Sing and Sing On: Sentinel Musicians and the Making of the Ethiopian American Diaspora

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Brief Description:
"In Sentinel Musicians of the Ethiopian American Diaspora, Kay Kaufman Shelemay shares more than forty years of research among Ethiopian musicians in the midst of a widespread and evolving diaspora. Beginning on the eve of the Ethiopian revolution in 1974 all the way up to the present day, Shelemay follows musicians as some leave Ethiopia for the US, setting up essential networks of support in cities such as New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. Throughout this profound transition, Shelemay shows how Ethiopian musicians serve a critical function in social and political life by both safeguarding community identity and challenging authority within Ethiopian society. She coins the term "sentinel musicians" to express musicians' double capacity to guard culture and guide it through periods of change, transforming the world around them under political pressures and during times of extreme social stress. While musicians held this role in Ethiopian culture long before the revolution began, it has taken on new meanings and contours in the Ethiopian diaspora. Some sentinel musicians have quite literally led the way as they migrated to new locales, establishing transnational networks, founding new institutions, and undertaking numerous initiatives in community building. Ultimately, Shelemay shows that musicians are uniquely positioned to serve this sentinel role as guardians and challengers of cultural heritage"--


Review Quotes:
"Sing and Sing On tells the powerful story of the role musicians have played in safeguarding Ethiopian identity and growing its cultural influence in the decades since the revolution. This is a compelling story that deserves to be told."
--Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye


Publisher Marketing:
A sweeping history of Ethiopian musicians during and following the 1974 Ethiopian revolution.

 

Sing and Sing On is the first study of the forced migration of musicians out of the Horn of Africa dating from the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, a political event that overthrew one of the world's oldest monarchies and installed a brutal military regime. Musicians were among the first to depart the region, their lives shattered by revolutionary violence, curfews, and civil war. Reconstructing the memories of forced migration, Sing and Sing On traces the challenges musicians faced amidst revolutionary violence and the critical role they played in building communities abroad.

 

Drawing on the recollections of dozens of musicians, Sing and Sing On details personal, cultural, and economic hardships experienced by musicians who have resettled in new locales abroad. Kay Kaufman Shelemay highlights their many artistic and social initiatives and the ways they have offered inspiration and leadership within and beyond a rapidly growing Ethiopian American diaspora. While musicians held this role as sentinels in Ethiopian culture long before the revolution began, it has taken on new meanings and contours in the Ethiopian diaspora. The book details the ongoing creativity of these musicians while exploring the attraction of return to their Ethiopian homeland over the course of decades abroad. Ultimately, Shelemay shows that musicians are uniquely positioned to serve this sentinel role as both guardians and challengers of cultural heritage.


Contributor Bio:  Shelemay, Kay Kaufman
Kay Kaufman Shelemay is the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of Music and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is the author or editor of many books, including Soundscapes: Exploring Music in a Changing World and Let Jasmine Rain Down: Song and Remembrance among Syrian Jews, also published by the Press.