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Digitizing Performance in Africa

Politics, Aesthetics, and Historical Continuities in the Circulation of Music

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Published on Tuesday, December 20, 2022


This conference brings together anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and historians to discuss the ways that communication devices have continued, reinforced, or altered how African people are sharing sounds and images of performance.



This conference brings together anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and historians to discuss the ways that communication devices have continued, reinforced, or altered how African people are sharing sounds and images of performance.

The practice of exchanging and circulating music, dance, poetry, or rituals has shifted to include use of new technologies over time. During the latter half of the twentieth century, the radio and analog audio recorder were key tools used during African self−liberation movements. Since the end of the 2000s, the widespread use of cell phones and media file sharing applications has impacted not only urban areas, but also rural areas. Excerpts from ritual musical performances, funerals, weddings, or even military events are shared and circulated via SD cards, Bluetooth connections or social networks on the continent and on a transnational scale.

The local and global music industries have had great impact on the way people circulate, listen to, and relate to music. However, the visual and sound recording of musical events is now also implemented by participants of the performance themselves, and not only by outsiders, non−African visitors, or (inter)national media.

How to describe practices of “fileization” of musical performances? What are their historical continuities and connections? How are they embedded in histories of colonialism and neocolonialism? What are the political or aesthetic stakes when these music files are used in intra or inter−community interactions?


  • Katell Morand (UPN / LESC-CREM),
  • Giordano Marmone (ULB - LAMC) 
  • Raymok Ketema (University of California-Santa Barbara)


Thursday, January 19th

  • 9:15am  Coffee
  • 9:45am  Welcome and Opening

10am-1pm  Sensitive Files: Conflict, Control, and Propaganda

  • 10:00 Sandra Bornand (CNRS, LLACAN, Paris) Controlling the narratives: three generations of Zarma griots facing the recording [en Français/in French]
  • 10:40 Raymok Ketema (University of California Santa Barbara, Department of History) Music Circulation & War: the Underground Nakfa Music Studio in Eritrea and its impacts (1970s to 1990s)

11:20am Coffee break 

  • 11:40 Sébastien Boulay (Université Paris Cité, CEPED /IMAF) Engaged Hassanophone poetry and new electronic media (Western Sahara): what  artistic renewal for what political significance?
  • 12:20 Katell Morand (Université Paris Nanterre,CREM-LESC) Of Song, Smartphones and War: Exploring Music Circulation in Northern Ethiopia

1pm Lunch

2pm-7pm Power, Ritual and Socialities: From Direct Contact to Digital Sharing

  • 2:00 Angela Impey ‘I keep my cassettes in my head’: Orality, mobile socialities and the analog–digital continuum in South Sudan
  • 2:40 Giordano Marmone (FNRS, Université Libre de Bruxelles, LAMC) Sharing the rhythm of institutions. Circulation of music files and political hegemony in northern Kenya.

3:20pm coffee break

  • 3:40 Kawkab Tawfiq (IFAO-CEDEJ, Cairo) The Egyptian Zār recording circulation in Cairo and Delta
  • 4:20 Elena Bertuzzi (Université Paris Nanterre, LESC) Debaa: a new women’s musico-choreographic genre between spiritual heritage, mass-media, and new technologies [en Français/in French]

Friday, January 20th

9:30am  Coffee

10am-1pm Overt or Hidden Circulations: From Local Industries to Global Listening

  • 10:00 Joella Bitter (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department ofAnthropology) From Peddling to Cassette Recording to Digital Reproduction: Putting the Affect in Gulu Uganda's Histories of Music Circulation
  • 10:40 Dexter Story (University of California Los Angeles, Ethnomusicology) Coffee ‘Give me this song’: Ethnographic Perspectives on Eritrea’s Digital Storefronts and Download Industry 

11:20am break

  • 11:40 Alessandra Ciucci (Columbia University,Department of Music) Subterranean Listening among Migrant Moroccan Men in Umbria (Italy)
  • 12:20 Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye (CNRS, IMAF, Paris) Re-circulating “Gnokko” in the 21st century: songs, aesthetic choices, and changing discourses on migration in Soninke diasporas

11pm Lunch

2pm-5pm Streaming and Social networks: The New Platforms of Digital Performance

  • 2:00 Andrew J. Eisenberg  Platforming Kenyan Popular Music (New York University Abu Dhabi)
  • 2:40 Schalk D. Van der Merwe (Stellenbosch University)New futures, new identities: The impact of music streaming in Africa South Africa

3:20pm Coffee break

  • 3:40 Alice Aterianus-Owanga (University of Cape Town, Anthropology Department / University of Geneva) “FOMO is real!” Learning, Longing, and (Dis)Connecting through Online Performances in the Cape Town Salsa community
  • 4:20 Elina Djebbari (Université Paris Nanterre, CREM-LESC) From a music file to a dance challenge on TikTok: The many digital lives of a bolloaloukou song from Ivory Coast
  • 5-5:30pm  Roundtable / Closing Remarks


  • Bâtiment Max Weber, salle des conférences - Université Paris Nanterre
    Nanterre, France (92)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Thursday, January 19, 2023
  • Friday, January 20, 2023


  • ethnomusicologie, Afrique, numérique, circulation, performance


  • Katell Morand
    courriel : kmorand [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr

Information source

  • Katell Morand
    courriel : kmorand [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Digitizing Performance in Africa », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, https://calenda.org/1040766

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