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African Music Section
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The African Music Section brings together SEM members devoted to the study of all aspects of music from Africa and the African diaspora. The section provides scholars with a forum and community for discourse, performance and networking. The three co-chairs and one student representative are elected by the AMS at the yearly meeting. The co-chairs rotate on a yearly basis, with one incoming-elect, one current, and one outgoing. The outgoing co-chair will chair the annual meeting, and the current co-chair will act as secretary.



Kwasi Ampene, Presiding Chair (ampene@umich.edu)
Scott Linford, Incoming Chair (scottlinford@gmail.com)
Stephanie Shonekan, Outgoing Chair (sshonekan@umass.edu)

Ruth Opara (ropara@skidmore.edu)

Listserv and Website Manager
Katie Stuffelbeam  (kstuffelbeam@ucla.edu)

African Studies Association Liaisons
Karl Haas (khaas@bu.edu)
Brendon Kibbee (bkibee@gradcenter.cuny.edu)

Dues (Suggested)
Students: $10
Faculty: Sliding scale $20, $25, $30, $35
Lifetime Honorary Membership: $150

Listserv: semafricanmusic-l@list.indiana.edu

Website: forthcoming

Section Prizes
African Libraries Student Paper Prize
Kwabena Nketia Book Prize

African Music Section (AfMS) Kwabena Nketia Book Prize, 2018

The African Music Section (AfMS) is pleased to award the 2018 Kwabena Nketia Book Award to two recipients: Kofi Agawu for The African Imagination in Music (Oxford University Press 2016) and Chérie Rivers Ndaliko for Necessary Noise: Music, Film, and Charitable Imperialism in the East of Congo (Oxford University Press 2016).

The selection process involved soliciting submissions from publishers, authors, and members of the Society for Ethnomusicology through postings on listserves and H-Net.org, correspondence with publishers, and announcements on the SEM website. Six books were received by June, and by September each jury member had selected three for prize consideration. In October, several meetings occurred between the jury members who arrived at the final decision and notified the winners.

Tasked with choosing “the most distinguished book or monograph on the topic of African and African diasporan music,” the committee chose finalists that demonstrate substantial scholarly rigor, make vital contributions to the study of music in African society and culture, present original narratives, and contribute to the decolonization of knowledge of Africa.

The submissions and final selections reflect the diversity of African music studies. The pool of books considers a wide range of topics including medical ethnomusicology, biography, Africans within the diaspora, applied ethnomusicology, and historical musicology. The winning works are both extraordinary for how they challenge the antediluvian colonial narratives of “the African.” But they do so in markedly different ways: one takes an ethnographic lens to the question of how music is used for social change; the other rereads ethnographies and the archives to generate new perspectives on the practices and meanings of African music.

We extend our warmest congratulations to Kofi Agawu and Chérie Rivers Ndaliko. We would also like to congratulate Oxford University Press, the publisher for both winning monographs, and thank them for supporting deep and innovative scholarship on African music.

Cheri Rivers Ndaliko, Necessary Noise (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Ndaliko’s highly engaging ethnographic monograph is a vital reflection on the poetics and politics of cultural production in a conflict zone, and a powerful model for socially engaged scholarship. A critical and reflexive ethnography of how a community-based organization has worked to reconfigure the typical relationship between NGOs and local artists, the book makes important interventions in music studies, African studies, and the anthropology of development, while also supplying significant provocations and insights for policy discussions.

Identifying herself as “a custodian of detail,” Ndaliko deploys textured ethnographic descriptions of real lives and life situations that usefully disrupt dominant media narratives of eastern Congo and other places that have been riven by conflict. In luminous prose that is a joy to read, she fluidly weaves together stories of how music, film, narratives, and collaborations lay foundations for projects of political subject formation and activism. Even when engaging with well-worn topics, such as the relationship between music and resistance, the book consistently offers new perspectives and insights that open new vistas for scholars as well as students.

Kofi Agawu, The African Imagination in Music (Oxford University Press, 2016)

The most comprehensive study of the formal elements of African music to be published since Nketia’s 1974 classic Music of Africa, Kofi Agawu’s African Imagination in Music is a major achievement. Innovative as well as synthetic, it manages to break new ground while also serving as a powerful introduction for those coming to African music for the first time.

Agawu employs a repertory-based approach to form and aesthetics, facilitated by the vast amount of available recordings of African music that have been produced since the beginning of the twentieth century. Toward this end, he offers readers a carefully curated list of recordings (most commercially available or accessible through library collections) that “provide a formidable introduction to African sound worlds.” The list, which is itself worth the price of the book, provides newcomers to African music with an invaluable springboard for diving into the topic, while arming more advanced students and scholars with the necessary context to build upon or engage critically with the book’s powerful insights. Agawu’s approach is a solidly interdisciplinary, drawing together discourses and debates from across the musical humanities. He makes a significant contribution toward decolonizing this scholarship, by including new material and methodologies for approaching how harmony, melody, and rhythm operate in the African imaginaire.


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