Discipline of Music

African Music Project

African Music Project

The African Music Project focuses on music education, research, performance and community development. By advocating that African music occupy a central space in institutions, and by developing strong relations with the communities in which we live, the Project extends the involvement of the Department with artistic life in general and serves as an important vehicle for community reconstruction.

The African Music Project aims:

  • to promote the study, practice and appreciation of African music
  • to use music as a tool for empowerment so as to bring about change in line with the recommendations set by the Recons-
    truction and Development Programme
  • to enhance the music of the region by fostering local forms and bridging them with other traditions in the region and beyond
  • to bring existing talent in KwaZulu Natal Province to the forefront and make artists accessible to the wider public
  • to establish links between community organizations and to promote cooperation for wider community involvement via public performances and community residencies
  • to encourage musicians and performers to form organizations to enable them to develop and market their talent
  • to develop a mentoring project in community development which will include the incorporation of graduate assistants in campus projects and the use of field assistants linked with community centers as assistants
    in the administering of community-based projects.


Community Outreach: The project initiates and revitalizes community-based programs and provides forums for musical exchange, education and research in African Music. The Project organises an annual African Music Festival in May. This Festival offers a profile of music practices from Africa and thus encourages an awareness of the diversity and wealth of music traditions in the continent. Embracing a different theme each year, the festival features local and Pan-African artists. The Project has been commissioned by the International Society for Music Education to study the feasibility of establishing a regional centre for African Music and Dance here in KwaZulu-Natal.

The third year 2011 African Music Outreach: Community Development Outreach class is organizing its 6th annual

African Cultural Calabash Extravaganza

which will be part of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the African Music Project directed by Dr. Patricia Achieng Opondo. This year’s edition of the Calabash will focus on religious rituals from around Africa embracing the theme of “Celebrating Religious and Cultural Diversity through Music and Dance”.

AMD class 2011

Our aim is to bring together different cultural groups of different ages in celebration of the diverse religions and cultures we have on our continent. This is an event that will increase awareness and appreciation for the multiple religions and rituals from ancient African times that are still practiced on our continent today.

At the event we will be showcasing different religions from different cultures, including iZangoma, amaZayoni, Shembe, Rastafariansim and Christianity in the form of an exhibition and performances. What we also offer at this event is the opportunity to experience some indigenous cuisine from each culture that is represented in addition to a few other African countries (Botwsana, Zimbabwe, Kenya) to give a Pan African offering. Last year, the event was addressed by Grammy Award winner Mr. Mbongeni Ngema as well as the DVC and Head of College of Humanities Professor Joseph Ayee. The event’s success was confirmed by the large number of ticket sales and wonderful attendance.

Practical Performance Experience: The Project offers practical courses in African music and dance and provides students with opportunities to participate in a variety of performing ensembles and apprenticeship programs with visiting artists. The project has established performing ensembles made up of community artists and students. Plans are being made for students and other musicians to perform at EXPO 2000 in Hannover in June, for students to study and to perform in Ghana in July, and for students and gumboot dancers from the community to perform in Sweden in October or November.

Visiting Artists Programme: The visiting artists program acquaints students with a variety of African genres and traditions. The artists share their skills by interacting with students on campus and by holding workshops within local communities. The visiting artists programme is intended to expose students and educators in South Africa to musical practices from all parts of the continent.

Archival and Documentation Unit: The focus of the documentation unit is to record music events and cultural forms in KwaZulu Natal Province. Indigenous cultural forms, including neo-tradional forms, will be documented so as to preserve our local cultural heritage. Included will be migrant groups, rural groups and groups associated with the royal palace. The results will be presented in the form of exhibitions with introductory papers. It is intended that the documentation unit will establish the University of Natal, Durban as a clearing house for music resources from KwaZulu Natal Province; that it will provide graduate and honor students with fieldwork experience; and that it will attract international researchers and make archival materials available to them.

Teacher Training Project in African Music and Dance: This skills-training programme has been based in Umlazi township, with some portions of the courses being carried out at the University of Natal, Durban. After completion of the training programme, trainees will further develop their musical skills in their townships and outlying communities. The program is in the process of developing educational materials for schools and other institutions, in the form of teaching manuals and accompanying video tapes. Courses for teachers are being planned in collaboration with the Entumeni Educationa Quality Improvement Programme. The teacher training project is funded by the Swedish International Cooperation Development Agency (Sida) in conjunction with the School of Music and Musicology, Göteborg University. The African Music Project is cooperating with the Crime Reduction in Schools Project.

Musical Mapping of Local Music and Dance Performance Practices in the Durban Functional Region: The goal of this project is to train a team of field workers from communities in the Durban Functional Region to document oral and written sources of historical and contemporary local music and dance performance practices. Through a series of workshops and tutorials, this team will be provided with basic administrative skills as well as the skills necessary for the gathering, processing and presenting oral and written information from this region. All training and feedback will take place at the University of Natal, both on the main campus and at the Killie Campbell Africana Library. This project is partially funded by the Research and Community Development Fund of the University of Natal.

For further information, contact the Director of the Project:

 Dr. Patricia Opondo 

  • School of Music
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal,
  • Durban 4041, South Africa

Telephone: 27 31 260 1045

Fax: 27 31 260 1048