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Pennywhistle kwela : a musical, historical and socio-political analysis.

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This thesis is an exploration of the history of the pennywhistle in black South African popular music, the most important style to evolve around this instrument being kwela music. An analysis of kwela is conducted from several perspectives: historical, musical, socio-cultural and political. Chapter I explores the urban South African musical styles which preceded and influenced kwela. The first of these genres was marabi, which developed in Johannesburg's slumyards in the first three decades of the this century. Marabi was followed by tsaba-tsaba in the late thirties, which in tum gave way to the swing influenced genre of "African Jazz" in the forties. Chapter II chronologically traces the use of the pennywhistle in urban black South African popular music. An examination of kwela is preceded by a discussion of the pennywhistle-and-drum "Scottish" marching bands of the thirties and forties, and the rhythm-and-blues pennywhistle style of the early fifties. Various venues and their effect on the performance of kwela are explored, as are the effects of international recognition on the style's development. Chapter III comprises an in-depth musical analysis of kwela's stylistic components. The structure of kwela music and its harmonic, melodic and rhythmic components are examined. A discussion of kwela's instrumentation includes an examination of the roles of the guitar, banjo, string bass, drum-set, pennywhistle and saxophone. Chapter IV is an exploration of the social context and cultural milieu which spawned and nurtured the development of kwela music. Chapter V examines the relationship between kwela and South African politics in the fifties. An overview of this political environment is followed by an examination of the effects of particular apartheid legislation on the development of music in general and kwela in particular. Chapter VI concludes with an exploration of the ways in which various interest groups were able to find meaning and identity in kwela music. Included here, for instance, are the ways in which kwela contributed to the formation of urban black identity, and how the style came to have meaning for various white interest groups. Finally, the meaning of kwela today is considered.


Thesis (M.Mus)-University of Natal, Durban, 1993.


Pennywhistle Kwela., Blacks--South Africa--Music--History and criticism., Jazz--South Africa--History and criticism., Ethnomusicology--South Africa., Theses--Music.