Author: Bob W. White, firstname.lastname@example.org Title: "Modernity's Spiral: Popular Culture, Mastery and the Politics of Dance Music in Congo-Kinshasa "
Date: 1998 Institution: McGill University Advisor: John Galaty Degree: Ph.D.
The contagious sound of Congo-Zaire's distinctive popular dance music has made it a kind of 'musica franca' of sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the music's influence outside of its country of origin, virtually no academic research has been done to explore the history, production or meaning of the musical style. Outside of its place of origin, Congolese popular music is known variously as 'soukouss', 'rumba', and 'Congo Jazz', but within the Congo it is simply referred to as 'la musique moderne'. The label 'modern' distinguishes popular dance music from various types of religious and 'traditional' music, but it also speaks to a modernist aesthetic in the music which manifests itself most visibly in the form of electric guitars and music videos, expensive cars with cellular phones, declarations of romantic love and European high fashion. This particular manifestation of modernity is intimately linked to the emergence of a uniquely African urban space and identity; people in Kinshasa often say that popular music and the city 'grew up' together and that their special relationship constitutes an important part of what it means to be modern, or 'évolué'. During approximately fourteen months of intensive fieldwork in Kinshasa (1995-1996), I conducted research on the music industry, the musical style and the audience. The research attempts to show not only how music in Kinshasa is performed, but also how it is produced and understood by various groups of people. The 'modern' idiom through which popular music expresses itself is revealing of culture and politics in contemporary Congolese society, but it also constitutes a vehicle for mediating ideas and experiences about modernity in an African setting.