I would like to begin this paper by asking each you to sit for a moment and imagine what the words "American nation" conjure up. I suspect the imagining might include a sense of something bounded, geographically bordered, contained, centered, stable, and surely now also wounded. Out of the Sept 11th tragedy has come a media narrative of complete puzzlement about why anyone in the world would want to hurt the nation in the way that the attack on America has done. And there has been a deeply felt sense of the vulnerability of the nation, the shocking realization of the permeability of a space previously thought to be safe, secure, and perhaps even impenetrable. Without doubt the borders of the nation are now felt to be vulnerable to attack. The intactness of the nation has been indelibly pierced, and it's perceived wholeness, fragmented. In response, the mass media has presented images of a united nation, a nation brought together through public rituals in song, prayer, and candle lighting on the sacred steps of Congress, or in the bountiful garden of the White House. These images have served to reassure America that the bodies of individuals who represent the nation at large will form a buttress against fragmentation and destruction.
Now I would like you to take a moment to imagine what words or images are evoked when you think about "American music." I wonder what your responses are to the category. Is American music situated in a dimly lit smoky bar with a jazz trio and a singer, a better-lit pub with an Elvis impersonator, a night with the Chicago Symphony, or a bluegrass music festival in the Appalachian Mountains? Was the image live and communal, associated with people you know, or with strangers? Do you have a particular place of performance in mind? Perhaps you recalled a multitude of memories tied to repetitive listening through your CD walkman? Or did you simply draw a blank, even briefly?
I am proposing an alternative narrative of the "American nation" and the place of its music in the world. This Other "America" or its representatives, is a nation and music in diaspora. Here the singularity of the nation has long been fragmented and dispersed in the mass production of American musical objects by the entertainment industry. These include sound recordings, film and pre-recorded radio and television programs. In the twentieth century many voices of America have traveled, mostly outside of the purview of the nation, through the multiple channels of the mass media and the American centered but from its inception, global entertainment industry. Sent out into new markets by corporations and not the state, these objects have, sometimes unwittingly, performed an ambassadorial function, introducing remote audiences to the sounds and images of America made out of public sight almost exclusively in the studios of Hollywood and New York City.
In these instances, American music has been presented as a purely mediated, completely disembodied, though always quite real, set of aural and visual images. It has frequently been represented by the names and performances of a few individuals who are nevertheless identified from the outside as representing "American music." In response, individuals and communities around the world have assigned a multitude of meanings and recreated "America" and its music in a plethora of ways. In some contexts, the "American" identity of the music has been so completely incorporated into a local scene that the memory of its origins has all but disappeared.
Typically these American musical objects have remained in the country of final destination. Very occasionally the music's travel experiences elsewhere have been reported on to the nation. The music may even have returned live, performed by foreigners who have come to live in America. In these rare moments, Americans may discover that the original intonation of their music has shifted, the words have changed completely or are clothed in a foreign language. The cd I played for you earlier was the singing of South African born, but New York based jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin singing Billy Strayhorn's composition, Lushlife. It was recorded in the late 1980s in memory of the Cape Town community in which she learnt the repertory, and in honor of the morning she spent in a studio in Paris in 1963, recording with the composer and his close friend Duke Ellington. On this 1989 recording, Ms. Benjamin's voice interweaves with the instrumental performances of American musicians Kenny Baron in piano, Buster Williams on bass and the late Billy Higgins on drums.
In this paper, I examine one moment in the diasporic life of American-made music as it moved back and forth between the United States and South Africa. The paper is part of a work-in-progress titled Color Me Blue: Cape Jazz Singing in Exile, which is an auto/biographical monograph co-authored with Sathima Bea Benjamin. She is the wife of Cape jazz pianist Dollar Brand or Abdullah Ibrahim. The primary focus for this paper is the postwar period, from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, a period in which these two musicians and their immediate cohorts in South Africa absorbed American popular music and jazz in mediated form. All of the musicians I have interviewed were classified as "Cape Coloured" in that period. In contrast to people of African descent, this category referenced those of mixed race. Since few professional American performers physically traveled to South Africa at this time, their voices and music were transmitted to the country on radio broadcasts, in Hollywood movies, and sound recordings. Cape musicians absorbed this music, reinterpreting it, to later perform it live for their immediate community in Cape Town.
There are three parts to this paper. In the first I introduce this alternative vision of American music as a constellation of ideas pertaining to the American nation as diasporic and in exile which, I argue, is the result of the mediated transmission of American music beyond the USA. Here "American music" might be equated with what we commonly label "popular music." Made in American recording studios it is, nonetheless, intentionally transnational and quite literally disembodied. In the second, I present brief ethnographic details of the reception of diasporic American music in Cape Town, South Africa amongst the small group of musicians I have interviewed who listened to and performed this music in their own community. I distinguish between the media in which this music was heard, suggesting that each medium sparked the imagination of musicians in quite different ways. The ethnography ends in the early 1960s, when some of these musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim and Sathima Bea Benjamin left South Africa. They traveled to Europe and the USA, taking their musical skills and knowledge as a kind of passport to the communities they had learnt from through secondary orality. In the third part I synthesize these two narratives and consider whether American music in diaspora constituted a kind of twentieth century master narrative or voice over of local sounds and musical sensibilities. To some extent this revisits the idea of cultural imperialism as the dominant mode of twentieth century American cultural and media global engagement.
