09.02.2008 | 17:15 to 21:00

Writing Performance: An Older Present talks to a Younger Past of South African Performing Arts (David Coplan, University of the Witwatersrand)

The first evening of the research seminar on African History is dedicated to the theme of popular music

The first speaker on this evening is Prof David Coplan (University of the Witwatersrand):

This paper meditates upon the articulation of two parallel processes in the narration of South Africa's urban black music: history and biography. Producing the new edition of In Township Tonight! required not only evoking the performance culture of the period of Struggle and the transition to non-racial democracy that followed. The process also included the 'seamless' incorporation of all the research published on the subject in the intervening years on the period covered by the original study. Most critically, the rewriting of the original had to retain narrative and analytical continuity with the three decades newly written. Such an assemblé might appear uncomplicated for a veteran reporter of South Africa's arts wars. But one must also take into account that the author himself saw with different eyes and heard with different ears as a result of so many years spent in the field. In a parallel process, the political and economic atmosphere, indeed the quality of South Africa's multi-faceted connections to the globalised music industries had changed just as dramatically. Intellectually as well, the intervention of post-modernist consciousness and post-structuralist discourse meant that sociological reflection upon both the music and musicians in question and the self-transforming experience of the narrator was now (as it had not been originally) inescapable, as was some attention to the relationship between the two. The inquiry into how current writing emerged from the interwoven dialogues of the past and present of South African music, and that between the narrator then and now is set within the context of movements in black urban performance culture and its connections to global trends in the constitution of audiences.

The second presentation is on an ongoing research project for a Lizentiatsarbeit at the Department of History:

Stefan Probst (Historisches Seminar der Univeristät Basel):
Popular Music of the Duala: The History of a Globalization

On Friday 7 March David Coplan's new book In Township Tonight! 2nd edition will be launched at the bird's eye jazz club, Kohlenberg 20, Basel.

Venue: Department of History



University of Basel
Centre for African Studies
Rheinsprung 21
CH-4051 Basel
Tel.: +41 (0)61 207 34 82