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African Music Section (AfMS) Kwabena Nketia Book Prize
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Purpose: To recognize the most distinguished book or monograph on the topic of African and African diasporan music, published over the previous three years.

Eligibility: The African Music Section welcomes a broad scope of books on musical performance or implications for music scholarship based on the African continent or the global African diaspora. Books on the African Diaspora should have depth of research on African music and practices. Edited volumes are not eligible. Reprints or new editions of books are not eligible unless substantially revised from the original. Authors need not be members of SEM or the African Music Section of SEM. Relevant audio and visual recordings or films may also be considered. 

Prize: $200

Regularity: Awarded bi-annually, in even years, to a book published in the previous three years (e.g. the 2020 prize will be given to a book published in 2018 or 2019).

Administration: The Prize Committee will consist of three readers, including two acknowledged senior scholars, who are members of good standing in the African Music Section and SEM. The decision will be announced at the Section Meeting during the SEM Annual Meeting.

Application Process: Applicants should send a shareable ebook or PDF to scott.linford@uc.edu, using "Nketia Book Prize" as the email subject line. Books may be nominated by individuals, including self-nomination by authors, and by publishing houses and presses. The Prize Committee may also nominate books. No book may be submitted more than once for consideration.

Application Deadline: Books must be received  by June 1, 2020. 





Cheri Rivers Ndaliko, Necessary Noise: Music, Film, and Charitable Imperialism in East Congo. 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 asolidly 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.


Mhoze Chikowero, African Music, Power and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe. Indiana University Press, 2015.

Banning Eyre, Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music that Made Zimbabwe. Duke University Press, 2015.


Jean Kidula, Music in Kenyan Christianity: Logooli Religious Song. Indiana University Press, 2013.

(Honorable Mention) Tsitsi Ella Jaji, Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music, and Pan African Solidarity. Oxford University Press, 2014.

(Honorable Mention) Bode Omojola,Yorùbá Music in the Twentieth Century: Identity, Agency, and Performance Practice. Rochester University Press, 2012.


Frank Gunderson, "We Never Sleep We Dream of Farming”: Sukuma Labor Songs from Western Tanzania. Brill Academic Press, 2010.


Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Fiddling in West Africa: Touching the Spirit in Fulbe, Hausa, and Dagbamba Cultures. Indiana University Press, 2008.

(Honorable Mention) James Burns. Female Voices from an Ewe Dance-drumming Community in Ghana: Our Music Has Become a Divine Spirit. Ashgate Publishing, SOAS Musicology Series, 2009.

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