Mediating the Nation: American Music in Exile
In all the generalized theorizing on the nation state, and indeed on diaspora and exile, almost all of the world's peoples become candidates for diaspora with the exception of the United States. It is almost inconceivable to think of Americans as diasporic or exiled. Rather, as Pico Iyer reminds us in his 1986 book, Video Night in Kathmandu, ideas and images of "America" provide the stuff that "Third World" dreams are made of. America is the nation on terra firma; it has been the quintessential home and final destination for refugees, exiles, and other nomads in the twentieth century. Indeed it is to the United States that the two most visible diasporic groups, people of African and Jewish descent, have come. Conventionally, the idea of diaspora, and musical diaspora has been exclusively associated with these two constituencies. In this frame, diaspora has referred to peoples scattered around the world, driven by internal persecution for religious reasons in the case of the Jews, or sold into slavery as in the first African diaspora. In other words, diaspora has been defined largely against the ideals and conventions of the nation; it has referred to peoples and their music scattered, excluded from their national homeland, but typically longing for some kind of return. In this sense diaspora constitutes a kind of exile and operates as the antithesis of immigration. In the United States (and indeed in South Africa, though less so in Britain, for example, (Davis 1999:63) immigration has as its goal the integration of foreigners into the nation through the achievement of citizenship. The "melting pot" theory of American immigration was thought to forge the American nation in the early twentieth century. In the US, immigrant culture has been theorized as an articulation of ethnicity (rather than diaspora) within the nation. Ethnicity is marked through musical performance and other cultural practices reminiscent of the ancestral homeland.
In this paper I counter the ideal of the nation as a melting pot of immigrant diversity by redefining the nation as constituted out of a MIX of immigrant and diasporic groups within its boundaries. This draws on recent writing by Mudimbe and Engels (1999) who reflect on diasporas not in transit but as having arrived inside the nation-state. Their edited collection examines the impact of the state (the US in this instance) on diasporic individuals and communities and, conversely, on the ways in which such groups shape US foreign policy by their presence inside the nation's borders. In summary they suggest that diasporas within the nation-state are reluctant to assimilate into the mainstream, and have little desire to tie into the nation's narrative of its collective past. They are groups largely concerned with political and cultural issues pertaining to the lived experience of people in their ancestral homeland rather than the inhabitants of the host nation. These communities are constituted then as TRANSNATIONAL and minority groups who identify through a notion of DUAL citizenship i.e. African American, Arab American and so forth.
In addition, I am shifting the unit of analysis in diaspora studies from human subjects to musical objects. In this context, the musical object is assumed in the words of Appadurai (1986) to have a "social life" or as per Hoskins (1998) to constitute individual and collective biographies. It marks a movement away from core ethnomusicological work on immigrant, diasporic, and refugee communities in the United States. Examples of this work include Shelemay, Slobin, and Hirschberg's writing on Jewish music in diaspora; Monson's edited collection of essays on the African musical diaspora; Reyes- Schramm's research with Vietnamese refugees in New Jersey and Su Zheng's work with Chinese immigrants in New York City. Each of these scholars examines diasporic/refugee experiences as carried by communities of people, or in the objects that people on the move carry with them or collect over time. None considers the movement of musical objects in place of musicians, and the impact of the mediated musical culture on its host community. This absence of focus is a little surprising in a discipline that is generally thought to have constituted itself with the emergence of sound recording technologies (see Shelemay in Nettl).
Finally, this paper is concerned with creative ways in which a sense of a new nation is fabricated. To some extent this draws on Andersson's idea that the nation is an imagined community, a creative fiction facilitated by the sense of simultaneity and generalized information that the print media engendered in societies from the 19th century on (1986). But it obviously diverges from Andersson's compelling argument because in the Cape Town context, the people consuming American music are fashioning for themselves a nation to come. Increasingly excluded from the Afrikaner Nationalist's pure white nation, this community of "Coloured"/mixed race musicians drew on the ideas of America streaming in through the mass media to reconstitute a collective space where racial difference was not a defining category. (NOTE: Sathima's song, "Nations in me, new nation acoming.") I am suggesting that this kind of appropriation of American music, images, and ideals was possible because it was largely electronically transmitted. Building on Meyrowitz's thesis (1986) that electronic media create social spaces that lack a sense of place, the ethnographic material here suggests that there was instead a dual sense of place. On the one hand, this sense of place was quite real, but it was one that "Cape Coloureds" were increasingly excluded from. On the other hand, the sense of place was a virtual one, fashioned from the ideas of a "generalized America," the kind of place where Cape musicians envisioned they could be full citizens (1985). In this historical moment musicians appropriated and refashioned American music as a strategy for redefining and reconstituting the local nation. It enabled a simulacra of the social and political in a discourse of improvisation, freedom of expression, racial equality, and political liberation (Baudrillard and Herzfeld).
Made in America, Heard in South Africa
Postwar Cape Town certainly was a place in which many had come to believe in [popular] music as a universal language, a language that could be both understood and mastered. There was a powerful sense in South Africa that modern "America" was reaching beyond its geo-political boundaries and becoming available to anyone willing to watch or listen closely, regardless of national origin, class, race, language, or gender. "America" was certainly coming to Cape Town in mediated form  courtesy of the distribution networks created by the transnational entertainment industry. But the tickets to travel were largely one way. Until the late 1950s, few "Colo[u]red" or black South Africans imagined they would be able to visit the United States because as veteran jazz pianist Henry February commented, at the time for people in his community travel "to America was like travel to the moon The only experience I ever had with Americans was through records." That said, it would be a grave error not to provide some understanding of the deeply embedded sense of place that Cape Town's residents, regardless of racial category, historically attributed to Cape Town. Cape Town is a place of exquisite beauty. Its' physical landscape, with Table Mountain in the center, and the Indian and Atlantic oceans surrounding it, has long provided for those living in that city a specific sense of locality. This was true for people of African and mixed racial heritage until about 1950. Within the space of about twelve years, 1950-1962, the Mother City changed from evoking a profound sense of place, home, and community belonging to a space of exclusion, fragmentation, transgression, and boundary marking. It was certainly true for Ms. Benjamin and all the others who participated in Cape Town's avant-garde jazz community. State enforcement of these laws played a critical role in the transformation and often destruction of these communities, and of jazz performance itself.
