Monday, May 9, 2011
East African hip hop
Here is what a scholar of Swahili popular culture said about my book:
The analysis of lyrics and the living conditions of artists yields a worthwhile
introduction to the status of youth in contemporary societies. Particularly for undergraduate students or those just learning about Africa, the quick pace of the chapters provides an invigorating sense of the relevance of youth, music and social conditions in three countries. Ntarangwi’s writing style is also devoid of heavy jargon or verbose passages, and will appeal to general interest readers.
For scholars interested in the history or in-depth analysis of music in East
Africa, the monograph often moves too quickly to explore topics fully. The
lives and careers of artists, as well as the reasons people are drawn to hip hop, are hardly addressed. There is almost no detail about the sound of East African
hip hop and how the music pushes the themes of the lyrics. For scholars of East Africa, the inclusion of lyrics in English versions only makes it impossible to read more into them, or to check translations. Finally, even though the ethnography focuses on all of East Africa, it is strongest in examining Tanzania and Kenya and somewhat limited when it turns to Uganda.
Overall, this is an important regional study. As new economic and political partnerships emerge within regions such as East Africa, such studies are increasingly necessary to interpret the meaning and significance of cultural forms – of which popular music is certainly an important example.