Sounds from the Other Side: African Popular Music in the Age of Technoculture

Music is one of the most portable cultural materials that travel with little to no impediments, and it has always been at the forefront of the Black Diasporic experience. It has served as an outlet for preserving certain aspects of the cultural memory, a coping mechanism for human suffering, and as a tool for dealing with a broad range of concerns from trauma to pleasure to the celebration of life. In African/African diasporic experience, we may think about its movement through a trans-continental link in Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, African-American, and African iterations of musical production and circulation.

We may also examine its instrumental role in the idea of postnational citizenship with its attendant constraints of national bureaucratic formalities and passport regimes. In all, there is always a gesture—whether deliberate or accidental—to the cross-cultural and trans-historical global flow. This movement of sounds also influences the artistic process of contemporary music-making and dissemination. These and many other musings on contemporary African music inform this presentation’s critical examination of Africa’s traveling sounds and its diaspora in the twenty-first century. In this talk, I rethink African popular music, using Afropolitanism as a framework for reading the Post-2000 soundscape to map its significance as a connecting node for reading global Africa.