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Journd ofCultural Studies. 3.1 (1001).


Title: Nationalists, Cosmopolitans and Popular Music in

Author: Thomas Thrino.
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Year ofPublication: 2000.
ISBN: 0226817024
Pages: 401
Reviewer: Jonathan ZUberg

Nationalists. Cosmopolitans and Popular Music is an unprecedented and very much

needed overview of the social history of music in Zimbabwe. In providing a detailed
picture of the diversity and change therein, Tom Thrinobas been careful to introduce
the type of material barely ever considered in Zimbabwean ethnomusicology with its
mbira-eentric focus. Additionally, he bas considered vital issues concerning modernity
and identity, also little understood to date in Zimbabwean anthropology, namely the
difference hetween imitation and internalization, traditionalism and cosmopolitanism,
and the history of generation gaps, youth culture and the musical evolution of stars
such as the international celebrity Thomas Mapfumo. Bringing a treasure trove of
historical material from the Zimbabwean national archives into play, Thrino delivers
a groundbreakinganalysis and an absolutely vital complement to Paul Berliner's earlier
study, The Soul ofthe Mbira (1978).
This study is of special importance in that it is the fIrst detailed study of music in
Zimbabwe which takes a close historical look into the local influence and reaction to
foreign music in the country. In large part, the material was gathered through interviews
with musicians so as to record their memories about the changes which took place in
the local music scene decade by decade, as well as the development of their careers.
Much of the rest of the data was gathered from archival tapes of recordings made by
the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation and from popular magazines, especially
Parade. In this way, it provides the reader with a look into the past at the type of
material which bas received scant attention in the anthropological literature on music
and culture in Zimbabwe.
Turino begins with an axiomatic statement about cosmopolitanism, imitation and
authenticity in Zimbabwe:

Within my framework, however, the major break comes whe" local

people deeply internalizeforeign ideas andpractices and make them
their ow,,; i.e., foreign dispositions become deeply constitutive of
Popular Music in Zimbabwe 515

local habihis... It is crueiolto understandthat once [thus[ socialized,

such individuals are not simply imitating foreign activities and
thinkingforeign thoughts when they go ballroom dancing. " Rather
they are acting ond thinkingjTom their own cultural position -this
is part of who they ore... The key difference for the concept of
cosmopolitanism is between imitation and internalization, thelOller
allowing for internally generated cultural creativity, practices and
identities. (8 - 9).

In this 'emerging cosmopolillin habitus' a 'locally generated branch of a translocal

cultural complex emerges.' Noting Ibe distinctly different co-existing cosmopolitan
formations to be found locally and g1oba1ly, Turino shows how Ibere are a myriad of
creative responses to modernity, different couplings of local and global woclds re­
routing culture. He emphasizes how local meanings and beterogeneity exist in tenus
of reactions to globalism as a homogenizing cultural force, a scenario in whicb
contemporary popular arts constitute emergent cultures ratber than global
bomogenization. Besides Ibe thorough etbnanusicological analysis given, his analysis
of the imilalion versus incmporation divide aod Ibe relationship between class and
cosmopolitanism might best interest anthropologists. Tutino has been bold enougb to
engage Zimbabwean social history, unbound by Ibe romance of 'tradition.'
In Chapter 1, 'Social Identities and Indigenous Musical Practices,' he considers
lbe tensions in the Zimbabwean social fabric over the dicbotomous identification of
modernity vis-a-vis tradition. Within this framework ofa decline in indigenous culture,
Popular M..,je jn Zjmbabw. followed by a period ofcultural revival spurred by Ibe growth
of African nationalism, be goes somewbat against Ibe grain by complicating this
scenario noting that Ibe middle class is Ibe most acutely estranged from tradition.
Here he considers Ibe difference between cosmopolitan (elitist) and non-cosmopolitan
('traditional') notions of identity.
Turino makes, what will be to some readers, the shocking observation that urban
middle-class Zimbabwean youlb have become so estranged from tradition that they
are commonly unable to recognize the sound of the mbira. the indigenous musical
instrument for wbich Zimbabwean music has become best known for in the world beat
scene. Moreover, he makes Ibe important contribution of showing how this lack of
engagement wilb traditional music amongst the middle and upper class, as well as the
lack ofengagemenl with the music's ritual context dates back to Ibe 1940s. In order to
look at Ibis divide, he provides an extended discussion on Shona music as a participatory
tradition in which he describes contemporary Zimbabwean life in tenns of a middle
ground, as a syncretic melange of influences conceived of differently according to Ibe
subject's class aod historical experience. As such, no one interested in Zimbabwean
music can afford nollO read this book.
516 JUlirnalofCulturalStudits

