Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
LUDEMANN, Winfried. Music and cultural diversity in South Africa. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.4, pp. 639-657. ISSN 2224-7912.
This article takes as its point of departure the opinion that the political reconciliation that led to the establishment of democracy in South Africa was not accompanied by an equivalent reconciliation in the social and especially the cultural spheres of our society. This unfinished business is creating increased levels of tension on various levels of the social life in the South African nation, such as the vexing language question, education, conflicting interpretations of our history, place names, land reform, etc. In the sphere of music - especially in respect of school curricula, the public media and the allocation of funding - such conflict is also noticeable. In order to investigate the contribution that could be made by music towards the resolution of conflict resulting from cultural diversity, it is linked to the concept of human dignity. It is argued that the capacity for music, which is a universal characteristic of homo sapiens, leads to one of the forms of symbolic thinking by which humans articulate their dignity. Humans express their humanness by means of music (and, of course, language) and thus also their dignity. I am able to recognise the dignity of the other in his/her music. Drawing on ideas advanced by contemporary ecumenical theology, it is subsequently proposed that musical diversity can be addressed only by taking on an attitude of self-criticism. It is about the imperative of accepting the aesthetic views of the other without sacrificing one's own. From a position of self-criticism it becomes possible to recognise everyone's right to choose a particular musical identity while at the same time allowing the various musical styles to be subjected to critique. A musical (and intellectual) middle ground is then called for where various musical styles can interact with each other without necessarily giving up their particular aesthetic paradigms. Finally, the tension between musical diversity and democracy is thematised. It is argued that democracy provides the best framework within which musical diversity, as it is discussed in the article, can be accommodated. If cultural reconciliation is not achieved in South Africa, the delicate accord that was reached on the political level in 1994 could be in danger of unravelling. Reconciling musical diversity could provide an important model for such broader cultural reconciliation.
Keywords : Cultural diversity; difference; otherness; human dignity; musical capability; identity; ecumenical theology; conflict; reconciliation.