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Immobility, Obduracy, and Experimentalism in Soweto

Immobility, Obduracy, and Experimentalism in Soweto

(p.90) Four Immobility, Obduracy, and Experimentalism in Soweto
Kwaito's Promise
Gavin Steingo
University of Chicago Press

This chapter zooms in on a particular site: the famous collection of townships known as Soweto. Based on intensive participant observation with non-professional and unemployed musicians, I focus on the transmission of music in Soweto and engage related topics of mobility, storage, and exchange. I situate these issues within ongoing debates in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and media studies but reach different conclusions. While most scholars in the social sciences and humanities tend to emphasize music’s increasing ubiquity, availability, and fluidity, I examine how music is practiced and experienced in a context where musical equipment and storage devices constantly break down and where movement is constrained. Through a close analysis of the social and sensorial effects generated through obduracy and failure, I conclude that music in Soweto is a highly experimental practice through which people unrelentingly engage precarity and risk.

Keywords:   circulation, immobility, technological failure, glitch, musical archive, MP3

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