The Work of Fieldwork

My recent silence has been a symptom of the nature of the work I’ve been doing here. But just because I’m not collecting recordings of ritual music or intriguing pictures to post here doesn’t mean that this part of the work isn’t important. In fact, it might be the most crucial part. Over the last several weeks, I have been spending time with a few key colleagues–experts on the music of kusamira spirit possession–who are helping me to transcribe and interpret ritual song. It’s not as exciting in quite the same way as all the travel and activity of going up-country to attend all-night rituals, but it’s facilitating a deeper understanding of this music.

What is very exciting about it is unpacking the multiple meanings of song texts, putting myself back in the spaces of events I only understood on a superficial level the first time, and trying to re-interpret those events based on local understandings of symbols and songs. This, for me, is the true work of ethnomusicological fieldwork; it’s the most challenging part, which also makes it one of the most rewarding parts.

Above: My good friend and teacher Ssematimba, or “Uncle Ssema,” listens to a field recording with me.



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4 responses to “The Work of Fieldwork

  1. The 27th Comrade

    I liked your calm coverage of the Tombs fiasco; in a way, I even felt guilty about it. And then I gave a mild shout-out to your blog on mine, recently.
    Now, go and shake ’em nsaasi and leap about like a possessed shaman; call up all ’em Jjajjas! šŸ˜€

  2. Jenn Hoesing

    While this type of work isn’t quite as sexy as being out checking out the rituals and such, I think it’s no less fascinating. For me, hearing you speak Luganda and imaging you doing this sort of work is every bit as amazing.

  3. Dad

    Great shot of you and uncle working. Keep the updates coming, we love them.

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