The period in South African history must thus be characterized as one of growing anomaly. In stark contrast to this period in the USA, which culminated in the Civil Rights Movement, by the early 1960s the outcome of the postwar period in South Africa was legalized apartheid enforced in draconian measure. "Coloured" and other forms of African racial classification became increasingly problematic especially in urban areas like Cape Town and Johannesburg. The ideas and sounds of both middle class respectability expressed in Coloured dance bands and those of political liberation suggested in the racially mixed membership of the progressive jazz avant garde contrasted with the expanding force of state control and the repression of individual and collective expression. For some the response was to engage politically, to become more outspoken; some withdrew in fear, yet others used jazz performance as a means to articulating ideals of political and cultural freedom, and racial integration.
Contrasting with the peculiarities of local experiences, it was clear to "Colo[u]red" South Africans from the films shown in Cape Town cinemas and sound recordings sold in the city's stores that jazz and popular music, particularly as dance band accompaniment but also as avant-garde artistic performance, were the sites through which people of color were negotiating a fair and respectable place for themselves in the United States. I shall discuss four mediated sources: radio, sound recordings, film and popular publications in print; and round off the ethnographic materials with selected examples of "enlivened" repetitions and representations of this music in Cape Town through the early 1960s. The ethnographic content come from a series of interviews I have conducted with Ms. Benjamin over the last decade, and since 1996 with those of her musical associates who are still alive. This material has been reinforced with primary source print media drawn from South African archives.
When I asked veteran Cape musicians, Jimmy Adams and Harold Jephtah where they first heard American music, they replied, "It was in the air." Jimmy qualified, "In the air, on the radio." Henry February explained that his move from English style syncopation to American jazz on piano occurred after he heard the Benny Goodman Trio with pianist Teddy Wilson on the radio. The piano playing "hit [him] like a thunderbolt." In response, February who had had some piano lessons, purchased books that taught the Teddy Wilson style. Later he heard the sound of Nat "King" Cole. He taught himself how to play in the Cole style, and in the 1950s called his jazz ensemble, the Nat King Cole Trio.
Born a few years later Sathima recalls that as a young girl she absorbed American popular music and jazz through her grandmother's radio, which played daily in their home. From the age of about ten she used to keep a pen and notebook hidden in her grandmother's wind-up gramophone. The notebook was hidden because her grandmother did not think the young girl should be wasting her time writing down the words i.e. making the words her own in order to perform on stage, at intermission in the cinema, and later in clubs and at jazz gatherings. To hear the music in the background was safe; to memorize the words, to transform them into the soundtrack of your life was troublesome because the public nature of dance band and stage performance was not considered respectable for girls. Nevertheless, because she could not afford to buy the sheet music, sound recordings, or fake-books Ms. Benjamin painstakingly copied the words and memorized the melodies of tunes as they were broadcast repeatedly through the week. Once she heard a song in the movies or aired on radio, she would take ownership of its song by repeated listening to the radio. Through this medium Sathima listened to English and American popular music and big band jazz by the likes of Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Joni James, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and many others.
While the radio broadcasts were an integral aspect of the everyday chores in Ms. Benjamin's childhood, the cinema proved to be the social space that brought the most complete package of the magic of faraway people and places close to home. In contrast, Jimmy Adams rarely visited the "bioscope" (movie theater), and Henry February does not consider the movie fare influential on his development as a jazz pianist-the audiences were looking for images not good artistic sounds. Harold Jephtah however, recalls attending the theater 2 and 3 times a week in his youth. Much like the diversity of acts in the live variety shows that preceded film in theaters, a night at the local movie theater included two full-length feature films (usually "Wild Westerns," action, or monster films), a serial, the news, and a cartoon. Jephtah's favorite serial was "Terry and the Pirates," but his passion was for the monster movies. In fact it is to his avid viewing of those movies that Jephtah attributes his desire to learn the European orchestral repertory-Jephtah trained as a classical clarinetist and bassoon player in Sweden in the early 1960s.
In the 1940s, when the young Ms. Benjamin and her friends began viewing American movies, the theater offered more than mere consumption of audio-visual images. For these young Cape teenagers and aspiring performe irs, Hollywood films provided clearer models of popular performance, particularly by people of color. From the movies, Sathima and her friends deepened their knowledge of jazz performance specifically. Cabin in the Sky, starring Lena Horne as singer and Duke Ellington as band leader, and Stormy Weather, featuring a range of African American jazz performers and variety entertainers of various hues of blackness were two of the most popular movies shown in South Africa in the mid-1940s. But there were others in which people like Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, and the Ink Spots appeared (Davis 1996). With its mix of reality and fictional material, the program at the theater, much like television was in the United States and Britain in the same period, kept the community in touch with the outside world. The darkness of the cinema allowed audiences to sit back, open their eyes to an otherwise inaccessible world of glamor and enchantment, or to keep them closed and to dream.
