Achille Mbembe, “Variations on the Beautiful in the Congolese World of Sounds” in Politique africaine Volume 10, Issue 4, October 2005, pages 69 to 91

Refusing the contrast between “high” and “low” art forms, this text examines Congolese music as an aesthetic form exhibiting particular modalities, sounds, harmonics, and relations to sensorial experience that produce particular effects on the listener; including that of “beauty”. The meaning of musical beauty is not a matter of categorization, but is rather its capacity to produce effects on the human senses. With reference to the historical trajectories of various strains of Congolese music, the author assesses the aesthetic signification of Congolese music as “an experience of listening”, but also as a social and political act that contributes to the performance of both resistance and resignation – or historical and personal experiences of order and disorder.

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