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Chapter Summary

This is the introductory chapter of this book, which is an interpretive analysis of a collection of 335 song texts treated as primary historical sources. The book highlights the recurring cultural practices that link music with labor in Sukuma communities in northwestern Tanzania. It presents the song texts in their original Kisukuma, translated into English. Most of the songs in the book come from the author's personal ethnographic collection, spanning nearly twenty years of active research and recording in the Sukuma region. Sukuma songs have had a way of taking on a life of their own, finding themselves transmitted in varying contexts beyond their original intent. A nineteenth-century porter song sung in the first-person telling us about the hardships of life on the road, is performed today by teenage Sukuma farmers at work in their fields, and is used by farmers dance societies as a warmup before going into competition.

Keywords: Kisukuma; northwestern Tanzania; Sukuma communities



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