by Steven Feld, Duke University Press, March 2012
Available from the publisher:
Kindle Edition available from Amazon.com
In this remarkable book, Steven Feld, pioneer of the anthropology of sound, listens to the vernacular cosmopolitanism of jazz players in Ghana. Some have traveled widely, played with American jazz greats, and blended the innovations of John Coltrane with local instruments and worldviews. Combining memoir, biography, ethnography, and history, Feld conveys a diasporic intimacy and dialogue that contests American nationalist and Afrocentric narratives of jazz history. His stories of Accra's jazz cosmopolitanism feature Ghanaba/Guy Warren (1923–2008), the eccentric drummer who befriended the likes of Charlie Parker, Max Roach, and Thelonious Monk in the United States in the 1950s, only to return, embittered, to Ghana, where he became the country's leading experimentalist. Others whose stories figure prominently are Nii Noi Nortey, who fuses the legacies of the black avant-gardes of the 1960s and 1970s with pan-African philosophy in sculptural shrines to Coltrane and musical improvisations inspired by his work; the percussionist Nii Otoo Annan, a traditional master inspired by Coltrane's drummers Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali; and a union of Accra truck and minibus drivers whose squeeze-bulb honk-horn music for drivers' funerals recalls the jazz funerals of New Orleans. Feld describes these artists' cosmopolitan outlook as an "acoustemology," a way of knowing the world through sound.
“How to evoke the brilliant insight and empathy of Steven Feld’s acoustemological memoir of music and musicians in Accra? To start, imagine E.T. Mensah, Shirley Temple, John Coltrane, and Ludwig van Beethoven riding (quasi-legally) in the back of a vividly motto-festooned Ghanaian trotro truck, cool-running a memory drenched, complexly overlapping soundscape of highlife evergreens, Afriphonic jazz hollers, hallelujah choruses, ratcheting sewer toads, and honking India rubber bulb horns. Centered on the voices, stories, and ambitions of a compelling cast of characters—Ghanaian musicians whose diversely linked experiences chart the layered, contradictory flows and deep reefs of globalization—Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra is a fundamental and stimulating contribution to the literature on musical cosmopolitanism and the study of contemporary urban culture in Africa.”—Christopher Waterman, Dean, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture
"Steven Feld has written an astonishing book: at once a sweetly told adventure story, biographies of some very important but virtually unknown African musicians, a shrewd look at the world we live in and think we know, and hidden within it all, a sly critique of the history of jazz."—John F. Szwed, Director, Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University
“The chapters in which Feld listens and retells the stories of these mercurial musicians are compelling, and throw up original and profound material. . . . Feld is brilliant at articulating the multiple overlapping narratives and experiences that both obfuscate and animate diasporic dialogues, and in that process his book attains its own world-historical significance.”—Tony Herrington, The Wire
“What I loved most about Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra is that Feld never objectifies the people he’s describing. Feld’s love for jazz music and respect for the musicians he works with really comes through, and his exploration of the meanings of cosmopolitanism, and how it actually plays out in different forms in the real world, makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking conclusion. And the many included photographs just bring Accra and its musical citizens even more to life.”—Eva Kay, A Striped Armchair blog"While an easy-going, accessible prose style and sharp anecdotal detail make his memoir-adventure-biography very readable, the author scores highly first and foremost through the originality of his lines of inquiry and the succession of engrossing characters he interviews at length... It all adds up to a vital statement about the infinitely nuanced nature of cultural exchange between Africa and America, and how our fullest understanding of jazz history might be furthered by enquiries like this." -Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
‹ See more BOOK.