In Chapler 2, 'Indigenous Music and Dance in Mbare Township, 1930-1960', the

author introduces something of the history of the Rhodesian Broadcasting Services
and the type of indigenous music that was recorded· and broadcast. He raises one
particularly fascinating issue here in which he shows how it was actually through
radio hroadcasts requesting mbira players that many of the mbira players came to be
recorded, achieved their popularity, and thus ultimalely sustained and advanced the
indigenous tradition. He documents how in some instances musicians were even first
exposed to the mbira through the medium of the radio rather than through the ritual
context as one might expect.
In Chapter 3, 'The Settler-State and Indigenous Music During the Federation
Years', Turino considers indigenous music on the radio in the 1950s and 60s. In
revisiting WayaJeshi, the all important early study ofthe birth of radio broadcasting in
the Federation by Peter Frankel (1959), he notes that the original purpose for the radio
during World War II was to broadcast bulletins to African so(diers on the Angolan
border. In other words, the very introduction of this media form coincides with and
connects to particular events in global history such that the intended uses of introduced
media changed significantly over relatively short periods oftime. For those interested
in music and the mass media, this chapler provides particularly tilscinating reading.
Radio became a critical medium for education as well as entertainment through
the introduction ofmobile recording units which recorded and broadcast contemporary
and indigenous music. Fortunately, this resulted in the accumulation of excellent
archival data for music performed during the Federation years. In deconstructing
Frankel and the standard ethnomusicological view which pwports a decline in
traditional music in Southern Rhodesia during the early years of radio. Torino points
out that this perception had resulted from the middle-class perspectives of the African
assistants involved in collecting music in Southern Rhodesia at the time. Thus he
compliCl\leS the history of the archival record shOWing that the rise of cosmopolitan
perspectives did not necessarily coincide with the eclipse oftraditional music. or with
the introduction of new media as previously imagined.
In charting the evolution of local radio and music history, Turino reviews how in
the 1950s cosmopolitans involved in the media industry conveyed and disseminated
the notion of a depauperate indigenous musical scene. He shows that this was not the
case at all. and that subsequently, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, thousands of
recordings of all musical genres were made and broadcast. Consequently, he makes
the fundamentally important and interesting point of how the radio came to serve as a
medium for the stimulation and dissemination oftraditional music. alongside syncretic
forms and foreign pop music. In this way, he shows how the Federation, and later the
Rhodesian stale, played a critical role in the continued production and consumption of
the full diversity of local and global musical forms through the medium ofthe radio.
ID Chapter Five, 'Music, Emotion and Cultural Nationalism, 1958-1963,' Turino
Popular Music in ZimbDbwe 517

comments upon the role of the mass media in the inculcation and dissemination of
nationalist ideology. He revisits how the colonial state created a national audience and
expands upon bow the nationalist leaders as a result became keenly aware of the
importance of music and the mass media as a vehicle for genemting a sense of a
national culture. He revisits how this was achieved through emotional bonding induced
through music and discourse which relied on and fomented the concept ofan indigenous
cultural renaissance.
Introducing the type of data we very much need in Zimbabwean history and
anthropology, be considers, for example, the case ofone reformist-inspired group, the
Hurricanes, and bow they created a syncretic amalgam of traditional music with jazz,
the twist, Rhumba, chacbacba, and rock and roll. At the time, this was touted as the
new dance music of Zimbabwe and in fact it marked tbe start of the local
experimentation with electric guitars.. In developing his argument here, Thrino relies
heavily on the popular magazine Parade (then African Parade) so as to reconstruct
the development of musical styles from that period. As this chapter demonstrates,
close attention to the consumption of the mass media is absolutely vital for any
understanding of the historical and anthropological study of both 'modem' and
'traditional' African music and culture.
In Chapter 6, 'Musical Nationalism and Chimurenga Songs ofthe 1970s', Thrino
focuses on the emergence of the songs of the anned struggle for independence and
introduces further data about the awareness of the role of the mass media in creating
an imagined trans-local national community. For example, in the section titled' Music
and the Politicization of the Masses,' he dmws briefly on Julie Frederickse's unique
study, None But Our.elves: MI1!I'es verow the Media in the Making a/Zimbabwe, to
comment upon the imPortance of the radio in the anned struggle during which two
mdio stations, The Voice of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe People's Voice, associated
with the two separate wings of the liberation movement, ZAPU and ZANU. The
programme guides provided in Frederickse allow Turino to demonstrate the increasing
popularity of the Chimurenga revolutionary songs. As Frederickse recorded, one
Rhodesian soldierbad discovered the importance ofthis during reconnaissance missions
in which he came actOss people singing along with the radio in the bush. The e><perience
provoked him to reflect upon how this sense of rousing camaraderie was entirely
different and far more successful than the government's attempts to boost anny morale
through the Armed Forces Request's programme.
The result ofpulling all this historical data together is to provide substantial grist
for the anthropological mill. For example, Turino uses this data to show how the
participatory ethic was not limited to mere reception, but to the production of
Chimurenga music as well. Moreover, he proposes that this communal participatory
'ethic-aesthetic' was the guiding and dominant force in the adoption ofcosmopolitan
elements and technologies. He concludes that this in itself constitutes a unique case of
518 Juumal ofCulhlraJ S",dles

