Few genres of popular music have found a global cross-generational audience as diverse and devoted as has country music over the past seventy years. Frequently marketed within the United States as an expression of chauvinist White rural nostalgia, American country music has found wide appeal beyond White settler audiences through themes of love, loss, home, redemption, and religious piety. Nashville artists Dolly Parton, Don Williams, Jim Reeves and Kenny Rogers, for example, have multiple generations of devoted fans across South Asia, the Caribbean, as well as east, west, central and southern Africa. Moreover, their music has inspired numerous artists and entire genres as it has become entangled in other musical and story-telling traditions and aesthetic economies – from American soul to Ugandan kadongo kamu. The fiftieth-anniversary edition of Bill Malone’s landmark 1968 study acknowledges: “Country music long ago ceased to be simply an American cultural expression; it is now a phenomenon of worldwide appeal” (2018: 1). Yet scholarly studies of country music globally, particularly in Africa, have remained sparse and usually focus on White audiences (Gibson 2017; Titlestad 2014; for exceptions see Adesanmi 2011 and Zilberg 1995). Given the genre’s large presence in African public and private life, there are critically few studies of its cultural, social, and political histories in Africa, as well as its aesthetic and affective resonance for varied African audiences.
This panel invites presentation or performance proposals that reflect on country music’s significance in Africa and among African audiences worldwide. What insights does the genre open into forms of masculinity and femininity, sexuality, domesticity, leisure, religious performance, or self-fashioning among African audiences and performers? What are the racial politics of country music in Africa, and what is its role in the circulation of different conceptions of Whiteness and Blackness? What historical forces help explain the genre’s global spread, especially in Africa? How might a history of country music in Africa provoke reframings of country music’s cultural and political genealogies in the United States? How have the economics and branding of commercial country music intersected with the political economy of popular culture in Africa from the Cold War to neoliberalism?
The ASA annual meeting will take place in Philadelphia from November 17th to 21st 2022. All participants must pre-register for the meeting by 15th March. https://africanstudies.org/annual-meetings/
Edgar C. Taylor, Makerere University
Jonathon L. Earle, Centre College