For these largely working class communities Hollywood films provided the bulk of the entertainment: westerns, thrillers, and horror movies were the favorites for men and boys, while women preferred the musicals and "weepies" as they were called (Nasson 1989). It was the cinema that promised the fantasy and magical sounds that so many Colo[u]red people aspired to copy. Sathima recalls that every Saturday for seven or eight years, she would make the trip to the weekly matinee to get her "big dollop of American culture."  For the young Benjamin, the emotional force of romantic love she witnessed in the realistic images of the cinema was enhanced by the rich sounds of film melodies. Many of these old tunes remain archived in Sathima's memory, and have become an integral aspect of her current performance repertory. She reinvents these "straight" melodies with a jazz sensibility, which enables her to reflect temporal displacement and imaginative play as musical attributes.
Though Sathima Benjamin could not afford to buy 78 discs of her favorite performers, three of her jazz colleagues tell wonderful stories of the impact of film and sound recordings on local culture. Jimmy Adams recalled the influence of sound recordings on black South African musicians from a trip he made to Johannesburg with Sathima, after the sponsor of the their show, Arthur Klugman, abandoned the performers while on a tour of Southern Africa in the late 1950s. Adams and Benjamin ventured into the Bantu Men's Social Center, an American mission initiated community center that sponsored musical training and performances of jazz and classical music by African musicians in this period. Distributed around the walls of one of the rooms at the center were "holes in the wall with phonograph players inside. Musicians were sitting in front of the holes, listening to the records and copying the sounds."
Jazz musician and community librarian, Vincent Kolbe explained that in his youth musicians did not just play exact renditions of the music they heard in the cinema or on these discs. They also drew on the images on record covers to construct hair and clothing styles. "If you were 'Cape Town's Dizzy Gillespie' you took the album cover of Gillespie to the barber and had the appropriate haircut, and then you went to the tailor who would cut you an outfit that duplicated what you could see on the album cover." During the mid-1950s Kolbe worked at the public library in Kew Town, where Sathima was living with her mother. The community was largely a generation of "Colo[u]red" men and their wives who had participated in World War II. Their children were aspiring artists, teachers, and musicians. At Kolbe's initiative, this group of "bohemian" artists listened to recordings of jazz and discussed literature emerging out of the Civil Rights struggles in the United States. Harold Jephta, one of Cape Town's best-known Charlie Parker soloists in the late 1950s, recalls that he would use whatever means necessary to buy the latest 78 record of his favorite musicians. "I lived in the record shop!" laughed Jephtah. He remembers as a young boy telling his mother that he had a toothache. She provided money for a visit to the dentist. Instead of getting his tooth fixed, scheming Harry proceeded directly to the record store and returned home with a Coleman Hawkins record.
In contrast to Kolbe and Jephtah, Jimmy Adams refused to buy any recordings. He feared that if he owned the records he would listen to them too closely, and lose a sense of his own sound and musical identity though he regularly borrowed the recordings purchased by Jephtah in shaping his sense of the American jazz available in Cape Town. Anxiety about a loss of individual voice is exemplified in the following anecdote. Adams tells of having once borrowed a Lee Konitz recording of "All the Things You Are. " After listening very carefully, he transcribed the music he heard, exactly. When he gave the arrangements to the musicians in his band, they told him the music sounded like Lee Konitz. In desperation, Adams responded, "But when are you going to hear Jimmy Adams?" suggesting that one had to be wary of the consequences of ownership because ownership threatened a loss of the qualities of personal voice by transforming the bounded self into a body possessed by other voices.
In her late teens and early twenties it was through the record collections of the local library, and Swiss entrepreneur and friend Paul Meyer that Ms. Benjamin listened closely to the world of American blues and jazz though the cost of hearing was high. Meyer lived in the elite, politically liberal coastal suburb of Camps Bay in which Ms. Benjamin now classified as "Cape Colo[u]red" was only allowed to stay if she had a permit to work as a housemaid. To her family's chagrin, Meyer would take the young woman on the back of his motorcycle from Athlone, where Sathima was living with her mother, to Camps Bay to hear his records. Both feared being arrested for breaking laws pertaining to racial segregation, like the Group Areas Act. But, Sathima recalls, she was so desperate to hear this music she was willing to take the risk. Several years after she began singing in public, it was Billie Holiday's voice, heard on record in the backyard of one of Cape Town's most elite neighborhoods that made this young woman realize her own sound held a place in the world of jazz.
Popular magazines and newspapers of the period suggest that while imported sound recordings were highly valued for the world of sound that they represented, when it came to articulations of individual style and voice South Africans would listen carefully, but were wary of covering the original sound and style completely. The tension between faithful mimesis, and personal voice is exemplified in an excerpt from a short article on popular Johannesburg singer, Abigail Kubheka:
Abigail (Kubheka) is one of the few top vocal artists in the country today who has NOT been influenced in her career by popular American pop singers. She hitched her wagon to a LOCAL star, Miriam Makeba, whom she heard on radioand is now one of the country's top recording artists. Abigail worshipped Miriam, the lush canary of stage, radio, and records, and it was Miriam who having heard Abigail sing, gave her her break.Abigail is fond of outdoor activities, but also spends much of her time listening to the top stars on record: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and many others. Of Elvis Presley she says, "This guy is killing music" (Zonk, Oct., 1958.)
