The Christmas Bands Movement in the Western Cape, South Africa

This event is part of the Music Research Colloquia.

Christmas Bands are voluntary organizations in the Western Cape of South Africa. They consist of amateur wind bands that can span at least three generations of family members. They perform disciplined subjectivities of military-style marching and drilling whilst performing Christian hymns, carols, and light classical music.

A male-only practice throughout most of the 20th century, the Christmas Bands emulate, in some sense, the Victorian all-male city clubs for British colonial administrators—a significant preserver of masculine culture. Since the 1990s, women have been incorporated into the masculine ethos of the bands by wearing the same uniform so as not to disturb their visual representation.

This presentation will discuss the significance of the Christmas Bands as spaces of cultural transmission.

Speaker’s biography

Associate Professor Sylvia Bruinders is Head of Ethnomusicology and African Music at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town, where she teaches courses in Ethnomusicology, African and World Music. A former Fulbright scholar, her dissertation on the Christmas Bands Movement in the Western Cape received the Nicholas Temperley Award for Excellence in a Dissertation in Musicology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2013.

Her first monograph, Parading Respectability: The Cultural and Moral Aesthetics of the Christmas Bands Movement in the Western Cape, South Africa was supported through a Postdoctoral Fellowship of the African Humanities Program and published by NISC in 2017.

She is currently the Director of the Mellon-funded Pan-African research project, Mapping Africa’s Musical Identities, which includes six universities on the African continent.

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