarating. Lucia embraces and publicises the diversity of music and music writing. This is indeed a contemporary South African voice.

— Louise Meintjes, Journal of Southern African Studies, 2008