Reviews of sound recordings in local media targeting "non-white" readers (eg. Zonk: An African People's Magazine; and The Golden City Post) suggest that South Africans were reaching out to, and seeking understanding of, the world beyond its national borders perhaps more than most of the world was doing with South Africa. A single page in one of these publications contains reviews of local recordings of traditional and modernized African performance, including Zulu guitarists, concertina players, choral groups performing religious music translated into the vernacular, musically and linguistically; these are coupled with reviews of popular and jazz recordings from America. Frequently, a reviewer begins his piece with tidbits of information about recordings and musical life in the United States. These might include writing about jukebox usage in the United States, speculations on the reason for shortening the 3 minute cut on 78 rpm records; or commentary on the latest craze in dancing in New York City or Los Angeles.
In addition to the reviews of foreign recordings, magazines and newspapers of the period regularly featured film reviews, biographical pieces, and interviews with, particularly, African-American musicians. There are for example, extended articles on Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, blues singer W.C. Handy, female singers, Sarah Vaughan,Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, folk artist Harry Belafonte, and Sammy Davis Jr. On occasion, a South African in London or New York meets up with one of these artists. For example, Louis Armstrong was interviewed in London; reports are written about South African artists who are leaving for "overseas" and great excitement is described when individual South Africans hit the big time. This was particularly the case when Miriam Makeba traveled to New York in the late 1950s. Both kinds of writing suggest that the world of jazz and popular performance that South Africans were imagining through the printed page encompassed a truly cosmopolitan sensibility.
HEARING AND IMAGINING
Just what was being heard and imagined about mediated culture is usually easier for musicologists to suggest than to find tangible evidence for. In a rare moment of self-disclosure this process is beautifully illustrated in a 1952 excerpt written by Gideon Jay, a record reviewer for ZONK! The African People's Magazine, a middle-of-the-road South African publication. He writes:
Is there anything so wonderful as a gramophone record? That hard, flat, circular piece of inert material that comes to life when you spin it and put the point of the needle in the groove. It comes to life and plays on your emotions, bringing joy or sorrow: you tap your feet or you shed a tear How do you listen to YOUR records? In my case, I sit alone and spin the discs (usually in the small hours of the morning). I get the feeling that the artists come to me through the loud-speaker of my radiogram. They step out, take a bow and sing or play, and then step back through the speaker and the curtain comes down as the automatic switch clicks the turntable to a standstill. And I am left again with a cold disc (ZONK December 1952:45).
In this excerpt the musical object is magnificently humanized. Gideon Jay's imagined space of listening opens up new universes through musical sound. As dreams of ancestral intervention might have underwritten earlier forms of imaginative play, now it is the magic of the new technologies that generates perception, and stimulates emotional and bodily responses. Without the visual imaging that film provided, Jay simply inserted a generalized picture into the sounds he heard, placing himself inside the concert space. The frame of listening and the idea of the audience have shifted markedly, however. Gideon Jay is alone, and he is addressing an audience of possibly singular and silent readers not listeners.
IMAGINING AND PERFORMING
In several interrelated contexts young South Africans heard and performed live music in Cape Town. These included performance at home, singing in the church and at school, live music on the streets, live and mediated musical performance in Bob parties and the cinema, and the live dance band sounds of teenage Bop clubs. In this Cape Town realm of popular culture, a song first heard in a movie on a Saturday afternoon, for example, was reinforced through repeated hearing in the following week. It could be heard over the air, on record, and performed live in a cover version by local dance bands or in subsequent talent contests held at the cinema, or fundraising events organized in various churches and community halls. This community of aspiring musicians thus absorbed the sounds and images of the imported culture through what seemed to be a completely natural process of total immersion and then reproduced these performances as an integral part of local culture in the Cape.
The musical content of the films provided models of performance in two other places: first, local bandleaders "borrowed" movie melodies for Saturday night dance band performances; and second, they were used for amateur performances at local hotels. In the first instance, Vincent Kolbe recalls that he and a friend would be given money by one of the local bandleaders to go and repeatedly watch the newest movie arrivals as soon as they came to the local cinema. They were instructed to memorize the words and melodies of a song sung, for example, by Nat King Cole. Once they knew the song they would give the information to the bandleader. The next Saturday night Cole's newest melody would be played live at social dances for the Colo[u]red community.
In the dance band context, the tunes were played "straight" to sustain regular rhythms required of ballroom dance. It was through these live renditions of dance band performances by musicians known in your neighborhood rather than through the impersonal objects of sound recordings that the majority of Cape Town's "Coloured" community remembers hearing the "sounds of Hollywood."
EXPANDING POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS
In the late 1950s participation in this vibrant musical community began to be accompanied by individual reading. For example, Sathima remembers she would spend her evenings in the local library where her friend and jazz performer Vincent Kolbe was librarian. At this library Sathima and others began to really listen to African Americans playing jazz, and to read the writings that inspired the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Kolbe provided her with books by Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, W.E. du Bois and others. She found the autobiography of Billie Holiday, Lady Sing The Blues: The Searing Autobiography of an American Musical Legend (1956) before the book was banned in South Africa. This was the time when she began to question her identity, a process correlated with her definitive move into the music produced by people of color in the United States. At this moment the young woman began experimenting with the music of Ellington and met Dollar Brand. By reading of the experience of a people called "Colored" in the United States, Sathima realized she and her people were not alone in their experiences of the harshness of racism, and that others called "Colored" were doing the music she was. When they left South Africa in 1962, Sathima and Abdullah hoped that their knowledge of American jazz would be the welcome card to a transnational family of like-minded musicians.
