Rumba From Congo To Cape Town
The spread of Congolese music and musicians across the African continent since the 1960s is a phenomenon without parallel. How this was achieved has not been given the academic attention it is due. The welcome Congolese musicians received to perform at Independence Day celebrations all over Africa in the early 1960s was a testament to the Pan-African appeal of their music. The perceived modernity, the national coherence, and the danceable quality of their music all contributed to this appeal. The cosmopolitan influences from the African Diaspora, especially those from Latin America, were reunited with their African origins in the Lingala songs and guitar driven melodies of Congolese stars in African Jazz, OK Jazz, and Les Bantous de la Capitale. Their performance skills were allied with the entrepreneurialism of Greek traders who produced and sold their records around Africa. The power of the radio transmitters built by the colonial authorities during World War Two in Leopoldville and Brazzaville meant the music could be heard throughout the continent. In the 1970s Congolese music benefited from state patronage, more investment in broadcasting capacity and the establishment of stadium tour circuits in the regions of Africa where urban populations were seeing unprecedented growth, especially in capital cities. Congolese musicians also settled and became an enduring musical presence in these regions. Congolese musical migrants staffed bands in Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rhodesia, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi. In the 1980s and 1990s a continual process of innovation by two new generations of musicians in Kinshasa provided fresh impetus for this continental musical presence. The spread of Congolese musicians and music stopped at the South African border. Under apartheid South Africa was cut off from the popular culture of its neighbours. Since 1994 a steady increase in Congolese migrants has not resulted in the development of a Congolese music scene comparable to that found just North of the border. Instead the fragmentation of South African national popular music and the continued predominance of an African American influence have combined in making South Africa impervious to the attractions of Congolese Rumba. Comparative research on xenophobia now places South Africa at the top of the global league table. Since 1994 the nation-building project and attempts to unify those South African citizens that were divided by apartheid has excluded African migrants from the rest of Africa. Attacks on African migrants in South Africa have steadily increased since 1994 as the flow of people in search of economic opportunities has increased. The contrast between the inclusion of Congolese music and musicians in the national life of East African countries, like Tanzania and Kenya, and their exclusion in South Africa provide us with examples of how different the experience of Diaspora can be depending on how tightly the boundaries of the nation are drawn and the constituents of which the nation is imagined to exist.