Bongani Mbatha

2014-15 Research Report

Troubled Masculinities in Contemporary Kwaito Music

My research focuses on ways that masculinity is represented and constructed in kwaito music, which is a popular dance music genre in South Africa. I study closely kwaito music lyrics, videos, and sonic qualities of masculinity. So far, existing scholarship on kwaito has critiqued this genre’s objectification of women, which stems from its almost exclusive male perspective. However, my research will add something new to the existing scholarship by analyzing how this musical genre represents masculinity. I argue that representations of men in kwaito music reveal many of the anxieties associated with male roles and masculine identity in contemporary South African society, such as unemployment, fatherlessness, HIV/AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, and dangers associated with the violent criminal lifestyle to which many young men turn for lack of other options. In December, I will go to South Africa to conduct a pre-dissertation research. I will conduct interviews with a variety of kwaito musicians—ranging from the artists who were at the forefront in the inception of this genre in the early 1990s, to those who are just emerging. While attending concerts, I will also conduct interviews with young kwaito fans in order to collect a range of “readings,” with the aim of understanding contemporary South African views on the role of gender in kwaito music.