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University-Based Music Training and Current South African Musical Praxis: Notes and Tones

Published: May 7th, 2016

Category: News

by Madimabe Geoff Mapaya


Music pedagogy places a premium on written notation, sometimes to the detriment of orality. This, in the main, explains the disjuncture between South African university-based music education and music praxis obtaining within black communities. It is for this reason that most African students coming from an oral tradition background struggle to adjust quickly enough to make a success of their university study periods. Those who eventually succeed often are “over-educated,” thus ending up estranged from their musical communities; or “mis- or overeducated” for most of the local music industry career requirements. This paper aims to appraise the pros and cons of university-based music training in relation to South African musical praxis. It does so through engaging various contemporary qualitative research methodologies largely predicated on the grounded theory framework. Data was collected through interviews with individual black African musicians. The sampling procedure was purposive in that it sought to capture abstractions and explications from predetermined sets of musicians; university-educated on the one hand, and the “self-taughts” on the other. After inductive analysis of data, the study clarifies what seems to shape music skill acquisition in South Africa; scant regard for local music industries and community settings; and the impact of the sudden availability of a multiplicity of alternative sources information and avenues to acquire music knowledge and skills.

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Madimabe Geoff Mapaya is Associate Professor of Music, University of Venda specializing in indigenous African music, especially its implication for African musicology and music education. He is the author of Music of Bahananwa and a recording and performing musician with several albums to his name.

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