Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Term 1 Week 10: Urban Identities and Cultures

This week we will examine the development of ‘new’ urban identities and cultures in colonial towns and cities. We will analyse the development of new forms of song and dance on the Zambian Copperbelt, the world of African writers in 1950s Johannesburg, and the music cultures of Luanda and Johannesburg. Throughout we will consider the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender and age in the making of identities and cultural practices.

Core Reading

J. Clyde Mitchell, The Kalela Dance: Aspects of Social Relationships Among Urban Africans in Northern Rhodesia (1950), pp. 1-34.

Paul Gready, 'The Sophiatown Writers of the Fifties: the Unreal Reality of their World', Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 16, No.1 (1990), 139-164.

Christopher Ballantine, 'Music and emancipation: the social role of black jazz and vaudeville in South Africa between the 1920s and the early 1940s', Journal of Southern African Studies, 17, 1 (1991), pp. 129-152.

M. Moorman, ‘Dueling Bands and Good Girls: Gender, Music, and Nation in Luanda's Musseques, 1961-1974’, International Journal of African Historical Studies 37, (2004), pp. 255-88.

Seminar Questions

1. What insights does Mitchell's study of the Kalela dance provide into social relations on the colonial Copperbelt?

2. How did South Africans use writing and music to critique the social and political order during the 1920s to 1950s?

3. How was music culture shaped by gender in colonial Luanda's musseques?

4. To what extent did life in colonial cities foster the development of new urban identities and cultures?

Primary Sources

Examples of the music of Amandla! ('power' in Nguni languages):

Moorman interviews, available via JSTOR Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa collection: interview with Lourdes Van Dunem, Angola's first best known female musician; interview with Raul Indipwo, one of the two musicians in the band Duo Ouro Negro.


Africa: A Journey into Music, South Africa [originally broadcast 09/06/2018, BBC4]

Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2002)

Have You Seen Drum Recently? (1989) [available via Amazon Prime]

Hugh Masekela: Words and Music [originally broadcast 28/01/2018, BBC World Service Radio]

The Queen of Africa: The Miriam Makeba Story [originally broadcast 23/07/2012, BBC4]

The Sound of Soweto, Episode One [originally broadcast 15/11/2016, BBC Radio 4] and Episode Two [originally broadcast 26/11/2016, BBC Radio 4].

Further Reading

Gwen Ansell, Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music, and Politics in South Africa (London, 2005)

D. Coplan, 'The African musician and the development of the Johannesburg entertainment industry, 1900–1960', Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 16, No.1 (1979), pp. 135-164.

D. Coplan, In the Time of Cannibals: The Word Music of South Africa's Basotho Migrants (Chicago, 1994).

D. Coplan, In Township Tonight! South Africa's Black City Music and Theatre (Chicago, 2008).

Shirli Gilbert, 'Singing Against Apartheid: ANC Cultural Groups and the International Anti-Apartheid Struggle', Journal of Southern African Studies, 33, 2 (2007), pp. 421-441.

Deborah James, Songs of the Women Migrants: Performance and Identity in South Africa (Edinburgh, 1999).

Marissa Moorman, Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times (2008)

Grant Olwage, Composing Apartheid: Music For And Against Apartheid (Johannesburg, 2008)

Gairoonisa Paleker, 'The State, Citizens and Control: Film and African Audiences in South Africa, 1910–1948', Journal of Southern African Studies, 40, 2, (2014), pp. 309-323.

Emma Sandon, 'African Mirror: The Life and Times of the South African Newsreel from 1910 to 1948', Journal of Southern African Studies, 39, 3 (2013), pp. 661-680.

Thomas Turino, Nationalists, Cosmopolitans, and Popular Music in Zimbabwe (Chicago, 2000).