Books on Zim music win award

HARARE - Historian Mhoze Chikowero’s book African Music, Power, and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe and Banning Eyre’s Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe have jointly won the J.H. Kwabena Nketia Society for Ethnomusicology Book Award for the period 2013 to 2016.

The award was set up in honour of Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia (95) — a Ghanaian ethnomusicologist and composer widely considered Africa’s most published and best known authority on African music and aesthetics in the world.

Chikowero believes the honour, which is conferred bi-annually, in even years, to a book published in the previous four years, could create interest in Zimbabwean books and music.

The University of California Santa Barbara history professor told the Daily News that the award has the potential to bring international spotlight on Zimbabwean music.

“Read together and exploited well, the moment can refocus our music in the spotlight. It is quite interesting, I think, particularly considering the two books are in different genres — one biographical, dealing largely with an individual since mid-century colonial Zimbabwe, and the other deeply historical, exploring the foundational logics of the social engineering that produced what we often read as a given by mid-century,” he said.

In an earlier Facebook post Chikowero, who was born in Mhondoro 44 years ago, revealed that the award-winning African Music, Power, and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe was almost rejected by the publisher.

“After sitting on the book manuscript for about half-a-year, a then prominent American ethnomusicologist — a scholar of Zimbabwean music tried very hard to kill this book in 2013. His argument: ‘This topic is well worn’ and ‘Chikowero’s book is extremely conservative,” wrote Chikowero on Facebook.

Despite the American ethnomusicologist’s strong reservations the book went on to be published.

“Needless to say, and to cut the long story short, his double agenda failed. I was therefore surprised when I received a call from the Chair of the Society of ethnomusicology’s Nketia Book Award Committee informing me that my book was selected to win the award, selected from over 25 books published over the last four years,” he wrote.

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