Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra by Steven Feld
Five Musical Years in Ghana

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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.

About Steven Feld

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Steven Feld, a MacArthur Fellowship recpient, is Professor of Anthropology and Music at the University of New Mexico. He is coauthor, with Charles Keil, of Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues and, with Bambi B. Schieffelin, of Bosavi-English-Tok Pisin Dictionary. With Keith H. Basso he coedited Senses of Place.
Published March 9, 2012 by Duke University Press Books. 327 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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A successful fusion of anthropology and aesthetics that illuminates the musical and cultural links—and differences—between African and American jazz, this is also a fascinating memoir of one person’s attempt to understand the urban culture of Ghana in an age of globalization.

Feb 06 2012 | Read Full Review of Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra...

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