Oral Poetry and Popular Song in South Africa and Uganda: A Study of Contemporary Performance


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




This study explores the process and practice of contemporary oral performance in post-apartheid South Africa and post-civil war Uganda, and particularly focuses upon the practice of oral poetry and popular song as understood by performers. The study argues that popular song and oral poetry are idioms that reflect complex social, cultural, and political issues influencing the society in which they are produced. To understand oral poetry and popular song in Africa, the study explores the importance of the performer-audience relationship and its connection to “traditional” and cultural memory by comparing the practice in South Africa to Uganda. Central to this study is the relationship between performer, composition process, audience, purpose, and overall context in which the performance takes place. The study therefore assesses oral performance from within its situation of production and consumption.