Ximatsatsa: exploring genre in contemporary Tsonga popular music

Madalane, Ignatia Cynthia
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While much has been written on black South African popular music (see, for example, Anderson, 1981; Coplan, 1985; Erlmann, 1991; Meintjes, 2003; Allen, 2004; Ansell, 2004; Muller, 2008), little has been written on Tsonga popular music. This dissertation interrogates ‘Tsonga music’, a category for naming Tsonga popular music used by many including the South African Music Awards (SAMAs); one of the few SAMA categories (others include Afrikaans, Venda and Pedi music categories) to be named by ethnicity. I question why the music is labeled the way it is and how these genre labels, which participate in global genre histories and local ethnic histories, interact with the Tsonga music category. In sum, this study explores what Louise Meintjes calls ‘genrefication’ (2003: 19) in popular Tsonga music and the meaning this has for its practitioners in a ‘glocalized’ music market (Robertson, cited in Steger, 2003). In chapter one I trace the origins of Tsonga music as it is known today. The chapter focuses on General MD Shirinda, considered the father of Tsonga music. I write about aspects of his life and the role he played in the development of contemporary Tsonga music. Chapter two pays close attention of one of the Tsonga music subgenres, ‘Tsonga traditional’ or neo-traditional music. The chapter interrogates the meaning of the Tsonga traditional label for its practitioners. Here I question the use of terms such as ‘Tsonga’ and ‘traditional’ for labeling Tsonga music. I end the chapter by discussing some characteristics of this subgenre. The third chapter follows the narrative of ‘Tsonga disco’ as told by my informants. Through the life stories of the musicians who have played major roles in the development of this subgenre, I explore how socio-political circumstances influenced the labeling of the subgenre. The chapter gives attention to the contribution to the subgenre by Paul Ndlovu, Peta Teanet, Joe Shirimani and Penny Penny. I end the chapter with a description of a live performance of Tsonga disco. Ethnicity is a recurring theme throughout the study. However, it is in chapter four that explicit attention is given to this identity marker. The chapter explores the role of ethnicity in shaping Tsonga music and how Tsonga musicians construct and affirm their ethnic and other identities in their music. Finally, I discuss the relationship between Tsonga music and the global music market.
M.A., Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2011