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The role of rap performance in reinforcing or challenging participants' perceptions of 'race' in post-apartheid South Africa, Durban.

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This ethnographic study concerns itself with the role that local rap performance plays in either reinforcing or challenging perceptions of 'race' amongst the participants of hip-hop culture in Durban, South Africa, and what this implies for the prospects of reconciliation. Using Cohen's (1989) theory of community and Grossberg's (1996) theory of affective alliances, I explore the ways in which music may create and maintain differences and commonalities between groups of people. It is my hypothesis that genre conventions and connotations, and the discourses that circulate about rap music (for example, rap music as a form of expression particular to the 'black Atlantic' diaspora and conditioned by a racially segregated society [Rose 1994]), allow hip-hop to either reinforce or challenge participants' perceptions of 'race'. I examine how musical and lyrical utterances thrust into a semantic historical and socio-political context limit how rap performance can mean and how, as a dialogic speech genre, rap can uphold, subvert or negotiate its genre associations, including, through the use of double-voiced discourse, dominant ideas concerning 'race' and cultural identity. Acknowledging the idiom as of a form of black cultural expression (Rose 1994), interviewees mention narratives of hip-hop's historical origins, rap artists' use of Five Percenter and Black Nationalist ideologies, and poverty, as factors that either reinforce or challenge notions of 'race'. The simultaneous transgression of and/or adherence to, racialized space and spatialized 'race' (Forman 2002) by different 'races', as well as the presence or absence of multilingualism, are viewed as indicators of the level of commitment to the notion of a democratic place for all 'race' and language groups in post-apartheid South Africa. It is the aim of this thesis to add to the body of knowledge concerning the nature of our post-apartheid identities, what influences them and in what way. And in a broader context, to explore the role of music in societies in transition and the role it might play in facilitating an ability to 'imagine culture beyond the colour line' (Gilroy 2000).


Thesis (M.Mus.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2008.


Rap (Music)--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Popular music--Political aspects--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Theses--Music.