To conclude, I have argued in this paper that the availability of American music through purchase, borrowing or listening over the air, enabled aspiring Cape artists to take ownership of the outside repertories. Imported film and sound recordings assumed a magical quality because they enabled individuals and communities to imaginatively participate in, and learn from, the definitive moments of American popular music and jazz history by close and repeated listening to their representations on recorded discs. "Original" performances distributed into multiple sites of repetition through recorded objects enabled "others" to imagine themselves as displaced members of the audience of these great moments. In turn each enactment was localized. In a cultural practice I call "reel to real," American voices and sounds of the world's greatest performers could be heard, copied, and embodied in the familiar spaces of home, club, community hall, or school.
The ethnographic and archival materials further suggest that what this music and its media transmitted to its consumers were images of a modern dream space on the one hand, and new forms of self-reflection on the other. Beyond the late night individualized consumption of music by people like Gideon Jay, it was also possible to inhabit and perhaps even transform the repertory--to make it your own--through the labor of repeated listening, transcription, memorization, and rehearsal. There were no institutions that taught this kind of popular and jazz performance so musicians inhabited the repertory through the techniques of primary and secondary orality: they taught each other, or they listened closely to the sounds on record and painstakingly made human copies. Because orality relies on the body as the central mediating space, as the medium of possession and transmission, Sathima and her peers em-bodied and im-personated the two dimensional aural and visual images streaming out of the cinema, the gramophone, and the radio. The sounds they heard "in the air" from radio and record were literally given human form by Cape performers who drew on the models viewed in the cinema and on record covers in shaping their performing selves.
The repertory worked in this South African community because its appropriation drew on the qualities of secondary orality that local musicians already had: good listening ears, passion for the music, and a willingness to get out there and perform. Through its images and objects, "America" was perceived to hold out possibilities FOR, if not the full achievement OF, freedom, of racial and cultural equality. Its musical representations in the Cape fueled the consciousness of many performers, even if they did not consciously seek to engage politically. This was cultural democracy in action.
But was it cultural or media imperialism? Is this just another grotesque "American" voice over of local musical performances and sensibilities? While this reading of such contexts has been the more conventional, I want to suggest the interpretation must shift with the ethnographic and archival evidence at hand. Chris Ballantine argues in a recent paper on the largely Johannesburg based black men's close harmony groups of the 1950s that while it is clear American music was being copied, the African audiences and critics were not simply absorbing African imitations of American music. Critics in newspapers urged their communities to look locally, to preserve and value their own cultural traditions in musical performance. In my own work amongst Cape musicians, few acknowledge the impact of American mediated musical culture on Cape Town in the postwar era. Either musicians have severe amnesia or there is an alternative collective memory of the way things worked in that period.
And an alternative re-membering and definition of American music in postwar Cape Town is what I am proposing in this paper. I am suggesting that we examine American music beyond the nation not simply as the product of a few profit hungry media moguls out to dominate the world with their goods, the crudest definition of cultural imperialism. While that might be true if one examines only the media history, it presents an incomplete picture of American music as a global phenomenon. A different perspective emerges when we view American music as a kind of diaspora, a dispersal of people and/or culture beyond the ancestral homeland, into the boundaries of a new nation. As a commodity in a diasporic place, American music conveyed a truly transnational sense of its place in the world, with little hope for returning "home."
Even though the arrival and consumption of American music in Cape Town was not uncontested locally, rethinking the cultural imperialism narrative gives greater agency, and decision making power to Cape Town musicians. Such interpretation is certainly more consistent with how America and its music was presented and understood by this community of musicians in Cape Town in the postwar era. Cape musicians were certainly aware of the power of American music, they yearned to hear and re-enact it, but they wanted to do so on their own terms. Any other reading of this historical moment denies the impact of American music on these musicians' own sense of voice and locality.
The ramifications of my reading are twofold: in terms firstly, of how we think about diaspora in relationship to the nation, and secondly, of how we conceptualize the study of American music. Crudely, I am suggesting that nation and diaspora can no longer be viewed as self-contained entities. Instead, these two categories are mutually defining and relational. The consequences are that one considers the "nation" as both territorially defined and deteritorialized. I am not arguing as Appadurai does that the nation is irrelevant, but rather as Turino (2000) suggests that it needs to be newly conceptualized. The consequences of this thinking for American music are that the archive of American music needs to be reexamined. America is no longer the final destination for music: it is one of many possible places. The implication is that American music studies move towards a truly comparative epistemology, to self-reflexively examine the full spectrum of places in which American music has lodged itself and established connections in the twentieth century.
The intertwining of American and South African musical histories is poignantly illustrated in two contrasting versions of the same song: "I Only Have Eyes For You." The first version is by Doris Day and was recorded for the movie, Tea for Two, and released in 1950. The second is by Sathima Bea Benjamin with a Cape Town jazz trio. The song is from her compact disc recording, Cape Town Love, produced in 1999. Written for the movie "Dames" in 1934 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren, "I Only Have Eyes For You" has a long history in popular culture, having been used in numerous Hollywood movies and recent commercials (Jeske 2000: 125). Sathima Bea Benjamin and Doris Day each have imprinted their renditions with a powerful sense of their individual voices, each has created in their style what Steven Feld calls a "poetic cartography" of sound (Feld 2000). The layers of sound and experience in Day's rendition, the thick strings and sentimental voice place her clearly in the 1940s and 50s. In contrast, Sathima's version is not just about history but also about place. The rhythm underpinning her vocalization is what is commonly understood in Cape Town as "the Cape Town Rhythm." This is a rhythm that emerges out of the dense layering of diverse musical style and experience that characterizes the history of people of mixed race in Cape Town. It is a rhythm that Vincent Kolbe told me could be used with any melody, regardless of its source or place of origin. From this perspective, all songs could be localized and rooted in the sounds of the city of Cape Town.