the heterogenization of cosmopolitanism as considered by Appadurai in 'Disjuncture

and Difference in the Global Culturlll Economy' (1990),
This is a dense book with • great deal of data, though it is, ethnographically
speaking, extn:mely thin. Its importance is therefore ultimately more bistorical than
merely anthropological, For example, in regard to the richness of the data, be revisits
the effectiveness of the combination ofemotion and political education during the war
years. Here be describes and contexlUalizes the songs that were used for teacbing
military and political doctrine. One might add bere, to the Maoist quote be cites from
Alec Pongweni's study, Songs Ihal Won Ihe Liberadon War (1982), that just as
'[P]olitical power comes from the barrel of. gun,' the collective emotional connection
to nationalist ideology was daily experienced on a mass trans-Iocallevel through ZANU
and ZAPU radio broadcasts. As a consequence, we have bere a vital contribution to
the history of the socia-political uses of the Zimbabwean mass media,
In Cbapter7, 'Acoustic Guitarist> and Guitar Bands ofthe I960s', theautbor desaibes
the emergence ofwltal is now recognized in the tnuls-natiolial cosmopolitan imagination
as the national music ofZimbabwe. Vet in this complex history ofmusical nationalism in
Zimbabwe, one does not find the simple scenario of the incorporation of indigenous
music, into a cosmopolitan genre, but rather a form of indigenous-based guitar music
shaped by cosmopolitan youth culture in the 19605, coupled with the emerging
professionalism ofthe musicians. nationalism, as well as by the preferences of world
beat fang, In this way, Turino gives us an all important description ofthe complexity of ,
the local music scene in the 19605, the most memorable example perhaps being his
' ..... --- -.
charting oflbe history of Jit music which was originally disseminated into Zimbabwe
alongside jazz and jive through the powerful South African recording industry and
migranllahoui'. .
This excePtiOtlllilyrich chapter should be a rare delight for Zimbabwean historians.
For exanlple, turino goes on to consider the early acoustic guitarists many ofwhom
perfonlled as itinerant musicians. One leams here, for example, about vocal and guitar
styles influenced by American musical genres such as Ibe counlly music songs of
Jimmie Rodgers, and Gospel and Blues, as well as about Congolese music, in some
cases being particularly close imitations and in others more syncretic and complex.
He details the range of indigenous genres performed and documents the classic and
Dot especia1ly unusual case ofhow ODe such musician took up the guitar in 1949 after
seeing films featuring country western artists such as Tex Riller.
In all these examples, the musical analysis is penetrating and allows for a close
identification ofmusical techniques and their derivations sc as to tease the indigenous
and cosmopolitan elements. Adding to Robert Kaufmann's earlier contribution that
the guitar is not necessarily conceived as an entirely modernist instrument but can
rather be conceptualized in indigenous ways, Turino critiques the idea that the adoption
of the guitar was an inculcation ofmodernist values based OD the prestige associated
Popular Music in Zimbabwe 5) 9

