|from Africa Today Volume 48, Number 4 |
From "Dancing with Porcupines" to "Twirling a Hoe": Musical Labor Transformed in Sukumaland, Tanzania
Frank Gunderson Permission to Copy You may download, save, or print for your personal use without permission. If you wish to disseminate the electronic article, or to produce multiple copies for classroom or educational use, please request permission from:
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E-mail: email@example.com In the Sukuma area of northwest Tanzania, farmer-musicians, or farmers who compose and perform music, introduce themselves in public interactions first as farmers, with the phrase "I am a farmer, I hold a hoe," and second as performers, with the phrase "I am also a dancer, I twirl a hoe." Identification with music operates on many psychological and cultural levels from childhood to old age, and is reinforced and expressed most cogently in their use of song during cotton farming. Cotton farming is a relatively recent chapter in Sukuma history, a result of (and creative response to) British colonial government requirements between the two world wars. A new farming class emerged, which drew on prior musical labor fraternities such as medicinal societies, hunting societies, porters, and military organizations for their personnel, musical repertory, and dance paraphernalia. The Sukuma made the imposition of long-distance migrant labor and cotton cropping their own by making these labors musical. The author discusses how Sukuma farmers developed musical farming from these prior musical labor practices, and provides several examples of this transformation.