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Ethnomusicology Review: Afropolitanism à la malienne (Afropolitanism in Mali)

By Ryan Skinner
Ethnomusicology Review

Bamako Sounds (Ryan Skinner)What is “Afropolitanism?” For most of its supporters and critics, this neologism in the Africanist lexicon connotes an elite cultural sensibility, celebrated by some as a sign of an artful and urbane African worldliness and derided by others for merely putting a new twist on an old idea of Africa, freshly packaged and adorned for consumption in upscale shops and trendy art galleries from London to Accra. I will not dwell on these debates here, as they have been well argued in other public forums (see, for example, Dabiri 2014 and Tveit 2013). What interests me is an approach to the Afropolitan that derives its force from the forms, styles, affects, and ideologies of a vital and vocal popular culture in contemporary Africa. Such an Afropolitanism suggests a mode of African being that articulates multiple social positions—professional and aesthetic, religious and diasporic, political and economic—as rooted as they are routed, as localized as they are worldly. A case study from my research on Malian music in contemporary Bamako (Skinner 2015) will elaborate this perspective.

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