Performing the Nation
Swahili Music and Cultural Politics in Tanzania
As Askew shows, the genres of ngoma (traditional dance), dansi (urban jazz), and taarab (sung Swahili poetry) have played prominent parts in official articulations of "Tanzanian National Culture" over the years. Drawing on over a decade of research, including extensive experience as a taarab and dansi performer, Askew explores the intimate relations among musical practice, political ideology, and economic change. She reveals the processes and agents involved in the creation of Tanzania's national culture, from government elites to local musicians, poets, wedding participants, and traffic police. Throughout, Askew focuses on performance itself—musical and otherwise—as key to understanding both nation-building and interpersonal power dynamics.
“Askew has given us a richly detailed and engaging study of cultural politics in Tanzania during its transition from socialism to multipartyism. . . . A thought-provoking study of how culture in a postcolonial state is produced, contested, and appropriated. Askew is at her best when she analyzes the multilayered and often contradictory policies of a bureaucracy seeking simultaneously to promote both socialist values and African cultural authenticity.”