New Project

The valuable but neglected cultural heritage that exists in Indigenous African Music (IAM) is in urgent need of preservation. This problem stems from the colonial and apartheid eras which lacked appreciation for the unique and beautiful music of the African diaspora. IAM has rarely been documented, and when it was, the research was placed under the auspices of comparative anthropological and ethno-musicological studies that focussed on the role music played in its communities. These studies rarely notated the music so that for musicians around the world could understand, study and perform the music effectively. Music performed on indigenous instruments such as the uhadi, umakhweyana, xitende and mbila, traditional music for rites of passage such as weddings and funerals, and even children’s songs, are in danger of becoming extinct together with some of the practitioners of these unique African sounds.

In South Africa there is a demand for indigenous knowledge systems. Universities are under pressure from the #Feesmustfall movement to decolonise their curricula. This neglect of the African identity exists alongside the neglect of indigenous cultures in South Africa’s basic education syllabi. In truth, colonial practices pervade as indigenous music continues to be treated as incidental, rather than equal, to Western education. This neglect has resulted in the youth orienting towards globalised consumer products and losing touch with the value of their indigenous knowledge systems.

In short, there is an urgency for the preservation of IAM; there is a demand for its documentation; and there is an opportunity to promote IAM in education and broader society. In order to document and promote the indigenous practices and practitioners, the SAMRO Foundation collated and notated a selection of available materials in such a way that IAM will become accessible for local and international study, analysis and practice.

The IAM project sourced its information from available archives and practitioners, but understands that a great deal of variation and possible misrepresentation has existed in the IAM arena. As such the IAM project does not claim to know everything and believes that indigenous African music should be a matter of broad consultation. As such, the project is open to comments and suggestions regarding the scores. If you wish to offer your point of view please feel free to do so.

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