African 609: The Phonograph Record and Invention of “World Music”



Instructor: Dr. Ronald Radano
Meeting Time: Thursdays, 2:30-4:30 PM
3 credits

In 1986, the American pop star, Paul Simon, released his famed album, Graceland, which featured a battery of South African musicians. The album’s appeal launched a new popular genre, “world beat,” which claimed as its orienting feature groove-based rhythms.

This seminar will take Graceland as its starting point to explore two, key matters in global black music: the claim of music’s universality (as in the myth that music is a universal language) and the role of recording—which elevated pop to the status of art—in advancing that claim. Through a series of readings and investigations (including first-hand research on the early history of phonograph recordings produced in Africa, the US, and Europe), students will acquire a new understanding of the means by which “world music” came to determine the feel and style of cosmopolitan, modern living.

Skills in musicianship are not required. Assignments will include a final, research paper.