The Distinguished Lecture Series in Musicology continued Monday with a presentation on South African music and history.
The sponsored lecturer was Dr. Sheila Woodward, associate professor of music education at Eastern Washington University. Her lecture, titled "The Transformative Role of Music in a Nation's Rebirth: Music for a New South Africa," was a discussion on the effect that traditional African music has on the people of South Africa and the role it played in bringing an end to apartheid in the country.
Woodward, who grew up in South Africa during apartheid, recounted the toll that segregation had on the community. In towns like Sophiatown, where people of mixed races lived, certain races were forced to leave by the government. People who refused suffered the consequences.
"They went in with bulldozers and knocked all the houses down," said Woodward. "They were really rich cultural areas, and they came and bulldozed them down."
Woodward went on to explain the history of South African music. The first musical instruments were made from preexisting tools, such as the bow and arrow. Additionally, the language of the Xhosa incorporates click consonants which lend a highly percussive sound to the language, and influenced the development of rhythm in South African music.
"Music in these cultures was used in many ways: to educate the people, they used it while they were working, it's a form of mourning and celebration, transmitting history of a people. There were many ways in which music was used," said Woodward.
Following the colonization of South Africa by Dutch and British settler, the native culture became marginalized. Struggling for freedom, South Africans used music to express ideals of equality. One scholar wrote that music was a "mirror, mediator and prophet in the South African transition from apartheid to democracy." Throughout the period from the 1940s to 1990, when Apartheid ended, the black population of South Africa used their music as a call to action, for coping with loss, and as a method of uniting people in a common cause.
The students who attended the lecture spoke highly of Woodward and her talk.
"I never really thought that a culture's music could have such an impact on the politics of a whole country," Marcia Bourdelle, sophomore in music, said. "It goes to show that music can have a significant effect outside the arts."
The lecture was an account of a people's music and how it affected their struggle for freedom. Woodward shared a personal anecdote about the events during apartheid.
"The police were going to black and Indian schools and throwing tear gas through the windows. As they came out, they would whip them," she said. "No matter how terrible the oppression was, the people could find strength and unity through the power of music."