Sounding Africa on the Indian Ocean

Project Leader: Dr. Lee Watkins, Rhodes University


This proposal initiates a research and archiving project on African music and its vestiges on the Indian Ocean littoral and the islands of the southwestern Indian Ocean. An international network of collaborators will identify suitable content, acquire metadata, and developing plans for accessibility of African music on the coastal and islands of the Indian ocean. Following the calls for ‘decolonial’ archival practices, our archiving projects interrogates notions of archiving and curation such that archiving unfolds as a premise for ethical relationships forged through sonic affiliations in the vestiges of African sounds around the Indian Ocean littoral.

This project is different to previous and indeed, Hugh Tracey’s practices as it aims to conduct the archiving in a participatory and consultative manner with all stakeholders. This archive will develop new knowledge that is openly accessible in the English language as the few existing records of this music are overwhelmingly in French (see Gauthier 2013 and Mezzapesa 2018 as examples). In music studies there is generally a neglect of the Indian Ocean and its association with the African continent. This research seeks to address this imbalance and will help return Africa into conversations and discourses on the Indian Ocean from archival and musicological points of view. The research will culminate in a curated music album that is accredited and an article in which describes the processes of curating the sounds of the Indian Ocean littoral.

Considering its age, its extensive and disparate histories, and probable urgencies elsewhere, most of the research on Africans in the Indian Ocean basin and littoral has been in areas that are not musicological. Archiving the African derived music cultures of the Indian Ocean speaks not only to the African diaspora as a socio-historical reality, but also to how an African modernity has been produced as a result of multiple encounters and mobilities, while retaining a non-essentialised, and transformative music culture.

A key objective is to develop more knowledge about performance traditions with their origins on the east coast of Africa and how these are translated among African descendants in the Indian Ocean islands.

Last Modified: Sat, 06 Jun 2020 02:51:51 SAST