Music, Health, and Power : Singing the Unsayable in The Gambia book cover
1st Edition

Music, Health, and Power
Singing the Unsayable in The Gambia

ISBN 9781032239965
Published December 13, 2021 by Routledge
178 Pages

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Book Description

Music, Health, and Power offers an original, on-the-ground analysis of the role that music plays in promoting healthy communities. The book brings the reader inside the world of kanyeleng fertility societies and HIV/AIDS support groups, where women use music to leverage stigma and marginality into new forms of power.

Drawing on ethnographic research conducted over a period of 13 years (2006–2019), the author articulates a strengths-based framework for research on music and health that pushes beyond deficit narratives to emphasize the creativity and resilience of Gambian performers in responding to health disparities. Examples from Ebola prevention programs, the former President’s AIDS “cure,” and a legendary underwear theft demonstrate the high stakes of women’s performances as they are caught up in broader contestations over political and medical authority.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of ethnomusicology, medical anthropology, and African studies. The accompanying audio examples provide access to the women’s performances discussed in the text.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgements List of Figures Recorded Selections on the Accompanying Website List of Abbreviations Orthography and Pronunciation 1. Introduction: Music, Health, and Power 2. Women’s Power: Gender, Islam, and Health Performance in The Gambia 3. Singing Teriyaa: Life, Death, and HIV-Stigma 4. "Let’s Insult the Soldier’s Mother": Performative License and Communication  5. When Money Dances: Songs of Health and Wealth 6. Stealing Power: Embodiment and Participation in Kanyeleng Performance 7. "Touch the Drum and They Will Come": Music, Tradition and Communication 8. Beginnings and Endings


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Bonnie B. McConnell is a lecturer in the School of Music at the Australian National University.