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Title: Representation, gender and women in Black South African popular music, 1948-1960
Author: Allen, L. V.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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The emergence of the commercial mass media catering for urban black South African audiences during the 1950s provided opportunities for the negotiation of new professional spaces for women musicians; they became ambiguous icons of urban black aspirant identity, and sites for the contestation of emergent gender relations. From the black Christian, educated elite, which controlled urban, non-traditional moral values and definitions of cultural worth until the late 1940s, they inherited a dichotomous model of respectability versus deviance. However, parallel shifts in power from the elite to the masses occurred in politics and culture during the 1950s, and the cultural tastes of the broad base of urban Africans became more important. New hybrid musical styles evolved, the most popular being those that re-Africanised American popular styles. Commercial success came to depend on an artist's ability to express the emergent experience of an urbanising township population: an ability to embody aspirant and reflective identity and fulfil multiple roles and fantasies. The most successful musicians were those able to embody cultural hybridity and inhabit spaces between diverse worlds: the west and Africa; modernity and tradition; the educated elite and ordinary workers; between aspiration and reality; Hollywood and township streets. With the emergence of the popular pictorial, the film and recording industry, and the evolution of vaudeville into large high-profile variety shows and materials, female artists proved particularly effective at expressing these multiple, often contradictory cultural identities. Women musicians were experienced as voices and as bodies; their gender impacted significantly on the ways in which they were able to function professionally. They needed to forge a workable space between respectability and deviance, and negotiate their relationship to a number of roles expected of them as public women. Although they accomplished the reformulation of aspects of the period's gender relations, their impact was contested and fractured; it resulted from efforts of individuals driven by their own personal, artistic goals, rather than for the general betterment of women's position in society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available