A groundbreaking study of music in an ethnically marginalized South African community
Sonic Spaces of the Karoo
The Sacred Music of a South African Coloured Community
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Sonic Spaces of the Karoo is a pioneering study of the sacred music of three congregations of coloured people (a mixed-race community) in the rural town of Graaff-Reinet, South Africa. Jorritsma's fieldwork involves an investigation of the choruses, choir music, and hymns of the Karoo region to present a history of the people's religious and cultural identity in song. This music is examined as part of a living archive preserved by the community despite a legacy of oppression spanning the eras of slavery, colonialism, and apartheid.
Jorritsma's findings counteract a lingering stereotype that coloured people’s music is inferior to European or African music and that coloured people do not have a cultural identity. Sonic Spaces of the Karoo seeks to eradicate that bias and articulate a more legitimate place for these people in the contemporary landscape of South Africa.
"Sonic Spaces of the Karoo is a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on both South African and world music. The community of whom the author writes will themselves be enriched by this book, and Jorritsma enhances our awareness of an area of South Africa's cultural history that has been sorely neglected. This groundbreaking book gathers together centuries of history, culture, gender issues, racial politics and the religious music of an appallingly neglected people of our country into one great sweep, and its appearance could not be more timely."
"Sonic Spaces of the Karoo features an ideal blend of theoretical grounding, thorough research, and clear writing that lends itself to easy, enjoyable reading. Certainly the most admirable aspect of Jorritsma’s work is that her focus on the colored community addresses an important lacuna in South African scholarship and works to eradicate cultural prejudices left over from the apartheid era.... Sonic Spaces of the Karoo certainly deserves much praise. Jorritsma simultaneously caters to experts on South African music and those with no prior knowledge of South African culture. Using only 130 pages (excluding notes), she is able to paint a clear picture of the Kroonvale colored church community and its music through a carefully crafted combination of strong historic and cultural context, musical analysis, transcriptions, photographs, and vivid descriptions of her fieldwork experiences. Jorritsma analyzes her findings through an impressive theoretical framework that combines the work of several scholars.... [A] groundbreaking work on a music culture that has been neglected and under-appreciated until now. Furthermore, Jorritsma’s balance of contextual, theoretical, and musical discussion is exemplary and a valuable model for other ethnomusicologists. Hopefully Jorritsma’s work will inspire further scholarship—perhaps comparative studies that consider the relationship of the Kroonvale colored churches to other communities in Africa and the African diaspora. I sincerely recommend Sonic Spaces of the Karoo, and I congratulate Jorritsma for her admirable work."
Marie Jorritsma is Senior Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
In the series
African Soundscapes, edited by Gregory Barz.
African music has been a topic of considerable scholarly and general interest. The books in this new interdisciplinary series will highlight contemporary African music in its cultural contexts and the contributions of African expressive culture to global music traditions. The series will include works by scholars based in Africa.