chapter  11
32 Pages

Revisiting Country Music in Zimbabwe to Refl ect Upon the History of the Study of African Popular Culture

ByJONATHAN ZILBERG

American country music probably came to Southern Rhodesia in the 1930s and truly made its presence felt when Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Cowboy, came galloping and singing across the silver screen. Indeed, by 1959, as Fred Zindi records, De Black Evening Follies, the Capital City Dixie’s, the Jazz Crooners, the Melody Makers and the Echoes were the best known of more than 200 bands performing in Salisbury, now Harare, and Bulawayo (1989). Despite what must have been a fascinating history, very few ethnomusicologists have turned their attention to such matters in Zimbabwe and not until the mid 1990s.1 Since then, an important though little known start has been made by local scholars and most notably the more widely read study by Joyce Jenje-Makwenda’s Zimbabwean Township Music.2 Fortunately, the fi eld is rapidly expanding as young scholars move in to fi ll this research gap as the study of popular culture becomes a new academic growth industry and, in part, for Zimbabweanists perhaps, inspired by Tom Turino’s Nationalists, Cosmopolitans and Popular Music in Zimbabwe. We are thus very fortunate to have Mano’s recent work on radio, Ndlela’s work on how the youth have responded to the state’s concerted attempt to “de-Westernize” the media since 2000, Maputseni’s work on radio as a means of empowering farm workers and Nyasha’s work on censorship.3