UKZN hosts African Music Symposium
UKZN’s Music Discipline recently hosted the International Council for Traditional Musics (ICTM) African Music Symposium which brought together academics, artists and documentary film makers with an interest in Africa and the diaspora.
Acting Dean for the School of Arts, Professor Donal McCracken, said: ‘This conference emphasises the significance and importance of the arts and music. Universities without the creative arts are not universities. This Symposium resonates with UKZN’s goals and mission and of being a University of African Scholarship.’
Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee and Programme Committee, UKZN academic, Dr Patricia Opondo, said she was very proud the prestigious international symposium was being held in Durban. ‘The Symposium showcases UKZN’s mission to be the Premier Institution of African Scholarship, and indeed in inspiring greatness.’
‘We are extremely proud to have successfully hosted this inaugural ICTM African Musics Symposium dovetailing with the 10th anniversary African Cultural Calabash festivities. The high calibre presentations by 34 international researchers, documentary filmmakers, plus the broad range of workshops and concerts celebrating our PanAfrican diversity, made this a memorable four days.’
‘The African Music Project in the School of Arts are the proud hosts, and we hope to grow in scope and reach in next year’s edition. Thanking all the sponsors, members of the LAC and Program Committee, plus student volunteers for working together to ensure a successful event,’ added Opondo.
Professor Dave Dargie delivered a presentation on: “Southern Africa’s Remarkable Heritage of Musical Bows: Does it have a Future”? He showed illustrations of the different bow types, and descriptions of the playing methods as well as making contrasts between renowned Professor P R Kirby’s documentation with another in the latter years of the 20th century, showing that many musical bows were no longer in use.
Reasons for the extinction of many bows were debated and there were insights from Musicologist David Rycroft and from Dargie’s own research.
Ways of avoiding the loss of the bow heritage of the region were discussed along with the survival of certain instruments and possible reasons for their continued use which included economic factors as well as personal interest on the part of bow players.
The keynote speaker was Emeritus Professor JH Kwabena Nketia, a Ghanaian Ethnomusicologist and composer who is considered Africa’s premier Musicologist. He spoke on the topic of: “Exploring and Packaging Africa’s Heritage of Traditional Music in Contemporary Contexts”, with particular emphasis on innovation.
‘It is this dynamic quality that differentiates creativity in traditional contexts and creativity in contemporary African contexts, for traditional musicians and their communities maintain the old systems as far as possible and borrow from one another where appropriate,’ said Nketia.
‘Contemporary musicians now go beyond this and draw not only from their traditional legacy but also from the colonial and missionary experience, including western instruments of adoption, while ensuring that their African roots of music are not submerged nor eliminated in the process.’
Nketia believes this to be the objective of musicians in post-colonial Africa and its diaspora, who are not crippled by nostalgia of the surviving memories of the colonial experience.
‘Traditional music includes models of excellence that we should endeavour to emulate in our own practice or seek to renew from time to time through occasional choral and instrumental concerts and so forth.
‘We should do this to ensure that we maintain or even excel in the standards we have set for ourselves because talented African musicians in that area are inevitably also competent in contemporary African forms.
‘It is time to look at such a packaging of heritage by sustaining, for example, the creative objectives of Hugh Tracy’s International Library of Traditional Music in Grahamstown and similar repositories in various African countries and the diaspora for reference, research and application, in contemporary contexts.’