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The Experience of the Outside

The Experience of the Outside

(p.27) Two The Experience of the Outside
Kwaito's Promise
Gavin Steingo
University of Chicago Press

It is a truism of ethnomusicological discourse that the global is continually appropriated (or “translated”) for local use. In this way, cultural imperialism is thwarted, because global forms are constantly transformed and translated through the creative activities of musicians and listeners in Tokyo and Tel Aviv, in Rio de Janeiro and Dar es Salaam. In this chapter, I trace the early history of kwaito music in South Africa and reveal a different relationship between the local and the global. Kwaito was initially popular not because its practitioners appropriated international styles for local use, but rather because it was experienced as an international genre. In fact, in the late 1980s the terms kwaito and “international music” were used interchangeably. Emerging gradually from the racial violence of apartheid, black South Africans desired first and foremost a set of sounds—and, indeed, an experience of those sounds—that bore no determinate relationship to their actual social condition. To experience kwaito, in its earliest form, was therefore to experience the far-off, the distant, the outside.

Keywords:   appropriation, house music, aesthetic experience, Bantu Radio, apartheid

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