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Township music : the performance and compositional approaches of three neotraditional musicians in Durban.

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The aim of this study has been to locate a subcultural aspect of neotraditional music performance, and relate this to the broader historical, social, political, economic, and cultural processes of lived experience. In looking at the performance and compositional output of three township neotraditional musicians, I have attempted to focus on the individual construction and articulation of this lived experience. I have sought to link individuals to aspects of social and historical circumstance, perhaps to account for the undeniably social basis of performance generally. In this respect I have also recognised a common, overriding perception by the three township neotraditional performers, namely that of their pursuits as straddling a continuum of performance experience and epoch. In this way I have been led to examine elements which characterise this continuum in the urban black social experience. Thus, the bulk of the second chapter has been informed by existing archival documentary materials, scholarly studies of the socioeconomic, political, cultural and social performance developments among urban Africans in and around Durban prior to 1960. Several interviews with neotraditional performers of this era have also gone towards augmenting a backdrop for the emergent social performance practice of the townships since their consolidation from about the late 1950s onwards. It is from this melting pot of experience that I have attempted to pick up the threads that link the present subjects with what had unfolded before their time. However socially and culturally disjunctive the advent of the townships might be construed, it is as well the dynamics of such conjunctive and disjunctive experience in social performance practice which stand out clearly as symptoms in the course of urban black performance development. I have viewed the experience of the township as manifest in the lives of its citizens, here typified by the three subjects. I have sought the processing of the elements of the environment and its articulation in their individual compositional and performance styles. In the third chapter is delineated the influential aspect of learning and its effect upon the total expressive potential of the individuals. From a close scrutiny of contributing factors in the formative experiences of individual musicians, there emerge elements which highlight the intertextual and coeval nature of lived experience of the three subjects. The inclusion in the first chapter of my early musical consciousness acknowledges both the individual and the shared, social aspect of the musical performance experience. It is also in the intertwined careers of individual musicians that one of the most pertinent theoretical assumptions of this study finds resonance - namely the potential to be changed by, as well as to change, the experience of others (Jackson 1989). Chapter 4 seeks to account for the widespread employment of the guitar, especially in Natal and KwaZulu, as a primary instrument of neotraditional performance expressivity. The section on the tin-guitar exemplifies a general, grassroots understanding of the intervallic possibilities and rudimentary harmonies potentiated by neotraditional musical experiences. Chapter 5 deals with the stylistic approaches of the three subjects to performance and composition. An attempt is made to highlight their individual manipulation and understanding of the elements of form and structure, melody, harmony and rhythm. Chapter 6 focusses attention on the reproduction and representation of the music of the three subjects on records, radio, live performance and the print media.


Thesis (M.Mus.)-University of Natal, 1998.


Popular music--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Musicians, Black--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Theses--Music.