© Carol A. Muller 2002
1. In the postwar period, America has hosted and educated thousands of undergraduate and graduate students from around the world and currently employs enormous numbers of non-citizens in all levels of the economy. Subsequent to the abolition of immigration quotas under John F. Kennedy in 1965, one million immigrants a year have come to live and work in the United States. [back]
2. The President of Decca Records (London), visiting South Africa in the early 1950s is reported to have claimed that South Africa was his largest overseas record buying market (Bandstand Magazine, early 1950s). [back]
3. Henry February, pers. comm., September 1996, Cape Town. [back]
4. Without the right to vote equally with whites, the apartheid government proceeded to separate "Cape Colo[u]reds" socially from Europeans (the label for "Whites") through a series of legislative gestures starting in 1950. This was their strategy of [European] "nation"-building. The 1950 Population Registration Act (amended in 1966) defined "Colo[u]reds" as persons not native or European, or persons married to a man or woman classified as "Colo[u]red." The Immorality Act (passed in 1927 and amended in 1950 to include a ban on interracial marriages) made all sexual relationships across what was called the color bar illegal. The Group Areas Act (1950) required different racial groups to live together in specific areas, seeking to separate out the "Colo[u]reds" from "Europeans" to preclude any further racial mixing in Cape Town specifically (though it had wider ramifications in the rest of the country as well). The Separate Amenities Act (1950) forced racial segregation in all public venues. So the naming of "Colo[u]reds" legally became a means to divide, rule, and marginalize rather than to unite and empower. [back]
5. Initially there was only the English language station, then an Afrikaans language and culture station developed, and a third called the Klipheuwel station aired for several years and then shut down. In 1950 the first semi-commercial radio station, Springbok Radio, was made available through State controlled broadcasting. [back]
6. Jimmy Adams and Harold Jephtah, pers. comm., December 1999 in Cape Town. [back]
7. Henry February, pers. comm., September 1996 in Cape Town. [back]
8. Sathima Bea Benjamin, pers. comm., April 1990 in New York City. [back]
9. Jimmy Adams, pers. comm., December 1999 in Cape Town. [back]
10. Henry February, pers. comm., December 1999 in Cape Town. [back]
11. Harold Jephtah, pers. comm., December 1999 in Cape Town. [back]
12. Caryl Flinn cites film composer George Antheil's disdain for the gap between public taste and film music composition in which Antheil scorns "Mr. Average Listener" for turning the radio dial to hear Benny Goodman or Paul Whiteman over listening to a symphony broadcast over the air. He continues by arguing that the best way to "emotionally condition" Mr. Average for better music was to insert orchestral performance into his "favorite movie theatre for three hours a week" by using the style in the film score. The viewer unwittingly became partial to the world of symphonic music (Flinn 1992:29). [back]
13. Peter Davis (1996:26-7) remarks that even though American movies were admired, the very rare local productions featuring African performers were extremely popular with African audiences. One example is the film Jim Comes to Joburg, which featured Johannesburg artists Dolly Rathebe and Daniel Adnewmah, and was shot in the streets of Johannesburg. The familiar location caused enormous excitement for black South Africans who delighted in recognizing the streets in which their own film heros were filmed. [back]
14. Vincent Kolbe, who grew up in the more culturally diverse District Six in Cape Town's inner city, comments that in his community Saturday night was the time for the movies. Everyone in his family would dress for the occasion. He would attend with his mother and grandmother. They would take sandwiches and a thermos of coffee for the evening. The standard fare from 7.30 to 11.30 P.M. was a comic strip, the weekly serial (the forerunner of the soap opera), a western and a love story or musical (Vincent Kolbe, pers. comm., September 1996). [back]
15. Commenting on the relationship between music and emotional currency, Caryl Flinn remarks: During the Hollywood studio era, film music was assigned a remarkably stable set of functions. It was repeatedly and systematically used to enhance emotional moments in the story line, and to establish moods and maintain continuity between scenes (Flinn 1992:13).[back]
16. Jimmy Adams, pers. comm., December 1999 in Cape Town. [back]
17. See also Ballantine (1999) for a discussion on this practice amongst Johannesburg musicians. [back]
Allen, Lara. 1996. An Archive of Black South African Popular Music, Recently Released Reissues. British Journal of Ethnomusicology 5, 177-180.
Anderson, Bendict. 1983. Imagined Communities: On the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso
Garber, Frederick. 1995. Fabulating Jazz. IN Krin Gabbard. Representing Jazz. Durham: Duke University Press.
Hajdu, David. 1996. Lushlife: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. New York
Layne, Valmont. 1995. A History of Dance and Jazz Band Performance in the Western Cape in the Post-1945 Era. Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Cape Town.
Rasula, Jed. 1995. The Media of Memory: The Seductive Memory of Records in Jazz History. In Krin Gabbard (ed.) Jazz Among the Discourses. Durham: Duke University Press.
