How musicians from the West African Republic of Benin transform Benin’s cultural traditions
Transforming Vòdún examines how musicians from the West African Republic of Benin transform Benin’s cultural traditions, especially the ancestral spiritual practice of vòdún and its musical repertoires, as part of the process of healing postcolonial trauma through music and ritual. Based on fieldwork in Benin, France, and New York City, Sarah Politz uses historical ethnography, music analysis, and participant observation to examine three case studies of brass band and jazz musicians from Benin. The multi-sited nature of this study highlights the importance of mobility, and diasporic connections in musicians’ professional lives, while grounding these connections in the particularities of the African continent, its histories, its people, and its present.
Sarah Politz is Assistant Professor of Music at The City College of New York.
“This tour de force study of vòdún music and religion addresses how the two intersect, interpenetrate, and inform each other—and the world at large. A beautifully written book, at once intellectually rigorous and poetic, Transforming Vòdún is a must-read for scholars, students, practitioners, and the general public alike—anyone interested in global music, religion, and how Africa has shaped both.”- Suzanne Blier
—Suzanne Blier, Harvard University
“This is a colorful, nuanced, and dynamically conceived manuscript that makes the sounds and concepts of one of West Africa’s most important music cultures accessible to the wider world. It is destined to sit among the classic works of African musical history.”- Michael E. Veal
—Michael E. Veal, Yale University
“Transforming Vòdún contributes to the literature on Beninese jazz and brass bands and vòdún, approaching these topics from the viewpoint of postcolonial trauma studies, diaspora studies, and music and ritual. For all of these reasons, the manuscript will be of interest to ethnomusicologists and can be used in classes on African music, global pop music, jazz studies, and West African history.”- Patricia Tang
—Patricia Tang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology