Popular Music Censorship in Africa: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Popular Music Censorship in Africa

1st Edition

By Martin Cloonan

Edited by Michael Drewett


242 pages

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In Africa, tension between freedom of expression and censorship in many contexts remains as contentious, if not more so, than during the period of colonial rule which permeated the twentieth century. Over the last one hundred years popular musicians have not been free to sing about whatever they wish to, and in many countries they are still not free to do so. This volume brings together the latest research on censorship in colonial and post-colonial Africa, focusing on the attempts to censor musicians and the strategies of resistance devised by musicians in their struggles to be heard. For Africa, the twentieth century was characterized first and foremost by struggles for independence, as colonizer and colonized struggled for territorial control. Throughout this period culture was an important contested terrain in hegemonic and counter-hegemonic struggles and many musicians who aligned themselves with independence movements viewed music as an important cultural weapon. Musical messages were often political, opposing the injustices of colonial rule. Colonial governments reacted to counter-hegemonic songs through repression, banning songs from distribution and/or broadcast, while often targeting the musicians with acts of intimidation in an attempt to silence them. In the post-independence era a disturbing trend has occurred, in which African governments have regularly continued to practise censorship of musicians. However, not all attempts to silence musicians have emanated from government, nor has all contested music been strictly political. Religious and moral rationale has also featured prominently in censorship struggles. Both Christian and Muslim fundamentalism has led to extreme attempts to silence musicians. In response, musicians have often sought ways of getting their music and message heard, despite censorship and harassment. The book includes a special section on case studies that highlight issues of nationality.


'Each contribution is a well-written, self-contained unit. Drewett […] and Cloonan […] are to be commended for selecting knowledgeable contributors for this book, which will interest student of African popular music in general and censorship in particular… Recommended.' Choice ’… this book is a groundbreaking and highly engaging text that will hopefully encourage additional and broader discussion of music censorship in Africa and around the world… While compiling a valuable resource for scholars and students, the editors also use the book to present a blatant call to arms to musicians and activists to resist oppression.’ Popular Music ’The strength of the book […] is that it convincingly and with many fine case studies paves the way for more research on the important issue of music censorship. As such Popular Music Censorship in Africa will be of interest to both scholars and students.’ Ethnomusicology Forum

About the Author/Editor

Michael Drewett is based in the Department of Sociology, Rhodes University, South Africa. Martin Cloonan is based in the Department of Music at the University of Glasgow, Scotland

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General