Back to t h e SOUNDING BOARD
Ms. Muller's piece explores a vastly uncharted territory of music's movement through space and time (and especially from the centers of production outward) with the advent of technologies that have defined our enterprise in the latter half of this century. I have a couple of "off the cuff" observations/comments which I offer in the spirit of discussion.
- from Wade Patterson:
Firstly, I am struck by the parallel here between what Muller describes in South Africa and the emergence of an American-born "world music" movement in which American artists borrow and incorporate elements from the vast and now readily accessible global soundscape into new compositional frameworks. Such enterprises have been widely lamented and openly criticized by cultural researchers and "purists" who characterize such undertakings as compromising the social function of the original forms and further diminishing the substantive qualities of the source (Feld, Steven,1996). And yet, on some level, is this not what is taking place in Muller's American music diaspora? American sounds, emerging in specific social contexts (say, for example, Jazz) is heard in another corner of the globe, embraced for all the implications "America" has for the listener, and then recontextualized in a locally responsive manner. And just as American artists may be motivated to use Twa vocal samplings or Aboriginal didgeridoo music based on (often erroneous) perceptions of what these cultures represent to the western imagination, so are non-Americans motivated by perhaps equally inaccurate views of what American life entails. Just a little of the Devil's advocation to get us thinking reflexively...
Elsewhere, I wanted to share two anecdotes that I feel speak to Ms. Muller's paper in interesting ways. The first comes from Uganda where I spent a year and a half living as a novice researcher and where my first interests in Folklore (with a capital F) were born. I had managed, through a friend, to get copies of the traditional music archives at Radio Uganda. Every week I would trek to the station and deliver two new tapes and pick up the previous week's loot. One week, I was deeply struck in reviewing a handful of recordings of ensemble likembe (or lukeme) thumb piano music from Acholi in northern Uganda. Excited, I brought the tape to my Acholi friend and asked what he could tell me about it.
"Oh! this is very old music!" Okello exclaimed as my mind, fueled by the popularly inspired visions of what "old" music must mean in this part of the world, reconstructed ancient rites and ceremonial activities of the pre-colonial era (I was new to this thinking, afterall). Perhaps it dates back to the turn of the century, I mused.
"This is from the '60's!" I was told, to which was added "This is twist music - very old stuff!" This was all followed by a short demonstration of, yes, that popular beach blanket past time of yore, the twist.
It turns out that in the 1960's, the victrola was a popular and prestigious item in the rural, non-electrified north of the country. Ownership of these wind-up music boxes was a sign of importance and success and they were rather few in number. It was common for young men to pull their resources in exchange for an evening of record playing as accompaniment to local parties. People would drink and dance and play the same few records of Motown and R&B music over and over. For those unable to arrange for the victrola, however, or for those inspired to be more active participants in the musical process, the newly-arrived thumb piano (also a symbol of contemporary and "modern" society at the time) was employed. Played in groups ranging from large bass to small, hand-held instruments, artists began composing songs based on the chord progressions and singing styles of Motown and R&B (though performed in Luo). The musical form continues to this day, though the repertoire has expanded and is no longer directly linked to "twist music." (for a brief look at this music in northern Uganda today, see Cooke, Peter. 1999. "Fieldwork in Lango, Northern Uganda, Feb-Mar 1997." African Music 7(4):66-72. Here is a link to a photograph of such an ensemble - scroll toward the bottom of the page: http://archive.ilam.ru.ac.za/journpics.htm)
The second anecdote about diasporic musics emerged from research I was conducting in Philadelphia during graduate school. I had been looking at the role music and dance, as performed at the now-defunct South Philadelphia restaurant "The Middle East", played in the narration of a pan-Middle Eastern identity. Drawing largely on an Ottoman-based repertoire, the house band at The Middle East attracted a wide range of immigrant and first generation audience members, including Maronite Christians (who owned the establishment), Turks, Israelis, Syrians, Macedonians, Egyptians, Saudis, and more as, though they did not necessarily know one anothers' languages, the melodies were very familiar to all of these communities.
I was interviewing the singer of a particular group that continues to play in various restaurant venues around the city, and asked how he got started doing this. Having immigrated as a teenager from Iran in the early 1970's, he told me that he had been a singer before coming here, only that they performed an all American repertoire. "I sang a lot of Beetles songs" he confided, acknowledging that he did know a single piece of the repertory he now performs before coming to the US. I found it interesting that the songs he now performs attract an audience eager for a taste of their cultural origins, only that his knowledge was acquired entirely in America -- despite his being an immigrant with concrete links to the "home country".
The story he told about being inducted into the Middle East's house band was an interesting one in light of Muller's issues. He had been spending some time at the restaurant, watching the events, the dancing, the music, and thought this was something he could see himself doing professionally. So, he walked in early one night, got the ear of one of the Tayoun's and pleaded with him for an opportunity. Later that evening, a microphone was thrust in his hand, he was ushered to the front of the band and, with everyone waiting for his cue, broke into 'Hava Nagila,' the only regional song he knew at the time. Fortunately, as he recounts the event, there were a good number of Jewish patrons there who, having drunk their fill, took to floor rather enthusiastically and showered him with money. "You're hired!" he was told. From there on, he studied his repertory fervently and became one of the band's featured vocalists for years to come.
I offer these examples as ones which both support and complicate some the issues Muller raises in her paper as a way of challenging us to take the issue a little further and to view the complex flow of information from America outward, and back again in a host of strange and complex mechanisms that link musical production with social activity. What a great topic of inquiry!
And my best wishes to Roger Abrahams. You will be sorely missed, Roger!
Wade Patterson, Albuquerque