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Acoustic Assemblages and Forms of Life

Acoustic Assemblages and Forms of Life

(p.124) Five Acoustic Assemblages and Forms of Life
Kwaito's Promise
Gavin Steingo
University of Chicago Press

In Chapter 4, I looked at the quotidian musical practices of formally unemployed residents of Soweto. In this chapter, I widen the lens in order to examine these practices in relation to the larger Johannesburg metropolitan area as well as places further afield. After discussing various modalities of economic and spatial marginalization, I examine the strategies that my interlocutors in Soweto employ to interact with various “outsides.” Adopting Ochoa Gautier’s notion of “acoustic assemblages,” I analyze music in Soweto as an acoustemological practice that links sound to history, ecology, and cosmology. I show that South African electronic music is characterized by two main acoustic assemblages: one that listens for and appropriates outside sounds in the townships, and another that presents highly refracted sounds from the townships to foreign audiences. (Examples of the former include musicians associated with Kalawa Jazmee such as Bongo Maffin and Oscar “Oskido” Mdlongwa and with Arthur Mafokate’s 999 stable. Examples of the latter include Spoek Mathambo, Die Antwoord, and Nozinja.) These competing acoustic assemblages imply different ways of relating to the world and different ways of engaging the politics of life.

Keywords:   assemblage, acoustemology, cosmopolitanism, animal studies, Die Antwoord

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