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This essay is an attempt to approach anticolonial politics in Africa from the perspective of sound studies: if one were going to theorize the emergence and diffusion of anticolonial sensibilities through music, what would anticolonialism sound like? Although there is a good deal of scholarship on music and postcolonial nationalism, there is very little work on the place of music during the struggles against European colonialism that erupted in the 1950s and 1960s. The essay explores two approaches to the question: first, returning to classic studies in African ethnomusicology (especially the work of Hugh Tracey) to analyze the ways the category of the political is treated; and second, considering the role of music (especially African American jazz) in key texts of anticolonial thought by C. L. R. James, Frantz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire, among others, as well as in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel Devil on the Cross (1980).

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