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Sonic Spaces of the Karoo

Sonic Spaces of the Karoo: The Sacred Music of a South African Coloured Community

Marie Jorritsma
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 201
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  • Book Info
    Sonic Spaces of the Karoo
    Book Description:

    Sonic Spaces of the Karoois a pioneering study of the sacred music of three coloured (the apartheid designation for people "not white or native") people's church congregations 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 traditional, religious, and cultural identity in song. This music is examined as part of a living archive preserved by the community in the face of a legacy of slavery and colonial as well as apartheid oppression.

    Jorritsma's findings counteract a lingering stereotype that coloured music is inferior to European or African music and that coloured people should not or do not have a cultural identity.Sonic Spaces of the Karooseeks to eradicate that bias and articulate a more legitimate place for these people in the contemporary landscape of South Africa.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0239-4
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Multimedia Examples
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Author’s Note
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. 1 Introduction: The Challenges of Inscribing Coloured Voices
    (pp. 1-22)

    The South African apartheid regime held a deeply ambivalent position toward those it categorized as “coloured,” the racial category it defined as “not a white person or a native” (Statutes 1950, 277).² Nurtured and sustained by a policy of racial purity, a common stereotype of those classified as “coloured” in apartheid South Africa was that they had no authentic ethnic identity because of their mixed racial heritage. Oral and written sources typically convey coloured people’s cultural history and musical heritage as similarly lacking. Coloured people also experienced ambivalence about their position, which led to their subscription to both ideals of...

  9. 2 Karoo People and Places
    (pp. 23-40)

    Jessie’s obvious distress at the loss of this item reveals her acknowledgment of the museum’s existing (white people’s) historical narrative. The material available for sale at Reinet House and other tourist sites overwhelmingly favors the founding of Graaff-Reinet as a frontier outpost, the various (white) leaders and magistrates, the Dutch-speaking farmers’ defiant declaration of Graaff-Reinet as a republic independent from British rule (1795–96), and the strategic role played by Graaff-Reinet in the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902).³ This narrative faithfully follows Graaff-Reinet from its very humble beginnings more than two hundred years ago and survives in the present day to...

  10. 3 Hidden Transcripts: How Hymns Reveal History
    (pp. 41-62)

    The seemingly ordinary, European-influenced hymns performed in the three Kroonvale churches clearly offered a wealth of interpretive possibilities. While the use of texts usually conformed very closely to the official Congregational or Uniting Reformed Church hymnbooks, the style and sound of the music contained subtle auditory clues to the history and tradition of sacred song in this community. My fieldwork research on the church hymns and koortjies (choruses) shows that this musical tradition dates back more than two centuries, formally beginning soon after the arrival of missionaries in the area, but also originating prior to this in the frontier meeting...

  11. 4 “Senzeni na”: Interrelationships Between the Music of Mission and Independent African Church Denominations
    (pp. 63-78)

    Despite its religious origins, it is compelling that a song so iconic of the anti-apartheid struggle with its lyrics of almost unbearable suffering can, after ten years of democracy, be sung to the words, “Rejoice all who live, rejoice before the Lord.”³ With the relaxed yet solidly rhythmic pace, punctuated by handclaps, this rendition had a cheerful yet firm resolve. In a place like South Africa, the fact that a church-going community sang this melody to hymn texts before the height of the resistance struggle and still performed it as a hymn after apartheid is not unexpected. Tunes conceived for...

  12. 5 Singing the “Queen’s English”: Church Choirs in Kroonvale
    (pp. 79-101)

    Talk, tunes, and tea became a weekly habit for this group. Love of music and singing as well as catching up on community news constituted an important incentive for attending choir rehearsals. By meeting once a week to sing, in June Bosch’s words “goodmusic,” the “Ladies’ Choir” members furthered a tradition of choral performance that has its roots in South African colonial and missionary history. An important factor, however, is that these women stated their affiliation to a certain class of people who know and appreciate this type of repertoire. The choir members, either working or retired teachers and...

  13. 6 Mothers of the Church: Women’s Society Music and the Politics of Gender
    (pp. 102-121)

    Gender has long been a site of contestation in private and public life in South Africa. At first glance, the quotations that open this chapter support the notion of a strict patriarchal system in Kroonvale within which women are expected to remain subservient and in the private sphere of the household. There is a clear separation between men’s roles and women’s roles in this community. Yet, my fieldwork narrative demonstrates that in the sacred space of the church, women can and do control aspects of the service without infringing on the traditionally powerful role of the male minister. Despite the...

  14. 7 Conclusion: Reflections on Karoo Sonic Spaces
    (pp. 122-130)

    The typical outsider view of the Karoo as uncomfortably hot, dusty, and arid is a perception dating back to travel accounts of the nineteenth century, such as the one above by the French naturalist, Adulphe Delegorgue. In contemporary South Africa, this urgent need to leave the Karoo behind persists. In the minds of many non-Karoo residents, Graaff-Reinet is simply a place to refill the car’s gas tank, obtain cheap takeout food, and at the very most, stay one night at a local bed and breakfast. Many travelers, of course, drive straight through the town, impatient to leave the Karoo behind...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 131-164)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 165-168)
  17. References
    (pp. 169-190)
  18. Index
    (pp. 191-202)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)