Professor Damascus Kafumbe - Class of 1960 Music Lecture
Mon, March 4th, 2024
Professor Damascus Kafumbe of Middlebury College offers a Class of 1960 Lecture titled, Court Song, Meaning, and Power Relations in Uganda.
As the preeminent African musicologist J. H. Kwabena Nketia noted in 1961, meaning in African music exists as a series of modes and perspectives rather than as one static and unified concept. Accordingly, one must examine the multitude of statements, interpretations, and relationships associated with musical performance and practice. Moreover, one must treat these elements as fundamental aspects of the way musical meanings take shape rather than as tangential details (Nketia 1961, 5). With these points in mind, this talk explores varied meanings of power relations in songs previously composed and performed in the royal court of the Ugandan Kingdom of Buganda. Problematizing the relationship between the repertoire’s multiplicity of meanings and their relevance in twenty-first century Uganda, the lecture argues that the songs live in a dialogue with modern politics.
Dr. Damascus Kafumbe is an ethnomusicologist, teacher, performer, composer, producer, filmmaker, and instrument technician. He is the Edward C. Knox Professor of International Studies and Professor of Music at Middlebury College, where he teaches ethnomusicology courses and directs two ensembles. He also chairs the music department and maintains the college’s Ugandan musical instrument collection. Kafumbe previously directed the African Studies Program and served on various committees, including the International and Global Studies Program Steering Committee, the Faculty Strategy Committee, the Black Studies Steering Committee, and the Faculty Advisory Board for the Cameroon School. Kafumbe’s scholarly interests span diverse fields, including African studies, performance, history, philosophy, politics, ritual, spirituality, and social organization. He researches the royal court music of Buganda, and his books on the subject include Tuning the Kingdom: Kawuugulu Musical Performance, Storytelling, and Politics in Buganda (University of Rochester Press, 2018) and Power Relations in Court Song: Lyrical Meaning and Political Life in Uganda (University of Rochester Press, 2024). Kafumbe is also the director of the documentary film Drum Making as a Way of Life in Southern Uganda (Alexander Street Press, 2020). His professional service includes serving on the Ethnomusicology journal Editorial Board and the Society for Ethnomusicology Board of Directors. He is also the Music Book Review Editor of the Yearbook for Traditional Music journal and co-editor of the Eastman/Rochester Studies in Ethnomusicology series of the University of Rochester Press.
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