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Sounds of Other Shores

The Musical Poetics of Identity on Kenya's Swahili Coast

A study of transoceanic musical appropriation and Swahili ethnic subjectivity on the Kenyan coast

Sounds of Other Shores takes an ethnographic ear to the history of transoceanic stylistic appropriation in the Swahili taarab music of the Kenyan coast. Swahili taarab, a form of sung poetry that emerged as East Africa's first mass-mediated popular music in the 1930s, is a famously cosmopolitan form, rich in audible influences from across the Indian Ocean. But the variants of the genre that emerged in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa during the twentieth century feature particularly dramatic, even flamboyant, appropriations of Indian and Arab sonic gestures and styles. Combining oral history, interpretive ethnography, and musical analysis, Sounds of Other Shores explores how Swahili-speaking Muslims in twentieth-century Mombasa derived pleasure and meaning from acts of transoceanic musical appropriation, arguing that these acts served as ways of reflecting on and mediating the complexities and contradictions associated with being "Swahili" in colonial and postcolonial Kenya. The result is a musical anthropology of Kenyan Swahili subjectivity that reframes longstanding questions about Swahili identity while contributing to broader discussions about identity and citizenship in Africa and the Indian Ocean world.

About the Author

ANDREW J. EISENBERG (Abu Dhabi, UAE) is associate professor of music and program head for music at New York University Abu Dhabi. He served as a postdoctoral research associate on the European Research Council-funded "Music, Digitisation, Mediation" project and currently co-directs NYU Abu Dhabi's Music and Sound Cultures (MaSC) lab.

Endorsements

"Eisenberg provides potent music histories that lie at the heart of a genre, invigorating the debates about Waswahili belonging and citizenship beginning before European colonization and proceeding to Kenya's post-colonial eras."—Jean Kidula, author of Music in Kenyan Christianity: Logooli Religious Song

"A work of deep and sustained research, formidable both in its theoretical sophistication and historical depth, Sounds of Other Shores is a fabulously rich investigation of cosmopolitan acoustemology."—Steven Feld, author of Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra

"This book provides a serious examination of Swahili hip-hop, and an important demonstration of how a study of music builds on and informs notions of identity. Eisenberg's insights are original and valuable."—Janet Topp Fargion, author of Taarab Music in Zanzibar in the Twentieth Century

"This insightful and rich study traces the genealogy of taarab, not simply as a transoceanic musical genre, but as a meaningful and integral dimension of Swahili identity and space, of uswahili itself."—Farouk Topan, Emeritus Professor, Aga Khan University
Wesleyan University Press
Music / Culture

9780819501059 : sounds-of-other-shores-eisenberg
Hardback
April 2, 2024
$95.00 USD
9780819501066 : sounds-of-other-shores-eisenberg
Paperback / softback
April 2, 2024
$25.95 USD

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