Class of 1960 Lecture
Prof. Patricia Tang

Poster by HVB Design

Poster by HVB Design

Professor Patricia Tang of MIT gives a lecture titled, Music, Migration and the Making of Griot Identity on Thursday, October 3, at 4:15 p.m. in Bernhard Music Center Room 30 on the Williams College campus. This lecture is sponsored by the Class of 1960 Scholars Fund and is free and open to the public.

For centuries, griots have served as hereditary storytellers, musicians, and oral historians in many cultures throughout West Africa. This presentation examines how West African musicians now living in the United States negotiate and reshape contemporary griot identity. Drawing upon more than a decade of ethnographic research, it considers the lives and careers of several West African immigrant musicians who have used their status as griots to claim their right to represent Africa. While some continue in their traditional roles, carving a niche in diasporic communities, others strive to make names for themselves in the global pop music scene. Although West African griots have adapted to changing modern contexts in their home countries, many who have settled in the United States find that Americans embrace a more romanticized view of griots as keepers of authentic traditions. To survive in increasingly competitive African music and dance markets in urban centers, these musicians have capitalized on their griot identities to present and promote themselves to American audiences.

Patricia Tang is Associate Professor of Music at MIT. Prof. Tang is an ethnomusicologist specializing in West African music. She is the author of Masters of the Sabar: Wolof Griot Percussionists of Senegal (Temple University Press, 2007), and the founder and co-director of Rambax, MIT’s Senegalese drum ensemble. She received an AAUW American Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2006-2007 for her second book project, Africa Fête and the Globalization of Afropop. As a violinist, she has performed and recorded with African artists Nder et le Setsima Group, Positive Black Soul, Balla Tounkara, Balla Kouyate and Lamine Touré & Group Saloum. At MIT, she teaches classes on world music and popular music.

The Class of 1960 Scholars Fund, established at their 25th Reunion, brings eminent researchers from other colleges and universities to campus to give colloquia and work with students in the classroom.