with European and middle class culture such as was the case with ball room dancing. By
1959 fur example, rock 'n' roll was being imitat<:djUSlas Jazz and countJymusic had been
previously, though Turina pOints out thai there was an important difference.
In the case ofrock 'n'rou, the music was associated with the spreadafcosmopolitan
youth culture and the author iuake$ the definitive claim that this represents the ftrst
time thai a concept ofteep ~ yo~ib culture had emerged in Zimbabwe. Here a musical
style is depicted as an identity marl<er, He adds to this by proposing that it was only
during the early 19605 that the problems concerning teenage morality became an
issue in the media. llubsequently with the I()QI\ incorporation/adoption of North
American rock, lhe Beatles and S011! music, the idea of youth as baving a distinct
culture, a decidedly non or even antHra4itipnaI cullIIraI fol1l18lion became a well
established reality. .. ..
T'!rino goes on to show bow by Ibe mid·1960s, ~rlbe establisbment of local
recording companies, an important transition occurred from the imitatinn of fC!reign
musical styles to a stress on originality. He argues that this in itself was part and
parcel of a trans-national cosmopolitan youth culture. Here, Zimbabwean musicians
came to self-eousciously render indigenous songs through guitar bands to such a degree
that the tenn 'traditional adaptation' was created. In one fascinating example, be
considers bow in the case of the Harare Mambos, the adaptation of popular foreign
musical styles was so sUlXessfui that unless one knew the original traditional version
one would not be able to recognize it as a modem rendition of an indigenous song.
Taking this case even further, Turino describes bow the use of indigenous v()Ql\
styles in these apparently 'modernist' songs signified a substantial tnmsfonnation of
cosmopolitan aesthetics. Nevertheless, as be notes, wbile maintaining his coustant
portrayal oflbe complexity ofthe music scene, musicians simultaneously continued to
play rumba, jive and rock in imitative llI8IlIIeB in which faithfulness to the original
was the most important criterion. Once again, it is this balance and complexity whicb
makes this study an original and vital contribution to the limited literature available
for the Zimbabwean case.
In Chapter 8, 'Stars ofthe Seventies: The Rise ofIndigenous-Based Guitar Bands,'
1\uino shows how differentlbe 1980s were fur guitar bands. In this same period, classical
mbira pieces and village Jit rose to the fore as a type of complex refurmist musical
nationalism in whicb the artists sought out the largest possible audience, an audience
whose very dispositions led the artists to increase their incorporation of indigenous
elements. For example, he describes bow, in 1971. Thomas Mapftuno aspired to be a
saxophonist like Stan Gerz because he believed that the popularity ofjazz would outlast
pop music.
Yet shortlythereafter, Mapftuno, in part responding to nationalist inspired criticism
thai artists should move away from playing fureign music, began to compose more
original tunes. This in itselfalso constituted along tenD result afth. 1960s cosmopolitan
t~o Joi'u-nalo!Cultura./ Studies

youth culture ethos. Though the early results were tenned Afro-rock and failed to
engage an audience, when Mapfumo turned to playing traditional mbira tunes on the
guitar and singing in Shona, there was an inunediate response. His subsequent reaction
to this coostituled a milestone in the development of musical nationalism. As a
consequence of this relation between audience response and innovation, Mapfumo is
considered a paradigmatic case in that he first approached 1l1Iditionai music as a cultural
outsider, having first heard mbi'a music on the radio and not in traditional ritual
In subsequent chapters, Turino goes on to show how the famous case of Thomas
Mapfumo's transformation of indigenous music was in large part directly influenced
by his cosmopolitan experiences. His main point in furthering this evolving debate
over cultural lllInsfonnation is that change is not ethically neutral. He proposes that
the way in which it can foster the breakdown of indigenous ethics and aesthetics is
profoundly disturbing. Here he argues that the re-luning.of the mbi'a to the Western
scale is exemplary ofthis loss. In this reading, there is a Boasian quality to his argument
in which traditions of the past are seen as fast fading in the face of globalization,
though his data sometimes point to the opposite, an example being the apparent rising
interest in the mbka lIIl1ongot rural youth and the urban poor in the I990s.
Once again, this study is particularly strong in tenos of its balanced historical
approach to previously poorly, ifat aU, documented phenomenon. For example, Turino
reviews a dnunatic turn around in the 1970s, from the concert traditioos imitating
Elvis Presley and the Neville Brothers to indigenous music appealling to a mass local
audience, alongside documenting the eontinued popularity of trans-national popular
music. Here Turino notes that Mapfumo first carne to focus on indigenous Shona
music because of the responsiveness of his audiences as well as the success of such
adaptations on the hit parade. Moreover, he argues that this tum was influenced by the
popular sympathy with ZANU's nationalist discourse, reflected in Mapfumo's
recollections that he had realized that Zimbabweans were lost and had to return to
their own musical fonos, albeit adapted for the electric guitar.
In this and subsequent chapters, Turino's detailed consideration of the
particularities and evolution ofMapfumo's music and his methods ofcomposition (as
well ... for other local stars including Xexie MllIUlISa and Oliver Mutukudzi), especially
the quest for originality and the complex re-ordering of indigenous material, make for
fascinating reading.
The study is significant for the manner in which Turino separates musical style
and song content in analyzing musical nationalism. He concludes with marked honesty
that most of the musicians he interviewed did not equate musical style and political
nationalism as typically is the case in the Western reception and marketing of their
music. Nevertheless, as he shows about Thomas Mapfumo and World Beat, these
elements became increasingly important in establishing the artist's heroic status. The
Popular MfUic in Zimbabwe S21

