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Title: The revolution's echoes : music and political culture in Conakry, Guinea
Author: Nomita, Dave
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is an ethnographic study of music and authoritarianism in Conakry, Guinea. Representations in the scholarly and popular literature often emphasize African music as a site for resistance and oppositional politics, while musicians who support the state are seen as tools of propaganda. In this thesis, I examine instead the choices and subjectivities of musicians who sing for an authoritarian state. As I show, musicians in Conakry, across genres and generations, rarely express dissent and overwhelmingly adopt cautious and conservative positions towards the state. I describe these stances as operating within a politics of silence that has emerged over the past half-century of authoritarian rule in Guinea, deriving from norms of ambiguity and secrecy in Mande culture. I begin in Chapter One by considering the foundational moment of the Guinean Cultural Revolution to examine how music became intertwined with a political culture of control under the regime of Guinea’s first president Sékou Touré. In Chapters Two, Three and Four I then investigate the legacy of the Revolution in shaping musical practice in Conakry today. My analysis is based on ethnographic research conducted in 2009, following a military coup d’état. I use the particular circumstances of the post-coup moment in 2009 as a lens through which to understand the ongoing legacy of authoritarianism on Conakry’s musical and political landscape. I consider the afterlife of musical nationalism as musicians from the Revolution seek to find a place in the post-nationalist state; anxieties about praise-singing and music professionalization that have sharpened since the Revolution’s end; and the politics of youth music as young people negotiate between ideals of protest and the quiet accommodation of power. As I argue, silence is a form of agency for musicians in Conakry as they attempt to negotiate the complexities of life in an authoritarian state.
Supervisor: Stokes, Martin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Music ; Anthropology ; Ethnomusicology ; politics ; West Africa