Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio

by Louise Meintjes

Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio Synopsis

Boosting the bass guitar, blending the vocals, overdubbing percussion while fretting over shoot-outs in the street. Grumbling about a producer, teasing a white engineer, challenging an artist to feel his African beat. Sound of Africa! is a riveting account of the production of a mbaqanga album in a state-of-the-art recording studio in Johannesburg. Made popular internationally by Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, mbaqanga's distinctive style features a bass solo voice and soaring harmonies of a female frontline over electric guitar, bass, keyboard, and drumset. Louise Meintjes chronicles the recording and mixing of an album by Izintombi Zesimanje, historically the rival group of the Mahotella Queens. Set in the early 1990s during South Africa's tumultuous transition from apartheid to democratic rule, Sound of Africa! offers a rare portrait of the music recording process. It tracks the nuanced interplay among South African state controls, the music industry's transnational drive, and the mbaqanga artists' struggles for political, professional, and personal voice. Focusing on the ways artists, producers, and sound engineers collaborate in the studio control room, Meintjes reveals not only how particular mbaqanga sounds are shaped technically, but also how egos and artistic sensibilities and race and ethnicity influence the mix. She analyzes how the turbulent identity politics surrounding Zulu ethnic nationalism impacted mbaqanga artists' decisions in and out of the studio. Conversely, she explores how the global consumption of Afropop and African images fed back into mbaqanga during the recording process. Meintjes is especially attentive to the ways the emotive qualities of timbre (sound quality or tone color) forge complex connections between aesthetic practices and political ideology. Vivid photos by the internationally renowned photographer TJ Lemon further dramatize Meintjes' ethnography.

Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio Press Reviews

Sound of Africa!, the first serious study of musicmaking in an African recording studio, is a pathbreaking contribution to the scholarly literature on popular music. Louise Meintjes's research demonstrates, in the most specific terms, that the 'production' of popular music is a complex, multistranded process, penetrated by economic and aesthetic considerations, identity politics writ large and small, and the global traffic in cultural forms and technologies. -Christopher Waterman, author of Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music Well researched and unbiased, Sound of Africa! is an authentic account of three decades of South African music-live and in the studio. It stands as a testimony to the changing struggles and constant inventiveness of South Africa's producers, musicians, and engineers who worked in the music industry during apartheid. -Koloi Lebona, record producer and Zomba label manager, South Africa Louise Meintjes's Sound of Africa! is a very in-depth but philosophical look at how the common thread of music brings African traditions and culture and modern western technology together across the stormy backdrop of South African politics. -John Lindemann, recording engineer, Big Ears Music c.c., South Africa What fun it was reading Louise Meintjes's Sound of Africa! It's an amazing work, almost magical at moments. I know of no other account in print of life in a sound studio. That Meintjes also takes on contemporary South Africa, questions of ethnic and national identity, and world culture and provides an entree into current ethnomusicological thinking is all the more remarkable. -John F. Szwed, author of Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra

Book Information

ISBN: 9780822330141
Publication date: 5th February 2003
Author: Louise Meintjes
Publisher: Duke University Press
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Categories: Non-Western music: traditional & "classical", Cultural studies,

About Louise Meintjes

Louise Meintjes is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Duke University.

More About Louise Meintjes

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