n SAMUS : South African Music Studies - Whose, Which, Freedoms? The ‘Contesting Freedoms’ Colloquium at Unisa - node 1 - all the king's men

Volume 36-37 Number 1
  • ISSN : 2223-635X


With the exception of a handful of music departments, music studies in South Africa up to the mid-1990s were largely devoted to the study of Western art music alone – at least in terms of the typical BMus curriculum. 1 While the formation of the Musicological Society of South Africa in the mid-1970s was a noteworthy milestone along the road to academic respectability if not responsibility, isolation from the international academic community during the apartheid boycott may well have played a part in encouraging a somewhat conservative attitude. There was also a general reluctance to embrace the possibility of new insights from critical approaches and cultural theory, as well as other fields outside traditional musicology, such as anthropology, gender studies, postcolonial studies and sociology, and to explore popular and indigenous musics. Regardless of what we may now think of the ‘New Musicology’ – and it has received a fair amount of criticism over the past twenty years2 – it brought a welcome gust of fresh air into the miasma of an excessively positivist and narrow approach that prevailed right into the early 2000s, and perhaps still does to an extent in some South African music departments.

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