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Michael Gallope: Negative Cosmopolitanism in Janka Nabay’s ‘Bubu’ Music, April 4, 2014

Negative Cosmopolitanism in Janka Nabay’s ‘Bubu’ Music

michael gallope

Friday, April 4, 2014, at 4:00pm
280 Ferguson Hall

Michael Gallope, CSCL, University of Minnesota

Sierra Leonean musician Ahmed Janka Nabay frequently describes his infectious style of “bubu” electronic dance music as a modernization of Islamic bubu processional music, a genre that was originally played on bamboo flutes and exhaust pipes. The result is a highly kinetic style of electronica that echoes elements of Afro-beat, house music, and the juke/footwork scene from Chicago’s south side. While Nabay maintains his modernization of bubu was inspired both by international pop icons like Bob Marley and Michael Jackson and his syncretic religious faith (“80% Muslim, 20% Christian, and 100% African”, which is typical for Sierra Leoneans), he also claims that what makes it “#1 music” is its ability to powerfully represent a truly indigenous cultural tradition. Drawing on field notes, interviews, and some analysis of musical recordings I made in collaboration with Nabay, I will argue that the indigenous and the cosmopolitan exist in agonistic conflict in Nabay’s music. In particular, his only trans-Atlantic collaboration to date, En Yay Sah (2012), is structured by complex networks of ownership and financial compensation just as it is subject to a wide range of aesthetic translations among urban audiences in the United States. As such, it presents us with a negative counterexample that stands outside what Wayne Marshall has classified as the cosmopolitanism of “World Music 2.0,” a movement marked by the free exchange of intellectual property set in motion by twenty-first century digital culture.

Organized by the IAS Music and Sound Studies Research Collaborative and the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature.

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