one notable and arguable flaw in the study in this particular regard is his deliberately
uncritical view of MapfUmo, There is for example no mention of the ways in which
the music and lyrics attributed solely to MapfUmo are to an undetermined extent the
contribution of his band members as well as borrowings from other musicians. Thus
alongside critical commentaIy on the suppression of emulators and the economic
inequities in earnings received and the excessive perfonnance demands upon the band
members and dancers, there is a substantial lack. of ethoographic detail in MapfUmo's
case and indeed throughout the book.. This is panicularly disappointing colllideting
the author's sustained engagement with the Mw-ehwa Jerusarema Club and Burial
Society in Mbare.
In Chapter 9, 'Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and Popular Music after 1980',
Twino describes how Mapfumo and other anists, supported by the state, crafted and
mark.ete<l their nationalist revolutionary seatiments to an increasingly broader mass
local at the same time as to a global cosmopolitan audience. He sustailll his
central and critical argument that pnlitical agendas, professionalism and mme! forces
resulted in the reformation of indigenous participatory ways of life in terms of
cosmopolitan-capitalist ethics. In doing so, he provides the reader with an unusually
critical review of the middle class and elite segments of Zimbabwean society and
argues that a k.ey problem in this reformation is the notion that state officials are
insiders in their own culture. Rather, he argues they should be understood in terms of
being cosmopolitans raised with middle-<:lass values and aspiratiOll$, and divorced
from their own cultural background. This is a fundamentally important criticism of
class and culture without which the history of Zimbabwean music and art, especially
viz-a-viz the state, would not make much sense.
Tutino's critique is particularly trenchant as regards the national dance company
and what he tenns the twin paradoxes of nationalism - a dependence on cosmopolitan
notions of the state which simultaneously constitutes a threat to local distinctiveness.
In developing this critique through local perceptiolll of the inadequacy of the national
dance companies' performances, he proposes that the twin paradox is balanced, if
unsuccessfully for localS and yet more effectively for cosmopolitans, through reformist
re-contextualization. The rest of Chapter 9, the last cbapter, covers the world beat
phenomenon through focusing again on Mapfumo music, nationalist politics and libetal
sentiment among the white Western consumers of Mapfumo's music.
All in all, above and beyond the lionization ofThomas Mapfumo which dominates
the last chapters, this study will be ofgreat value to anyone interested in contemporary
Aftican music and world heat. It will also be important reading for those interested in
nationalism and how the nationalist project has influenced musical refmmations. In
addition, it will be of interest to scholars more broadly at the trans-national
ans, globalism and changing local traditions, at Carmen Miranda, Jimie Rodgers and
Elvis Presley at 'home' in Amca. As Tutino states,
S22 Journal ofCui/ural SludreJ

Globalization begi". at home. The queslion is. whose home? Haw

many homes have 10 be involved with a compuler. Michael Jackson,
0' an indigenous African i"'l7'umenl like 1M mbi,a before people
begin to .peale of them OJ "global?' Haw do people undersland
this lerm in relalion 10 "Ihe local? ..... What ideological work does
Ihis lermillOlogy accomplish .. _when elaboraled and legilimaled by
academics? Haw is Iheconceptualizalion oflhe global andlheloeal
related to earlier descriptive categories such as "modern" and
"traditional," "western" and "non-western ? (3)

Ideological worle aside, hopefully, as I see it, Ibis study will have three long term
influences on future research in Zimbabwe in tenDS of the re-conceptualization of
these categories. Fin;t, it will stimulate future ethnomusicologists, historians and
anthropologists 10 use the recordings housed in the Zimbabwean national archives.
Second, it will stimulate scholar.i to attend to popular culture and Ibe mass media fJIr
more systematically than has been Ibe case up till now. Third, and moSt important, it
will stimulate future research to look beyond Ibe mbil'a. Just over Ibe horiulD now,
studies of African country music and ball room dancing, blues and jazz, rep, hip hop,
and much more await us. All such studies in Zimbabwe, bopefully in the densest
ethnographic technicolor and sound around, will have 10 rely on this book as Ibeir
primary source of reference.

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